Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hazaribagh hub for Cobras

NISHIT DHOLABHAI

Police patrol NH-33 on the eve of Wednesday’s bandh. Picture by Bhola Prasad
New Delhi, July 21: Next time Maoists try to sneak from one state to another, they could find their way crawling with Cobras.

The Centre has decided to deploy one battalion each of the Cobra force in four Naxalite-affected regions in a strategic move sources said was aimed at cutting off passageways the rebels use to move across state boundaries.

The headquarters of these battalions will be Bhandara (Maharashtra), Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh), Hazaribagh (Jharkhand) and Gaya (Bihar). All four offer access to Maoist passageways.

Once deployed, the four battalions (about 1,200 personnel each) will add to the two already stationed in Koraput, Orissa, and Jagdalpur, taking the total number of Cobra battalions to six, the original plan for the year 2009-10.

Four more, it is learnt, will be raised during the next financial year in Uttar Pradesh, where Sonebhadra is Maoist-affected; Orissa, one more in Hazaribagh and one in Bihar.

Sources said the plan to deploy Cobra battalions - part of the structure of the paramilitary CRPF - were announced on July 14 through a home ministry order.

Although the CRPF has deployed 36 of its 200 battalions in Naxalite-affected states, the need for a specialised force led to the forming of the Cobra unit, which proved effective in Bengal’s Lalgarh recently.

Cobra commandos are expected to lend tactical advantage to the paramilitary forces. When army units also come up, the government hopes to hold areas and carry out development activity where Maoists hold sway.

From civil aviation minister Praful Patel's constituency, Bhandara in Maharashtra, the commando units can be summoned into Maoist-infested Gadchiroli but can also cover parts of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

From Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, parts of Orissa can be covered, while the Gaya battalion can cover both Jharkhand and Bihar.

Closer observation has revealed that the Maoists have made areas like Bijapur, Koraput, Gadchiroli and Palamau or Chatra their fortresses. All these areas provide passage from one state to another.

A conventional police battalion can cover up to 300 sqkm.

“In that case, see how many battalions of police would the 20,000 sq km area of Abujhmarh require?” said home secretary G.K.Pillai, justifying the creation of the Cobras.

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