iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 05, 2013
The Committee of Secretaries (CoS) is understood to have shot down a home ministry plan to revive the proposal of deploying Rashtriya Rifles (RR) for static duties in naxal-infested areas.

The step comes in the wake of the disastrous CRPF-Maoist encounter in Latehar last month with the defence ministry opposed to involvement of the army against left-wing extremists in heart of the country.

Top government sources said the CoS headed by cabinet secretary Ajit Seth shelved home secretary RK Singh's proposal last month for the time being.

The army in principle is opposed to the plan unless the Centre raises additional RR battalions for countering the red rebels. They feel that moving out RR battalions would weaken the counter-insurgency grid in J&K. Defence minister AK Antony has been opposed to the army opening another front in central India.

The proposal to involve RR only in static duties to guard key installations and reassure villagers in Maoist areas was mooted after the CRPF commanders were found wanting in the Latehar encounter on January 7 despite specific grid locations and actionable intelligence. The CRPF operation in Latehar caused serious consternation among the internal security establishment at the loss of 14 persons including nine CRPF personnel despite pin-pointed aerial and electronic intelligence. Much to the chagrin of home ministry, the local CRPF commanders could not summon up courage to re-engage the Maoist leaders after the Latehar loss.

While Army does not want to get sucked to internal security duties against Maoists, the internal security managers made it clear to Seth that just because RR was involved in static duties did not mean that the troopers would not respond to a Maoist provocation. "The RR battalions would have no options but to respond to Maoist attack and get sucked up into the conflict," said a senior official.

The other argument was that the Army would want imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in naxal areas before moving in. "At a time when Omar Abdullah is demanding removal of AFSPA from J&K, its imposition to tackle the Maoists by RR would be a very bad idea," an official said.