The way police and special forces are fighting Maoists across the country might soon change. A top counter-insurgency officer from Chhattisgarh did a quiet reconnaissance of the Defence Expo over the weekend, scouting for the latest jungle warfare equipment, including sophisticated surveillance systems, armoured watch towers and better quality bullet proof vests and barbed wire.
Brigadier BK Ponwar may be happy sipping brandy and talking about ambushes and anti-mine vehicles, but what he would rather do is to wake up at 5am, get on a horse and bring pot-bellied policemen back in shape at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College at Kanker in Chhattisgarh.
As director of the college, this has been Ponwar’s daily practise since it was set up in 2005. Over the weekend, he took a break and took rounds of the Defence Expo to zero in on equipment that could help the police tackle the fast-expanding Maoist insurgency across the country. Ponwar retired in 2005 and was appointed director of the college and given the rank of an inspector general of police.
“We need early warning and surveillance systems, high quality barbed wire, watch towers, lighter bullet-proof vests and high-beam torches. The police stations and police posts in areas where the insurgency is raging need to have early warning systems in place so that Maoists do not catch them unawares,” said Ponwar.
That’s exactly what happened in Orissa, and has happened several times before.
The attack occurred at night and policemen had no clue.
So, what did Ponwar — who previously headed the Counter Insurgency College in Mizoram and has also fought with the Mukti Bahini in Bangladesh — find at the expo? “For one, there were ‘tower bunkers’ on display. These are towers that can be 40 metres high with partial armour protection at the bottom. These towers can shelter four-to-five personnel at the top, who can keep a watch on the surroundings. If the Maoists attack from below, the armour can protect the tower.”
Ponwar also attended a presentation about a sophisticated surveillance system that can be used in the periphery of police stations. Called an ‘early warning surveillance screen’, it involves placing sensors around the station, at a distance of 1 km, and beaming suspicious movements to screens inside.
“The personnel need to move out of their stations to do their combing operations more often and not wait for the Maoists to attack. But when they are back at the base, they should be well-equipped to be warned about an impending attack."