Homeland Security

Left Wing Extremism
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Issue Vol 24.3 Jul-Sep2009 | Date : 12 Jan , 2011

the casualty ratio between the police and insurgents is a cause for concern. For the last three years in fact, it has become adverse and tilted in favor of the insurgents.

Insurgency or Terrorism? Tribals make natural guerillas. Only 12 percent of India’s tribal population lives in the Northeast. This had revolted in 1956 and tied down some 2 to 6 divisions of the Indian Army and three times that number of police and paramilitary forces. 85 percent of the Indian tribal population lives in central and peninsular India. It is this which is now in varying stages of rebellion. The internal security implications of this are patent and obvious.

Heartland vs Rimland. Unlike the earlier insurgencies in the Northeast and the terrorist movements in Punjab and J&K, this is not a rim-land insurgency, but a heartland rebellion. The Indian Army obviously is not keen to intervene here because this will draw it far away from the borders it is supposed to guard. The key issue is – can we (or should we) paramilitarize our entire police forces to quell this insurgency? The strength of the Indian state police forces has been raised by 300,000 in the past few years. It has gone up from 1.3 million to 1.6 million.

The CRPF is raising 10 COBRA Battalions to combat this menace. So far, however the casualty ratio between the police and insurgents is a cause for concern. For the last three years in fact, it has become adverse and tilted in favor of the insurgents.

The world over, armies are employed to tackle insurgencies. It is essential to grasp the essential difference between insurgency and terrorism. Terrorists target defenseless civilians. Insurgents usually target the police, PMF and the Army itself through hit and run guerilla raids and ambushes. Their organizational pattern is on semi- formal military lines. They operate in platoons, companies and Battallions/Dalams. Though the Police is ideal to tackle terrorism , especially in cities, towns and densly populated areas, tribal insurgency in difficult jungle terrain needs the intervention of the regular Army. Militarizing the entire police forces would take 8 to 10 years with the existing training infrastructure. Would it be cost effective or even possible to raise tactical skills of the entire states, police forces to even a basal military level? An across the board paramilitarization of the nation’s Police forces is definitely not the answer. It would take far too long and would not be cost- effective in the end.

Counter Insurgency training and operations are treated as virtual punishment postings/assignments and the state of morale and motivation of these State Police Forces is poor.

The Grayhound Model. Quite obviously therefore, the Andhra Pradesh Grayhound model of creating elite, specialized police forces, is one obvious solution. It has worked well in Andhra Pradesh. Can the Andhra model be replicated in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand? The outlook seems rather pessimistic as the state of road infrastructure is much poorer in these two states. Better road communication network in Andhra Pradesh had enabled the police to gain the upper hand. Unfortunately, the police leadership in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand has been focusing more upon raising the general level of training of the entire police force rather than on creating elite forces on the Andhra model.

Counter Insurgency training and operations are treated as virtual punishment postings/assignments and the state of morale and motivation of these State Police Forces is poor. An increase of pressure by the Grayhounds in Andhra Pradesh has merely pushed the Left Wing Dalams into the neighboring states of Jharkhand and Orissa. As a deliberate practice, the Naxalites have been operating on the tri-junctions of states to take full advantage of the lack of coordination between the states as also the states and the center. The key parameter to be closely watched is the tactical exchange rate or the casualty ratio between the police and the Left Wing insurgents. This is now becoming a cause for concern. Should this deteriorate further, we may have to consider a genuine para-militarization of the conflict, i.e. intervention by the Rashtriya Rifles or the Assam Rifles. Alternatively, we may have to consider a onetime repeat of Op Steeple Chase (Army assistance provided to anti-Naxal operations in West Bengal in 1971).

Matrix of Response Options

CRPF as Lead CI Force. The Kargil Review Committee had identified the CRPF as the lead force for Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorist Operations. Though excellent in theory, this apparently logical solution was somewhat hasty and ill considered. It did not take into account the readiness state of the CRPF to effect such a radical transformation in its role. The CRPF is a successor entity of the Crown Reserve Police Force of the British Colonial era that was designed as an add on Police Force to counter the non-violent agitation of Mahatma Gandhi. As such it has a largely police orientation and is not a genuine para military force that can conduct offensive Counter Terrorist Operations. A mere change of designation does not generate an across the board change of organizational culture, ethos, or manning, leadership and equipment profiles. The CRPF has been an excellent force for Law and Order duties, elections, communal riots and static guarding duties in CI/CT operation environments. It is however not structured presently for undertaking offensive CI/CT operations.

Chinese rhetoric on Arunachal Pradesh is on the rise. Internal Security is fast emerging as a third front with LWE and Jihadi terrorism emerging as significant threats. India therefore does not have the luxury of 8 to 10 years to resolve her Internal Security issues.

To expect it to perform this enlarged role without effecting the across the board transformation that it requires, is patently unfair to the force. The BSF was raised as a more para-militarized force and a number of Army officers who were initially seconded to this force did impart it a more para military orientation. Possibly one of the biggest errors in judgement in J&K was replacing the BSF in Srinagar with the CRPF. The CRPF constables retire at 58. The very age profile and 12 hour shift system of this force militates against the conduct of offensive CI/CT operations. This calls for an across the board transformation of its basic ethos, officering pattern and organizational culture. A ministerial fiat designating it as the country’s lead CI/CT Force , unfortunately does not make it into one. Such an across the board organizational transformation of the CRPF will take minimum one to two decades if not more. The brunt of this hasty policy reversal has been borne in Srinagar – which is the key centre of gravity in J&K. The recent Lalgarh episode was not classic CI operations. The Naxalites have rolled with the punch and melted into the jungles. These have only been high profile road clearance and Flag March operations so far. The number of armed Naxalites killed or captured has been virtually zero.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen GD Bakshi, (Retd)

is a war Veteran and Strategic Analyst.

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One thought on “Left Wing Extremism

  1. Calling them names won’t help, I guess. We cannot eeitrmxnate a group of people because they are violent. First off, we are not capable of doing that. Secondly, there are more sane solutions to every problem. What we’ve got to do in the long term is to understand the causes of the birth of a terrorist. And terrorist means everybody who terrorizes by mass destruction and violence.

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