Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brigadier advises ‘creeping’ recapture

SUJAN DUTTA


New Delhi, June 17: Bengal can adopt tactics for a “creeping re-occupation of territory” in Lalgarh despite its administration’s late response and its police’s poor training, says the army’s counter-Naxalite expert who trains security forces from states where Left-wing militancy is intense.

“Sending the CRPF into places like Lalgarh will be of no consequence unless you have trained troops,” Brigadier Basant Kumar Ponwar told The Telegraph. The specialised Cobra force is also being sent to Bengal but the units are still under training.

He said Bengal would have to evolve unconventional policing tactics in Lalgarh to take on the Maoists.

Ponwar said “grid deployment” and “constant dynamic deployment” by security forces in and around Lalgarh after they have built up an asymmetry — sufficient strength — should drive the operations in West Midnapore.

“These are things that the army can do but that is a different issue,” he said, meaning that there is no call from the government to deploy the army in counter-Naxalite operations. The army monitors and studies the Maoist movement and even gives advice — to which the brigadier contributes in a big way. But the defence establishment has not yet viewed the Maoist insurgency as a big enough threat to deploy the army in the interiors in addition to the border regions in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast.

Ponwar is the director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, the only institution that runs courses on counter-Naxalite operations for police forces. The college is supported by the army that has deputed instructors to it.

Ponwar set up the college after retiring as the commandant of the army’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Vairangte, Mizoram.

Three teams from Bengal police were to have been sent to the college last year, Brigadier Ponwar said. But they were not. There is no team from Bengal even for the six-week course that begins on June 22.

“They (the Maoists) have beaten us to the draw and now we are faced with such a situation. So we will have to do what we can to retrieve it with capable leadership,” said Ponwar as he spelt out tactics of “constant dynamic deployment”.

The retired brigadier said the withdrawal of the Bengal police from their positions around Lalgarh “indicated that the Maoists are trying to convert their territory into a liberated zone though they are not there yet”. He said the Maoists have been successful in creating a “liberated zone” in Abujmarh in Chhattisgarh spread over about 10,000sqkm. The security forces should operate in a way to prevent the Maoists from creating more “liberated zones”.

To contain the Maoists, the administration in Bengal and the security forces should make an effort to have five companies (of 100 to 120 troops each) for every 400sqkm “in highly-intense Naxalite areas”.

The troops should be instructed to set up “counter-Naxalite bases” in dominating heights. Each company should be assigned to a base with an area of responsibility of about 15km around it. The bases should be between 10 and 15km apart, said Ponwar.

He called this “grid deployment”. The security forces should be tasked with multi-directional patrolling. The counter-Naxalite bases should be the launching pads for small targeted operations against the Maoists, he added.

The logistical back-up for the forces should be ensured by the administration. Small teams from the bases should be able to operate independently for three or four days.

Ponwar’s college teaches police forces “to fight the guerrilla like a guerrilla”. What he is prescribing is a combination of conventional and unconventional tactics. A ring of security forces — state police and the CRPF — around and, wherever possible, inside Lalgarh, and bases from which small outfits such as the Cobra force will launch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What the administration needs to do is to read accounts of the French and American experience in Vietnam and NOT make those mistakes! This grid, counter-strategies all sound good on paper, but if you read the lines attributed to the Brigadier, you will see a reference to 'logistics' which, he suggests needs to be maintained and sustained by the Adminstration. And that is precisely where the weakness of this Brigadier's suggestions lie. Again, for god's sake, read the French experience (in Vietnam and Algeria) and the US experience in Vietnam!