Yet another Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region caused heavy casualty to the CRPF, killing 26 personnel of the country’s largest central police force on April 24. The insurgents used the grenades and artillery they looted in a March 11 attack that claimed the lives of 12 CRPF jawans. Bhavna Vij-Aurora spoke to former Chhattisgarh director general of police Vishwa Ranjan, who led the Operation Green Hunt against the Maoists, to find out how the ultras manage to strike with impunity.
Another Maoist attack, this time in Sukma. What is going on?
Well, Maoists have a complete command and control over the area where the attack happened, in Kala Pathar near Chintagufa in Sukma district. It is more than 12,000 sq-km area in the southern part of Bastar. Forces can enter the area only with the presumption that an encounter is bound to happen. Maoists have organised themselves in military companies and upgraded their strategies much beyond guerilla warfare.
The Sukma incident shows the carelessness of security forces. This, when Maoists analyse each and every ambush.
Documents recovered reveal that their new strategy is what they call ‘mobile warfare’. They don’t move around in smaller groups like in guerrilla warfare. They move in hundreds. Even in the recent attack, there were 300 Maoists who ambushed the CRPF. Their aim is now encirclement and liquidation of security forces. They want to inflict heavy casualties in each attack.
Why are the security forces unable to prevent these attacks?
Why have the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh been the most successful in tackling the Maoist threat? It is because they analysed each and every encounter with the Maoists and tried to learn from it. That kind of an exercise is not happening here. There is no ground study the forces carry out; neither are they ready to learn from their mistakes. There is no effort to analyse the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Maoists, on the other hand, analyse each and every ambush and encounter, whether it fails or succeeds, and change their strategy accordingly.
The Sukma incident reveals sheer carelessness on the part of security forces. The road-building exercise is going on as the state government wants to open up the area and increase connectivity. Maoists don’t want any such development activity. The forces should understand that this is a point of conflict that makes them particularly vulnerable. Obviously, they devised no strategy to deal with it.
Is it lack of motivation or is it a crisis of leadership?
Leadership is important, but its role is limited, maybe to a pep talk. It is at the operational level we need to actually raise the morale of the men on the ground. The leadership at this level is what is more important. The company commander has to do a proper debriefing of the forces after they return to the camp about things such as terrain and the problems they encounter.
Do you think that the forces tend to become complacent and don’t follow SOPs (standard operating procedures) like in the recent case?
SOPs ensure minimum precautions that need to be taken while venturing into Maoist-infested territory. But SOPs cannot be rigid. The forces have to be alert to every little change in terrain. The strategy has to change as per the change in terrain, and so should the pattern of deployment and the movement of forces.
For example, if the terrain becomes mountainous, the forces must take a defensive position to prevent being ambushed. An ambush never takes too much time. The Maoists are at a position of advantage. They can choose the time and place of attack. The force is always in a vulnerable position.
What is the solution then? What is the way out?
The CRPF and the state police force have to learn from their mistakes faster and go for quicker counter-strategies. Chances of success will be much higher then. It is said that training colleges will help you only 20 per cent in the actual field; it is war that teaches you real experiences. The Maoist military apparatus can be dislodged if the forces plan their goals strategically, on a long-term basis, not do small intelligence-based operations.
There is a view in security circles, also espoused by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy recently, that a state of emergency should be declared in the affected areas and security forces should move in and take charge. Do you think that is an option?
Emergency or no emergency, you have to be better than the Maoists in tactics, strategy and field craft. With emergency, other issues will emerge. There is no question of human rights, as they will get suspended. You cannot keep killing everyone. There are locals and civilians. And about domination of the area; where will you push the Maoists?
The security forces should put so much pressure on the Maoists that they start feeling it is no more cost-effective or safe for them. The forces should ensure that Maoists either come on the negotiating table or leave the area or just surrender. Otherwise, Maoists have nothing to lose. Their documents reveal that they are ready and trained for protracted warfare. The security forces have to be ready for a long battle ahead.