After the 29 June Naxal massacre of 26 CRPF personnel in Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh, almost a repeat of similar massacre in Dante Wada District of the same state on April 06 where 76 CRPF personnel died, the statement of DGP Chhattisgarh, responsible for deployment of these Central Paramilitary forces in his state that he can not teach CRPF how to walk in Jungles, says it all. The entire police set up dealing with anti Naxal operation needs revamping.
In the current Police set up in the country, it is the State Police which is responsible for establishing law and order in the State. The centre helps in terms of providing additional Paramilitary Forces to the State where the situation so warrants. The responsibility of deployment of these additional forces remains with the State Police officials on the premise that they know the local situation better. In this deployment, which is done based on the local needs, it results more often then not in the Para Military Force Battalion consisting approximately 1200 constables getting deployed in penny packets.
This system may work for a short while in common law and order problem areas. However 0peration against well trained and well equipped Naxal Guerillas is a different ball game. This operation is full scale jungle warfare and not a simple law and order deployment. It requires cohesiveness, mutual trust among subunits and a resolute leadership. This is not possible if the force gets divided into small subunits.
The Naxals know the lay of the local terrain and have full local support. They remain mingled with the local population like any other local person. They hide their weapons in safe catches. This way they keep a constant watch on the new arrivals of the central forces. Besides they have informers in the local police.
The central paramilitary Forces coming from outside lack the knowledge of the local terrain and customs. They also do not have their own local intelligence grid. Needless to say for this knowledge of local terrain and intelligence they have to perforce bank on the local police force. The problem with the local police is that in all 83 Naxal affected districts spanning states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Maharashtra, the local police has become ineffective. At night they lock themselves up in their respective Thanas. Needless to say despite their tall claims they are not in a position to provide any real-time actionable intelligence.
This lack of actionable local intelligence, lack of proper training, lack of long term strategic planning and inadequate leadership are the main reasons for the current large scale massacre of Paramilitary forces in these operations, which are almost a full scale war. After every such massacre the blame game starts between the local police authorities and the Paramilitary force big wigs. This is being paid for by the valiant constables of these paramilitary forces by their lives. Surely this needs immediate rectification.
Another weak area is the deployment areas of these incoming paramilitary forces .These areas are decided by the local authorities having little empathy with the ethos of the incoming force. These types of operations are highly stressful and the constables’ need adequate time and facilities for rest and relief when they are not operating. Most of the times these camps lack even the basic amenities.’ Many times while selecting the camp sites the local authorities do not even bother to check their defensibility from sudden surprise attacks. Needless to say suitable changes need be implemented if we are serious in winning the war against Naxals and reducing our casualties
As of today in the Jungle Warfare School at Warangte and Kanker, Army is imparting training to the selected constables and lower rung officers from the police and Paramilitary forces. However the senior officers of these Forces who lack adequate knowledge of planning and execution of these type of high density operations continue to remain untrained. With followers trained and leaders untrained there is a total mismatch. It is now increasingly important that from Battalion level onwards every paramilitary force operating against Naxals must have a serving or retired Army officer as an adviser.
The name of the game is patience. The Police and Paramilitary forces should not rush to operations against Naxals just to please the bosses. The entire Paramilitary Force Battalion should operate as one unit under its own officer’s leadership. The new arrivals first must acquaint themselves with the terrain and establish their own intelligence grid. They may use local police as guides but the responsibility of planning an operation and its execution must rest with the paramilitary force and not local police officers. This will enforce accountability.
Even though currently Army is not involved operationally, there should be a joint command set up consisting of senior officers of Army, paramilitary Forces and Local Police. This will enable latter two to get the Army expertise in planning. Besides should need arises later, where Army finally has to get involved, then the transition process will be very smooth. It is time both military and police forces stop building their separate empires and start thinking that this country needs them both urgently.
The views expressed by the author are personal.