As a consequence to Latehar, the possibility of the CRPF forcing retribution on innocents cannot be ruled out. Media reports of the night of last June 28-29 maybe recalled where 22 tribals, said to be unarmed, were killed in two separate attacks by the CRPF in South Chhattisgarh. A total of 17 were killed in Sakerguda, three kilometres from a CRPF camp at Basaguda. Of those killed, 12 were under 16 years of age and two were 12 years old. Chidambaram as Home Minister had said he was, “deeply sorry if innocents had been killed”. Such incidents fuel and accelerate insurgencies and wipe out all the good work done in the past.
Time and again, CRPF reverses in combating the Maoists have revealed lack of basic tactics.
The other seriously disturbing news in the Latehar incident is the abandoning of an injured CRPF jawan with the disabled helicopter, regarding which a war of words for an inquiry is on between the MoD and MHA and an odd article has emerged stating there is a need to streamline an SOP for such incidents. If the helicopter crew actually did abandon the injured CRPF jawan, there should be no second thoughts but to try them for cowardice in combat. No written SOPs are required in such cases.
Maoist operations are no more restricted to their erstwhile influence in 16 states. They have expanded in tandem with the PFI in Kerala, ULFA in the North-east and the PLAM in Manipur, are undergoing joint training and are also linked to Nepalese Maoists. PLAM signed an agreement with the Maoists in October 2010 pledging to overthrow the Indian “reactionary and oppressive regimes”. Beijing and Islamabad have plans to integrate the Maoists with the Kashmir insurgents. Given the opportunity, Taliban may be roped in to join the fray. Beijing is linked to Al Qaeda for many years and if Al Qaeda has footprints in Kerala and LeT is radicalising Maldives, what stops the Taliban, especially post 2014?
Weapons and equipment are being pumped in for Maoists from every possible avenue, main conduits being through Myanmar and Bangladesh. Rockets have already been fired by Maoists and mortars and anti-tank and shoulder-fired air defence missiles may well follow. ULFA camps in Bhutan were known to have air defence weapons, which vanished with their rout and were never found. China had been developing knock-offs of Russian-designed man-portable air defence missiles (manpads), including the QW-1 and later series models. The QW-1 Vanguard is an all-aspect, 35lb launch tube and missile that is reverse-engineered from the US Stinger and the SA-16 Gimlet (9K310 Igla-1). China obtained SA-16s from the Unita rebels in Zaire who had captured them from Angolan government forces. The QW-1M is a variant that incorporates even more advanced SA-18 Grouse (9K38 Igla) technology. China had reportedly supplied these to insurgents in Iraq and later on, to the Taliban.
Beijing and Islamabad have plans to integrate the Maoists with the Kashmir insurgents. Chinese-Pakistani links exist with the present day opposition in Bangladesh…
The recent discovery of a one and a half kilograms of Uranium IED in Assam indicates China-Pakistan may well initiate WMD terrorism to shock India and force deployment of the Army to battle the Maoists. Additionally, China with its extensive cyber warfare capability and penchant for evolving ‘fit the fight’ weaponry, may well utilise the Maoists to thus target India. The Uranium IED matches ‘fit the fight’ weaponry and leaves no signatures. Hand held Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) guns may next appear on the scene for covert injury and destruction of many types of targets including computer networks.
Finances are no problem for the Maoists. Their empire was estimated at Rs. 1,500 crore in 2010 with an annual growth rate of 15 per cent. Poppy plantation is expanding Taliban style at furious pace with an acre of land generating one crore rupees every year. This financial prowess is over and above the weapons and equipment being gifted by Beijing and Islamabad. There are, therefore, ample funds to lure the unemployed youth into insurgency especially those living in the shadow of no/mis-governance including lack of access to legal recourse and political expression.
Both legal and illegal mining in the region provide ample quantities of explosives and detonators. With rampant corruption, what no one dares to talk about is the obvious politician-insurgent-government officials nexus for reasons of vote-bank politics, illegal mining and drug moolah, extortions, timber and forest produce, aside from ideology. No wonder a lowly forest official has assets worth some ` 70 crore, as discovered recently. Some senior officials (including police) are known to be paying hafta to the Maoists for their own safety. A year ago, the CPI (M) accused the TMC of being hand-in-glove with the Maoists and asked the Centre to explain the presence of extremists at Mamta’s Lalgarh rally. But what needs analysis is whether there is polity-Maoist ideological nexus. The CPI (M) may be in league with the Maoist Communist Centre in Bihar and the People’s War Group in South India. But at what level do the CPI, CPI (M) and CPI (ML) converge under a common ideology especially as they are share the same platform during elections and even in Delhi, while the hierarchy looks the other way citing ‘vibrant democracy’ – an euphuism for the ‘chalta hai’ attitude?
A trans-national threat like the Maoist insurgency requires national level response.
