Sukma once again, LWE is single biggest threat to India’s internal security
As many as 26 valiant Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were mercilessly killed by well-armed Naxalites in one of the deadliest attack in Sukma district in Chhattisgarh on April 24.
More than 300 Maoists armed with lethal weapons attacked CRPF contingent of 99 personnel of 74th Battalion. These CRPF men were safeguarding the construction of a road which connects Burkapal and Jagargunda towns. The insurgents planned the attack meticulously, selected the place of attack and collected the relevant intelligence through villagers; few out of them might be innocent while others must be supplying crucial intelligence about security forces regularly to insurgents. The extremists also looted weapons and equipment of the slain CRPF men.
Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is the most potent threat to India’s internal security and in past Maoists made several fatal assaults on Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). Just a month back on March 11, LWE cadres killed 12 CRPF Jawans in Sukma while in 2016 Naxalites killed more than 20 CAPF personnel.
These successful assaults on security forces besides demoralizing the CAPF also raise the status of LWE among the local masses. It hampers the investment climate and enhances the animosity between the local populace and security forces.
Unfortunately, the government lacks a comprehensive policy and most of the time it is a knee-jerk reaction while LWE should be dealt as a major problem faced by the nation. Central government should make a comprehensive policy after consulting state governments facing LWE threat, leaders of various political parties, NGOs working in the area but not those sponsored by LWE and once the policy is formulated it must be implemented in letter and spirit.
LWE affected areas are underdeveloped and there is widespread exploitation of common people by corrupt government servants, political leaders and businessmen. Maoists took advantage of this nexus and now they do not allow the development of the area. The extremists obstruct construction of roads, opening of educational institutions, hospitals, supply of electricity etc. In fact the masses of this area are completely deprived of the progress of the country.
Government should launch skill development programmes, vocational colleges should be established, small scale industries should be created and employment generation schemes should be sponsored by government.
Government agencies as well as NGOs should also propagate about the developmental projects conducted by them so that locals understand that government is working for their benefits while Maoists are thwarting developmental projects. The press should also project developmental work done by government as well as good work done by security agencies.
Nonetheless only developmental plans would not suffice as LWE cadres would not allow the development of the area hence security forces must be strengthened. The writ of government must prevail hence CAPF should be given latest arms & ammunition, helicopters, drones, mine protected vehicles, armoured personnel carrier (APC) and better communication system. There should be more road and rail links and additional mobile towers should be constructed.
CAPF as well as police forces of the states needs training not only in weapons handling but also in jungle warfare, fighting with terrorists etc. Indian Army possess the requisite expertise in it therefore CAPF as well as state police personnel should be trained in these special courses. The CAPF and police training institutes should take army personnel in their training institute on deputation. There is no use involving army in Naxal operations as it would be detrimental to the country.
CAPF must involve local police in operations as the latter have better idea of terrain, geography and people of the area.
Left Wing extremists collect huge money by extortion from mining mafia, and various companies operating in their areas. The security forces must stop the source of their finances. Naxalites cannot function without constant supply of money.
The rehabilitation programmes of surrendered Naxalites must be implemented properly so that the surrendered Maoists do not go back to terrorism.
The Security forces posted in Naxal affected areas must follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) religiously as violation of SOP may be disastrous for the forces.
CAPF should incessantly continue search operations in Naxal areas as it will keep Maoists under pressure as well as security forces may unearth some arms caches. The support agents of Maoists would also be caught.
The Maoists operate in deep forests where it will be difficult for CAPF to locate them hence it will be good if CAPF get air support in operations. Indian Air Force will be immensely helpful in operations.
Collection and passing of actionable intelligence to CAPF is another difficult area. Maoists collect much better intelligence than security agencies operating in Naxal areas. CRPF has started an intelligence training centre and officers of different intelligence organisations are imparting training and it is expected that some good result would emerge. Collection of intelligence should be done through agents (Humint) as well as through technical gadgets.
De-radicalization programmes should also be launched and efforts should be made to develop patriotism and nationalism in the local population. The NGOs which are financed by Maoists and always demonstrate in favour of LWE and make wild allegations against security forces should be dealt sternly so that the moral of security forces remain high.
Naxalite problem cannot be curbed early as it is not only a law and order problem and Maoists are Indian citizens who were exploited by different organisations hence they should be dealt cautiously and sincere efforts should be made so that lower cadre joins the mainstream. However, the hardcore Naxalites will remain toughies to be cracked or imprisoned.
(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based security analyst and a former senior officer of R&AW. Views expressed are personal.)