Guest Column | A Serious Concern

Plan in advance to tame Naxalism

R.C. SharmaR.C. Sharma

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Naxalism the biggest internal security threat. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed serious concerns about it and Union home minister Rajnath Singh has resolved to deal with it seriously. Yet, when it comes to ground reality, there is not much change that can be seen.

It is often seen that elections, especially in Naxalite areas, are carried out without any untoward incident. The police and the local administration seem to become super efficient. The only reason that can be attributed here is that they fear being reprimanded and want to put on their best show during those few days. Once the elections are over, things go back to normal. This lack of farsightedness is what plagues the administration and various security agencies in the country. The system of security governance/ police leadership takes and addresses security concerns in a lop-sided manner. It does not plan for the future. It relies on temporary measures, addressing a single incident and not solving the actual problem.

Security agencies and civil administration very well know that Maoist violence is a deep-rooted problem which has taken the form of violent security concern across the country. They also know that it has to be dealt with an iron hand but little has been done to tackle this menace. The police and other security agencies have not addressed this problem seriously. Efforts have been made but mostly they have been half-hearted and ad hoc. Consistency in approach has been missing. So, in the end, steps taken to control the menace have been piecemeal, interrupted every now and then by Maoist violence. Failures are bound to happen, but they must lead to analysis, followed by firm decisions and success. Failures must not be reinforced by failures. Professionalism must develop out of failures but unfortunately, that is not happening.

The situation has reached this far because the security establishment does not plan for the future. Another probable reason could be the lackadaisical attitude of the bureaucracy. But when dealing with something as serious as Naxalism, a way has to be found around the hurdles. The police can always approach the political leadership in case of a problem which they may not be doing in reality.

In the last four-five years, it has been noticed that Naxals follow a certain strategy. They make sure that the people, the media and the government don’t forget them and so, one keeps hearing of violent incidents now and then. The strategy also reflects a pattern – their effectiveness should be felt all over India. In fact, Naxals carry out analysis of their operational failures, the probable actions of security forces, of the government’s future strategy, and then work out a strategy to stay ahead of the security agencies.

Major incidents by Naxals do take place at regular intervals and it is a pattern which is easily discernible. The fact that police and security establishment are not able to act upon the pattern is a cause for concern. The forces and its leadership must take lessons out of the pattern which can become the basis for future prevention of incidents. Every incident follows a wave of condemnation, eulogy of bravery and formation of committees to look into the incident. All this is fine but does anything change on the ground? Naxals think like a corporate honcho who take out intelligence content out of shareholders’ meeting or the bulletin of rivals to understand their future plans.

COBRA (CRPF) men during a search and destroy operation

If Naxalism has to be rooted out, then measures should not be taken half-heartedly. Committees that are formed in the aftermath of violent incidents should be taken seriously. The recommendations of such committees must be disseminated to stakeholders on the ground so that they do not fall prey to such death traps in the future. For any good, effective and efficient force, the success lies in learning lessons from failures and turning failures into success. This can only be possible if the government of the day i.e. political leadership and bureaucratic leadership understands and appreciates the inter-relationship between operations, training and human resource development and implements this relationship with dedication.

For taming Naxals any force, be it the Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) or the police has to be operationally fighting fit, which means all its components have to be wheeled and oiled together as one entity. For that, it has to be trained as one entity and to be trained it has to be motivated. Unless trained properly, it cannot operate professionally as a successful unit/subunit. The end result may be Jiram Ghati, Chintalnar, Chintalgufa or any other such place. So, to avoid all this, adhocism has to be given up. Unless adhocism is shunned, Naxal violence and incidents will continue.

Firstly, make the Unit Commandants/ground level field commanders the stakeholders in decision making. Make them partners in every decision concerning unit administration, preparations for operations, training for operations and so on and so forth. Listen to them, the problems being encountered by them, especially in terms of management of battalion, which ultimately affects the administration of unit and training, and the end result could be operational lethargy. To be effective against Naxals, make field commanders partners in decisions which are to be implemented by them on the ground. To a very large extent at present, decisions are taken at the higher level in isolation and orders issued for implementation without realising that implementation may be difficult.

