Amid lockdown, Chhattisgarh Police re-calibrate anti-Maoist ops in Bastar
The lockdown to fight coronavirus has forced Chhattisgrah Police to re-calibrate and scale down anti-Maoist operations for security reasons and apprehension of likely shortage of essential items for the troopers, top officials said Sunday.
The officials said the approach is to have fewer “dedicated offensive” against the Left-wing extremists based on specific intelligence inputs.
Chhattisgarh’s Director General of Police, DM Awasthi, said only four anti-Maoist operations have been conducted since the lockdown came into force on March 24. “Earlier, we used to have 15 to 20 such operations in 10 days,” the DGP said.
Awasthi said anti-Maoist operations have been scaled down and the police have changed the ‘operational approach’.
“There are many reasons behind planning fewer operations,” he said.
He said for big operations, the police need huge back-up like helicopters and medical teams which may be difficult to arrange due to the lockdown.
“I have given instructions to officials that operations will only be planned when there is pinpoint intelligence of Maoist movements and big movement of security forces should be avoided,” said Awasthi.
More than 65,000 police personnel including 48 battalions of central forces are deployed in the Maoist stronghold of Bastar region which is spread over 39,117 sq km across seven districts and forms a crucial corridor linking Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
According to police estimates, about 5,500 Maoist cadres (from its political and military wings) live in the jungles of Bastar and more three lakh people including women and children in Bastar are Sangham Sadasya (foot-soldiers) of the banned CPI (Maoist).
“The anti-Maoist operations have reduced by 50 % in my district. Only dedicated operations are still going on by the Special Forces and it is very difficult now to push other forces in the jungle for big operations,” said a Superintendent of Police posted in one of the districts of Bastar, requesting anonymity.
The SP said in the absence of traffic during the lockdown, vehicles of security forces would become easier targets for Maoists. Even inside the jungles there is no movement of people, thereby making the entry of security forces more difficult, he added.
“The silence of roads and jungle can be dangerous for security forces. All tribal villages have imposed lockdown and there is barely any movement in jungles. Venturing out could be dangerous,” the SP said.
On the ground, the security forces are also facing other problems.
Another senior police officer, who was also not willing to be named, said the security forces are facing shortages of essential items and getting supplies quickly is becoming difficult because of the Maoist threat.
“It has created some resentment among the lower rung personnel,” a third police officer said.
The officers also said that the killing of 17 jawans in Sukma in an ambush by Moaists, a day after the lockdown was enforced on March 24, has also taken a toll on the security personnel. Many are also worried about their families.
“Many of the jawans are from rural areas in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha and are worried about their family members back home. Some of them have also applied for leave as they want to visit families. We have cancelled all leaves due to lockdown which has created some resentment,” the official said.
All the three police officers quoted above said in such times, mobilising security personnel for operations could have an adverse physiological impact. “The jawans are being counselled by their seniors,” said one of the police officers.
Experts, however, said intelligence based operations are important and should continue in Bastar in order to dominate the Maoists.
“This is a valid argument that police forces are more exposed on roads during this lockdown because no other vehicles are allowed but SPs should continue intelligence based operations and area domination of the jungle. Police should also take care of the mental health of their personnel,” said Prakash Singh, former DGP of the Border Security Force (BSF).