Non-lethal weapons could soon become part of the security forces armoury in the Red Corridor. Faced with Maoists using human shields, the home ministry has firmed up fresh guidelines for security forces that require them to use a mix of non-lethal weapons and snipers to get to the Maoists without any collateral damage.
This will be the first time that a full complement of non-lethal weapons initially used for crowd control would be deployed in anti-insurgency operations in the country.
Jammu and Kashmir had extensively used non-lethal weapons for crowd control in 2010-2011, quickly followed by the Border Security Force that uses them against smugglers along the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Home ministry officials said the precautions - that discourages encounters at night - were important in the interest of long-term gains of winning over tribals and unmasking the Maoists.
The move follows Maoists using villagers - or getting its cadres to dress up as civilians - as shields to protect themselves from bullets fired by security forces in an encounter. They then blame security forces for killing civilians.
As part of a fresh standard operating procedures being finalised in consultation with the state police and central forces, the home ministry is set to advise central paramilitary forces to conduct operations only after getting the local police on board.
As the first step, government sources said the guidelines emphasise on persuading local villagers to stay away from areas of operation.
But if they do not pay heed and security forces find naxals using the villagers as shields, they should use pump action guns, stun grenades, tear gas shells and rubber bullets.