On April 24, Maoists killed 25 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Sukma, Chhattisgarh. The ambush took place only a kilometre away from a CRPF post at Burkapal, which was established in 2013 by the Chhattisgarh Police (CP) and later taken over by the force to bridge the 12-km gap between Chintagufa and Chintalnar. Both these places have police stations and CRPF camps.
On the day of the attack, the CRPF personnel left from the Burkapal post at around 6 am and were attacked by Maoists at 12.55 pm. It is not a planned attack but a chance ambush. The Maoists are adept at such attacks and claim to have converted guerrilla warfare into mobile warfare. The main characteristic of mobile warfare is the agility of troops to move swiftly and regroup in large formations in a short time. The most daring attack was in Taadmetla (2010), not very far off from Burkapal, in which no less than 76 jawans of the CRPF were killed. Twelve jawans were recently killed near Bhejji.
The deployment of forces in the largely hilly and forested district of Sukma is peculiar. It is mostly done in a linear manner along two roads: The Sukma-Konta national highway and the Dornapal-Chintalnar-Jagargunda state highway. The absence of well-spread and networked police stations and security camps gives Maoists an advantage.
The availability of precise intelligence input is extremely important for any successful operation. In a hostile environment, the forces face a herculean task of keeping themselves alert all the time. In the absence of roads for transport and mobile connectivity, the flow of information often gets delayed and so security forces are unable to take timely action. Further, it is also difficult to verify such information and many a times the anti-Maoist operations are launched based on general inputs.
The scenario, however, has been changing steadily. The tardy speed of road construction has improved. With more delegation of power at the field level, local contractors have undertaken construction works, though in patches. When all other construction agencies failed, the task of road construction, along the most challenging routes (including the under-construction Dornapal-Chintagufa-Jagargunda highway) was taken up by the Chhattisgarh Police Housing Corporation. Both central and state police forces provide security for these works.
The mission of establishing 146 new mobile towers in the Maoist-hit areas has been accomplished. More are coming up. With more villages connected to the communication network, intelligence will improve. Besides, three All India Radio stations are coming up in the southern districts of Bastar; regional programmes could help revive tribal cultural ethos and change the hostile atmosphere.
We are also recruiting personnel for India Reserve battalions of Chhattisgarh from the Maoist-affected districts so that the problems related to local language, cultural gap and knowledge of terrain are minimised. The CRPF is also raising its Bastariya battalion to improve its local connect. Community policing programmes will also help in improving the security forces’ relations with the affected populace.
The next step is to use technology. For example, air surveillance of affected areas needs to be set-up at a battalion level. Plus we need more forces to reverse their mobile war. The central task of the Maoists still remaining the same i.e.; ‘to capture political power through protracted armed struggle with people’s support’, there is no other option than to implement the government’s two-pronged policy of ‘security with development’ in letter and spirit.
In an article in HT, former police officer Prakash Singh alleged that ‘the state police forces lean heavily on the shoulders of the central armed police forces’ and ‘are in a shambles’. This is not true: The state police forces have not only gradually increased their strength threefold since 2000 but have also occupied most of the forward camps. They have also taken on the challenge without parting away with their responsibilities. The state’s ownership is total and complete.
RK Vij is additional director general of police, Chhattisgarh
The views expressed are personal