IGNORING GROUND REALITY : A VIEWPOINT
The Home Ministry must take full control with a 24 x 7 operations room and coordinate the counter Maoist operations including implementation of a cohesive strategy encompassing the politicoeconomic-socio aspects of the problem
The audacious attack by Naxals on the Congress motorcade killing 27 including 10 policemen and injuring some 36 on May 25 in Chhattisgarh yet again exposed our inability to come to grips with the Maoist insurgency and failure to learn from previous incidents. Over 200 Maoists ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in the dense forest of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh. The killed included former Union Minister V.C. Shukla, Chhattisgarh Congress Chief Nand Kumar Patel, senior leader Mahendra Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudliyar.
The National Investigation Agency is probing why this happened. What may eventually get released to media may have various compulsions but the facts on ground are crystal clear. The fact is that no road opening was done in the first place and this was not possible either with the Congress motorcade deciding on its own to return along the same route. Sending a vehicle along the road in an hour or so in advance can under no circumstances be considered road opening. In any event, considering the distances, adequate number of security forces were unlikely available to do road opening along the entire route.
However, it was possible to do selective picketing including essentially covering all the likely ambush points but this can only be undertaken by a well trained force that sites itself tactically that can deter possible attack in large numbers. Ironically, this was a wonderful ambush site with curving stretch of roads with dominating heights providing long distance observations. Only respective PSOs of the politicians were accompanying the motorcade with some carrying the ancient 7.62mm SLRs dwarfed by the fire of the Maoists automatic weapons. The vehicles were moving bumper to bumper under the misperception that the numbered closeness would draw strength from each other. This actually provided the most lucrative target to the Maoists who blew up the second lead vehicle through an IED blast, followed by heavy firing and cold blooded murder. How many weapons of the accompanying PSOs were taken away by the Maoists have not been revealed but it has emerged that Maoists could have ensured that there are no survivors were they not looking for only selected kills.
The Maoists, many of them women, were calm, methodical and unaffected by killings – akin to the LTTE. If this was a motorcade, in many previous incidents, particularly in Dantewada, Garhchiroli and Latehar, even CRPF columns on foot have suffered heavy casualties moving bunched up in a single file along roads and tracks. This was a motorcade that fortunately had less numbers killed only because the Maoists were in merciful mood. Even earlier incidents have shown little or no coordination between the civil police and the CRPF. The real intelligence has to come from ground level with top down intelligence only add on but the hard fact is that you cannot leave everything to chance in insurgency affected areas despite tactical pauses in hostilities.
A dispassionate analysis would show there are ample indications that the Maoist insurgency is on the rise. Raising more police forces and dishing out more central forces to the states with periodic warnings (read intelligence) to be on the alert has been a failure and will continue to be so. Customary CentreState blame game and politicising every incident is of no use. The Home Ministry must take full control with a 24 x 7 operations room and coordinate the counter Maoist operations including implementation of a cohesive strategy encompassing the politico-economic-socio aspects of the problem. It is time to acknowledge that our existing Central Armed Police Forces are not geared to take on the Maoists. These units must be reorganised, officered, manned, equipped and trained like the Rashtriya Rifles or the Assam Rifles. They must have officers from their own cadre who should lead them from the front. It is reported that at least 1,000 more police forces have been rushed to Bastar area. Caution is needed to avoid collateral damage and innocent killings at all costs.
LT GENERAL (RETD) P.C. KATOCH