To fight armed Maoists, India must fortify first line of defence, writes Brig Arun Bajpai

by Brig Arun Bajpai

On 4 April 2021, near Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, Naxals just numbering around 400 ambushed a police convoy of around 2060, killing 22 of our Jawans and injuring more than 30 Jawans. A Week before this brutal attack the Naxals killed 5 CRPF Jawan by blowing their vehicle with IED in Narayanpur. It also included District Reserve Guard, Cobra Commandos, and STF. Of course, the police senior officers are saying that all ends were properly tied up there was no cause of any intel failure, but is it true? This Ambush took place in the plains and the police officers say the Naxals were occupying all the ridge lines. Why no tactical patrols were not sent to these ridges? Why the entire force were bunched together instead of moving on a broad front? What were drones, satellite imagery etc doing? No wonder same mistakes are always committed and they are shoved under the carpet.

Home Minister Amit Shah cut short his election campaign in Assam and rushed to Delhi where he had an immediate meeting with the bosses of police. After this meeting he said that now after 2 may an all out war will be opened against Naxals. Question is we have been listening to this rhetoric for last two decades by various governments in power in Centre but on the ground there are hardly any results. In 2010 in Dantewada Naxals ambushed and killed 76 CRPF Jawans, in 2013 including Cong Netas lot of police Jawans were killed in Sukma by Naxals, in 2017 after Modi Govt was in power Centre, Naxals killed 25 CRPF Jawans in Chhattisgarh. In all probability this latest outburst of our Home minister will also end up as jumla unless and until some hard decisions are implemented seriously.

Yes there has been some reduction in Naxal activities but they are still going strong in 50 districts of India which is a serious affair. These Naxals follow Mao, Lenin Marx philosophy, this philosophy itself is now moth eaten. However both the central govt and state govts have failed to project to people the Aam Adami this menace of Naxals. The Babus in Delhi still feel that these Naxals are Bhatka Hua people who will come to main stream one day. Nothing of this sort will happen. Naxals have a big stake in keeping tribals denied of development . They have prevailed upon these tribals to accept lack of education facilities, infrastructure, health care etc may be because of fear they generate. These Naxals are using all jungles, mining, etc as their cut money enterprise. No government contractor can work in Naxal areas without paying bribe to Naxals. local Netas also ask their help in winning elections. Otherwise how come they are in possession of all sophisticated arms? Such people cannot be dealt with soft approach , they must be hit hard and where it counts. Just talking to them will get no positive results and Army which is already overstretched what with China-Pakistan nexus and Kashmir cannot be used against them .so what is the answer?

First and foremost this grid lock of IPS over all police and paramilitary forces must be broken. Whether it is BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB, all heads of these organisations are clueless IPS officers why? Why their own cadre officers not being promoted to head these organisations? An IPS officer what training he gets? What knowledge if any he has of jungle and mountain warfare? Own cadre officer commanding will have tremendous effect on the morale of these forces besides this cadre officer has gone through thick and thin with his Jawans and not parachuted to just comd. troops which are going to operate against Naxals must be selected from these forces into a new organisation and they must be put under command of Army. This new organisation must also intake the highly trained manpower of army who retire young due to need for Army to be kept young. This new organisation must get full support of helicopter gunships. This new organisation must be trained in Army training institutions as a group. This new organisation should only be launched when they are fully ready. This new organisation must have capable leadership and advisors from Army on jungle and mountain warfare. They must deal with Naxals ruthlessly without any remorse.

Tackling the menace of LWE requires a counterinsurgency strategy that combines a sympathetic people-centric approach with a hard security focus on the armed Maoist cadre. The first area is training. It is a military truism that ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war’. A well-trained soldier is hugely confident in his ability to respond to any adversity and brings lessons from his realistic training to live situations. The success of the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh against the Maoists is a result of their training that is said to mirror that of the National Security Guard. Between 2008 and 2017, 80 per cent of the Maoist kills were credited to the 2,000-strong Greyhounds force.

If we are really serious in finishing off Naxals then just military effort will not do. we must bring in new laws in civil domain to target those Netas who are thick with Naxals. what we must look into are universities like JNU and others who are known supporters of Tukde Tukde gang. We must also target intellectuals and urban Naxals who are as dangerous as field Naxals. These urban Naxals and intellectuals must be targeted and put behind bars. Enough of this freedom of expression clause. These rights to be suspended till we get over Naxal problem. Also we must know that without this all inclusive effort this Naxal problem is not going to die down come what may.

The government claims that the Naxal terrorism is on its last legs. Even as strategies are devised for the future, it must not be forgotten that the foot soldier is in the frontline of the fight. Strengthening his capability with training, technology, and leadership will be a key element in defeating the Maoists.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same