“No poor bastard ever won a war by making ‘PowerPoint presentations’. You win a war by blood and guts, and above all, by mastering the art of warfare,” says the chief of a special force fighting Naxalites, on the strategy and unified policy to neutralise India’s biggest internal security threat.
An anti-Naxal operation forceIt was a bloody Saturday for the Special Task Force’s (STF) Platoon Commander Shankar Rao when his 61-personnel team, armed and prepared for anti-Naxal operations, was caught in an open triangle ambush near Pidmel-Polampalli area of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh on April 11. Surprised by the attack from three flanks, the STF jawans did their best to come out of the ambush; ultras, however, were able to inflict heavy damages, by killing seven jawans, including Rao, and injuring 11.
This was just the beginning. For the next three days, Maoists, considered the biggest internal security threat, carried out four deadly attacks, killing four more policemen and a BSF jawan in the state. It was a tragic reminder that Naxalites still retain striking capabilities and can hit at will—despite our daily political rhetoric.
The attacks in Chhattisgarh triggered a raging debate in security establishments on whether anti-Naxal offensives have been a massive failure. And whether a combined force of state police and Central paramilitary is in a position to tackle the insurgents, operating in 76 districts across 10 states.
Let us face the facts. The government data in the past decade (2005-2015) throws horrific figures about the state of
anti-Naxal operations: 4,510 people—1,753 jawans and 2,757 civilians—were
killed by Naxalites. During the same period, however, security forces killed
2,193 Naxalites. This means that on an average, the Naxalites killed
about two persons for every one they lost in the battlefield. They also
snatched away 536 sophisticated weapons from the security forces. Now, what is worrisome is the ruthless killing of police
informers. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in the first three
months of 2015, around 19 informers, responsible for gathering and
disseminating human intelligence (HUMINT), were killed.
Between 2010 and 2014, the figure was 879. The data is self-explanatory and raises a pertinent question: Has the nation made any dent on the Naxal movement? A senior IPS officer in his book notes: “We are fighting the war on their (Naxalites) terms, not our terms.” Pointing out the reasons for anti-Naxal operations not producing any worthwhile results in spite of huge investments and heavy deployment, he says, “The tragedy is that vast resources have been placed at the disposal of those who are simply not fit to command—who do not have slightest idea of combat.”
Although anti-Naxal operations are coordinated efforts of Central and state police forces, the former has deployed over 108 battalions (134,667 personnel approx.)—83 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 15 battalions of the Border Security Force (BSF), five battalions each of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in the Naxal-hit areas. The states have deployed an estimated 30,000 police personnel. If we combine the total strength, 164,667 pair of boots are on the ground to crush an estimated 10,000-15,000 armed Naxalites—10 jawans to kill one Naxalite.
A senior police officer from Chhattisgarh says the deployment of forces has increased but effectiveness is not satisfactory. “The police performance can be judged by the areas that the forces recapture and continue dominating. But, if we see the statistics of the last four-five years, there is no change on the ground. Despite increase in the boots on the ground, the Maoist-dominated areas we are supposed to recapture remain elusive,” says an IG-level officer in the affected areas.
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