In Naxal country, it’s bullet vs ballot
In the last four days, 28 securitymen have died fighting Maoist rebels; government says gunfights outcome of pro-active steps. See Graphicsdelhi Updated: Apr 14, 2009 01:34 IST
Twenty-eight personnel of the central police forces lost their lives while trying to stop the Naxals from scaring away the voter in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and parts of Orissa, which are going to polls on April 16.
On Monday, the security establishment in Delhi reviewed the situation and asked the Naxal-hit states to optimise deployment, beef up security and effectively use helicopters during the elections.
The Centre is also asking the states to be cautious while making arrangements for politicians. A home ministry official, who refused to be identified, however, said: “We will never ask the politicians not to go there…We would then be playing into the hands of the Naxals.”
Maharashtra’s Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district alone witnessed 36 instances of violence since the election schedule was announced in March. “This is sheer desperation of the Naxals to force the villagers to adhere to their poll boycott call,” said Manoj Sharma, additional Superintendent of Police of Gadchiroli.
In Orissa, police chief M M Praharaj believed that Sunday night’s Naxal attack on the public sector National Aluminium Company was aimed as much at looting mining explosives as scaring away the voter. Eleven jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force were killed in the attack.
But higher number of body bags did not mean that the Naxalites were winning. Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta said in Delhi that the recent deaths of security personnel were a result of the “pro-active thrust of the security forces”.
Pawan Deo, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) in Chhattisgarh, agreed: “When securitymen move deeper into the jungle, there will be more encounters and Naxal ambush.” And this is what happened on Friday in Chhattisgarh.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were on their way back from patrolling the dense jungle of Dantewada district — part of the Bastar region that forms the hotbed of Naxal activities in central India — when they were ambushed.
However, officials in Delhi acknowledge that the Maoist rebels did appear to be getting access to better weapons rather than depending only on arms looted from police or the Nayagarh armoury in Orissa.
Also, the Naxals are better at implementing improvised military tactics than the security forces. Brigadier B.K. Ponwar, who runs the Jungle Warfare and Counter Insurgency College at Kanker in Chhattisgarh, told Hindustan Times that many security personnel got killed because they flouted the basic rules of counter-insurgency.
For instance, the CRPF unit ambushed last week seemed to have followed the same route on their way back from their patrolling. “Moreover, the likely ambush areas must be secured prior to such movement by the forces, which was apparently not done and troops were not cautious,” he said.