In all Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), unit commandant is responsible for every aspect of administration. I can say with confidence from my own experience that majority of the time of a unit commandant is spent in administration of the unit. He hardly has any time for operations. Hence, a detailed analysis needs to be done for units deployed in anti-Naxal role as also on borders. It should be worked out how unit commandant can be unburdened so that more time is available to him for operational purpose. Unit commandant has to ensure the following which basically takes away most of his time and energy. Man management/HR management should include:

  • Manpower planning: Operational deployment, administrative needs and training needs.
  • Leave planning: Conflict between individual needs, unit needs and operational needs and higher headquarter needs. Conflict leads to problems.
  • Infrastructural planning: Need for accommodation, health infrastructure, electricity, hygiene and sanitation facilities and education facilities. Deficiency is a cause for dissatisfaction.
  • Rations & other provisions: Timely procurement and distribution is a big strain in terms of threat and movement restrictions.
  • Administrative movements: A major reason for casualties, unavoidable events part of a yearly schedule, which can be avoided. System of operational and administrative Headquarters: Difficult to satisfy two headquarters.
  • Day to day routine administrative matters.


Ground Needs

An analysis of ground requirement ought to be done to sustain operations and pursue development and governance in Naxal-affected areas. As of now, the BSF, CRPF and ITBP are deployed in Naxal-affected states in addition to local police. The deployment is based on police stations to revive police stations. This deployment has been decided between senior ranks of police and CAPFs.

It is a perfect deployment as far as revival of police stations is concerned. However, the question arises whether it is a perfect deployment to tame Naxals? Have we been able to create sustained pressure on them through this deployment? The answer is no. We have been able to ensure our own safety, but governance has not been ensured properly by this deployment though a semblance of order in the affected areas has been restored through relentless movement and operations by the CAPFs.

As of now, every battalion has a six-company deployment with a company occupying a Company Operating Base (COB). With the omnipresent threat of ambushes, improvised explosive devices and camp attacks, there is a need to ensure full-proof security of COB integrating obstacles system with manpower.

Hence, one company is not sufficient to ensure sustained operations in its vast area of responsibility. With difficulty one platoon plus can be sent for area domination during one half of the day and the area remains unattended during other half since security of COB and administration has to be looked into. In case of administrative needs, which are carried out by ensuring operational deployment, the area domination does not happen in vast areas. What we need are the following:

  • Two company deployment in a COB
  • Battalion occupying only three COBs with increased strength. More manpower available for sustained operations in less area.
  • Induction of more battalions.

For successful operations and to reduce damage to own troops as also to civilians, intelligence plays a vital role. There cannot be successful operations in the absence of correct and real-time intelligence. In the absence of intelligence, it will only be area domination with chance operational success. So, intelligence machinery has to be really effective of both police and CAPFs and there has to be integration without which it will be advantage Naxals.

Operations and development have a positive and negative relationship. Successful operations with maintained momentum will lead to development while failed /no operations will shrink/stop development. Maoists know that lack of development in terms of roads, bridges, electricity, water supply projects; hospitals/PHCs provide oxygen to their cause. Coupled with it, corruption, misgovernance and unemployment sustain their cause. All this help them to start, develop and strengthen their organisation politically and militarily. It helps them to organise propaganda about corporate looting of resources and spread dissatisfaction among public about mis-governance.

It is imperative to strengthen military might by raising companies and battalions. Spread fear among corporates, contractors so that they shun the area and those who dare to enter, do not allow them to function and those who function tax them heavily and those who refuse to pay, harm them. This has been happening over the years but the state has not been able to stop it. The perception is that businesses pay to buy peace. This is the reason state governments needs to take lead and do following:

  • Mark the domain between police and CAPFs.
  • Identify major and minor development projects district wise. All these projects need 24×7 security.
  • Make state armed police battalions responsible for security by placing companies/ platoons as per threat analysis.
  • Let CAPFs do area domination /Naxal saturation operations in coordination with district police.
  • Naxals will not be able to disturb any project and so, development will follow.
  • Release state armed police battalions from so called essential duties which may be assigned to private security agencies.

The Naxal as well as the development scenario can change within a period of three to five years. The Naxals will be weakened to the extent that they will be forced to look for alternatives. State governments and police have to play a positive role in this which needs to be monitored.

The government needs to make field commanders as co-participants in all decisions concerning security issues in Naxal areas for both CAPFs and police and implement suggested measures which will certainly lead to development in Naxal areas, and ultimately, tame and eliminate Naxals cadres from the Naxal mainstream.


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