Ironically, the Maoists and their cohorts such as the PFI have already invested in urban centres including the National Capital Region and have declared their intention to infiltrate the security of political leaders and government officials in State capitals and at the Centre. We may, therefore, expect a spate of abductions and/or assassinations.
Government apathy in dealing with the Maoist insurgency is characterised by the following:-
- Failure to recognize this insurgency through transnational dynamics has assumed strategic proportions
- Failure to recognize that irregular and unconventional warfare have emerged with greater strategic value over the conventional in the era of decreasing wars and this is what China and Pakistan are applying to us
- Despite the Prime Minister labeling it the biggest national threat over successive years, dealing with it has been left at state level other than dishing out Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) units, IAF helicopters and UAV support as also routine intelligence inputs
- Failure to recognize the politico-social-economic nature of the problem and drawing up immediate, mid-term and long-term strategies holistically to counter the insurgency
- Failure to establish efficient intelligence system with real time dissemination
- Failure to cut off external support to insurgents – money, arms, ammunition and war-making stores
- Failure to energise the Security Sector beyond raising more and more CAPF units
- Failure to improve governance and ensure benefits of poverty alleviation schemes reach intended beneficiaries.
A trans-national threat like the Maoist insurgency requires national level response. The broad contours on which our national strategy should be based upon are:
Security forces must have centralised top-down command and control structures and clearly defined areas of responsibility.
- MEA-MoD-MHA synergy should be institutionalised permanently rather than temporary arrangements during war situations.
- External factors require proactive action to prevent external support.
- Internally, a holistic appreciation must be carried out to assess requirements for undertaking synergized simultaneous operations on the socio- political-economic, moral and physical planes. This should include prioritized long term plans with immediate, mid-term and long-term objectives clearly defined. Such an appreciation must encompass likely future scenarios.
- MHA must assume full responsibility and control of counter insurgency operations by security forces against Maoists and establish a 24×7 operations room to monitor all activities.
- Unified HQ (UHQ) must be established at level of all States (replicated eventually at District level) combining command and intelligence functions, integrating Security Sector with civil entities trained, dedicated and resourced to establish security, development and rule of law. Advisors at UHQ must include ‘serving’ career specialists against the current practice of an odd service veteran.
- The National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), State-level State Counter Terrorism Centre (SCTC) at UHQ and the National Information Grid (NATGRID) duly linked must come up on priority. NCTC will not be opposed by States if adequate safeguards are incorporated to prevent the ruling party misusing it for political purposes. A comprehensive rolling intelligence acquisition plan integrating all source intelligence including vital HUMINT must be put in place.
- Security forces must have centralised top-down command and control structures and clearly defined areas of responsibility in the overall Counter-Insurgency (CI) grid.
- Proactive intelligence-led surgical Special Operations to target insurgent leadership/organisations as well as psychological operations must be part of the security forces strategy.
- CAPF units tasked with counter insurgency operations must be re-organised as self-contained units on lines of the Assam Rifles/Rashtriya Rifles, without which, they will continue to be ineffective. We should have taken this cue from comparing the effectiveness of a BSF vis-à-vis CRPF, the former having been organised along the lines of the Army. The long pending modernisation plans for the Police must be activated concurrently. Ad-hoc approach of raising more and more units and equipping them with an assault rifle is the most foolish way to go about it. Equipping must be holistically packaged.
The long pending modernisation plans for the Police must be activated concurrently.
- The practice of super-imposing DIG and above level IPS officers on the CRPF must stop unless we want more massacres. A clear example was the April 2010 Dantewada massacre where IPS officer Nalin Prabhat, the newly appointed DIG at Raipur with no experience of counter-insurgency and without any knowledge of terrain and Maoists (himself having only dealt with routine law and order), ordered the CRPF to move out for 72 hours without any objective. Either the CRPF must be permitted to come up with their own CI specialist officer cadre or IPS officers must first command CRPF platoons and companies ‘after’ having done a minimum of six months attachment with the Army/PMF/CAPF unit deployed in counter insurgency operations before being super-imposed on the CRPF at higher levels.
- MHA needs to strictly enforce pre-induction training for 100 per cent CAPF personnel being deployed in counter insurgency. This is ‘not’ happening on the ground. Only whole units/sub-units are undergoing such training. Personnel being turned over otherwise including 25 per cent annual turnover of CRPF units deployed on semi-permanent basis in the Maoist belt are going without any pre-induction training, which is a recipe for more massacres.
- Finally, it is reiterated that operations by security forces to control levels of violence simply cannot be the panacea – this is only one part of the recipe.
With adequate potential for civil war aimed at Balkanizing India, the Maoist insurgency requires total national focus and synergy, according equal importance to politico-social-economic issues in addition to operations by security forces to manage violence levels. As India races against time to manage social change, the Maoist insurgency must be given due priority. India must also, in all sincerity, establish deterrence against irregular forces and their external support bases on a proactive basis.