The training gives major thrust on unarmed combat and acclimatises CRPF personnel to forest environment. The Eastern Ghats, which once used to provide cover for Maoists, have turned into a training ground for the CRPF. The hard and steep terrain provide the perfect platform for the force to equip its men with tactics of jungle warfare

Gun shots shattering the silence are not unfamiliar in Jawadhu hills. Four decades ago, the forests provided cover for Maoists, but in the past few years the hills on the Eastern Ghats have turned into a training ground for the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). 

The hard and steep terrain of the hills, similar to left wing extremism (LWE) infested areas like Chhattisgarh, provide the perfect platform for the world’s largest paramilitary force to equip its men with tactics of jungle warfare to counter Maoists. Given their expertise, more than 60% of personnel from the regional training centre of CRPF at Avadi have been deployed in sensitive areas like Sukma in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra among others, deputy inspector general and principal of the centre Parveen C Ghag told TOI. 

After 75 CRPF men were killed in an ambush in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on April 6, 2010, the authorities realized the need to provide specialized training in counter insurgency operations inside the forest. Towards the end of 2010, IPS officer K Vijay Kumar from Tamil Nadu took charge as director general of CRPF and insisted on training new recruits in forests like the LWE areas.

“He visited Jawadhu Hills and identified pockets similar to the Maoist infested forest areas in Chhattisgarh. Since 2011-2012, we have been taking the recruits to Jawadhu Hills for 29 days’ jungle training,” said Deputy Commandant R Arumugam, adding, “We have two camps in the hills.” The jungle exercise is the culmination of the 44-week training for new recruits.

The training gives a major thrust to unarmed combat, shooting skills under combat conditions and acclimatizes them to the environment. It also teaches them survival, an area that had been ignored earlier. “They put to use all their training to survive six days deep inside the forest. Two of the recruits of the last batch were bitten by scorpions, but they were treated by fellow recruits. Most of the recruits are from urban areas so they have to learn to survive in the forest,” said Ghag.

From learning to make bombs to familiarising them with the workings of extremists, the cadets are trained before being taken to the site. “Before they leave for jungle training, we teach modus operandi of extremists and conduct classes on incidents (case studies) like ambush and other attacks in forest areas. We also teach them how to make improvised explosive devices (IED) to prepare them for any situation,” said commandant and chief training officer Ravendra Prasad. Except the guns which have empty rounds, everything else like ambush drills, coordination and movement is like a real-life situation, said an instructor.

Recalling the major anti-Maoist crack down called Operation Ajantha led by Walter Dawaram under M G Ramachandran regime four decades ago in the region, retired superintendent of police M Ashok Kumar said in 1960s the presence of left wing extremists was strong in Dharmapuri and Tirupattur, which was part of erstwhile North Arcot district. “Jawadhu and Yelagiri hills in Tirupattur were infamous for the camps of Maoists. The hills served as a safe haven for the extremists who propagated their agenda in the foothills and plains, unleashing violence,” said Kumar, who was part of Operation Ajantha to root out insurgents from northern districts of the state. It is in a way fitting that the hub of extremists has become home to anti-Maoist operations.