Judging by the current patterns, the fight with the Maoist rebels has a historical ring to it.
Whether it is the first battle of Panipat in 1526, when a small army of Babur defeated the huge contingent of Ibrahim Lodi, or Shivaji’s combats with the mighty Bijapur kingdom in the 17thcentury, all speak of how the smaller outfits outclassed the bigger ones.
The police in Maoist-affected states, especially Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, appear to be the modern-day equivalents of the larger forces.
Despite being ‘larger’ and ‘stronger’, the forces are yielding ground to the comparatively weak red brigade.Monday’s incident in Jharkhand’s Giridih district, where the rebels first decoyed the forces into their trap and carried out a series of explosions, killing one CRPF trooper and injuring more than 17, has once again brought to light the Maoists’ operational efficiency in areas under their control.
In a recent report, Jharkhand deputy inspector general of police Suman Gupta said despite specific information, senior police officers in at least five Maoist-affected districts in the Hazaribag range desisted from taking action against the rebels.
And this is despite the ultras’ supposedly depleting military strength — home ministry reports suggest there are barely 9,000-10,000 members of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the unified military organisation of the Maoists.
So where is the lapse? Jharkhand police spokesperson Anurag Gupta says it is the professional hazard that is leaving the forces at the receiving end. Albeit, he adds, the dependence on the paramilitary forces will have to be reduced and the states instead should focus more on training their police for endurance in jungle, tactics, and the precautions to be taken to be able to counter the Maoists.
“The operational strategy has to be changed. The recent successes against terrorists in J&K have been achieved primarily by the special operations groups of the state police,” he said.
The Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh governments have doubled their police strength to nearly 50,000 and 60,000, respectively, over the past five years, but there has been no letup in violence.
In Chhattisgarh, the Maoist militia, numbering barely 5,000, influences more than 130 of the 392 police stations in the state, while in Jharkhand 2,500-odd armed rebels are giving sleepless nights to the police in at least 18 out of the 24 districts.
What gives them an edge over the police? “Our honesty, dedication and selflessness, coupled with public support, have kept us firm and strong over the years,” said CPI (M) commander Ashokji alias Karamchand, speaking to HT last week.
“We are down in Andhra Pradesh and other plain areas, but have grown stronger in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand,” he said.