Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maoist top guns on security forces’ hit list

Navin Upadhyay New Delhi

Top Maoist leaders, including Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, figure on the list of Naxals who would be selectively targeted by the forces during the course of the proposed offensive against the Naxals. There is a thinking within the Government that if the top Maoists could be eliminated in the first phase of the operation, the ‘demoralised’ cadre would disintegrate and the anti-Maoist operation would achieve its objective without much bloodbath and collateral damage.

Talking to The Pioneer, national coordinator of the anti-Naxal operation Vijay Raman said an intelligence-based hunt will be unleashed against the Maoist leadership and the forces will go all-out to eliminate the key Naxal commanders.

When asked if Kishenji was on the hit list, Raman said, “Why not? If he is their leader, he will surely be a target.”

As the head of the Maoist central military commission, Kishenji is known as Baswaraj, which is one of the many aliases he uses to confuse the police and intelligence agencies. Since Kishenji is the most visible face of the Maoists, his killing could be a body blow to the movement. Ganpathy, the elusive head of the Maoists, is rarely spotted.
Raman, who is Additional Director-General of the CRPF, said the forces would not waste their bullets on the Maoists foot soldiers but go for the ‘head’. “If the head is hit, the body will collapse. Our operation will be precise, intelligence-based and we will go for the top guns,” he said.

The top cop — who has the onerous task of coordinating between the State Director General of Police and the paramilitary forces — is conscious of the fact that Maoists have great propaganda machinery and they will try to highlight each of their ‘casualties’ as a case of killing of ‘innocents’.

To that end, he is approaching the whole anti-Maoist operation with great caution by laying emphasis on intelligence gathering. “We don’t subscribe to violence. Each death affects at least 40 persons, including family members and others. Bullets will be used only when there is no way out,” he said.

Sources in the Home Ministry said the three districts — Kanker and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra — have been identified to start the operation in the first phase. In these districts, the Maoists inflicted major casualty on the forces in the recent past, and the jawans are seething for revenge.

Source said there will be no formal announcement of the launch of the operation and claimed that work on the ground has already begun. Scores of battalions of paramilitary forces have already landed in these three districts and they are being familiarised about topography and Maoist tactics. Sources said the Maharashtra Government has before the launch of the operation since the extremists have major presence in the region.urged the Home Ministry to send two additional battalions of paramilitary forces

Officials in the know of the anti-Maoist strategy told The Pioneer that the Government was getting ready to wage a psychological warfare against the Naxals to bring them across the negotiation table. “It is going to be a carrot-and-stick approach. Our experiences in Jammu & Kashmir and North-East have shown that without major crackdown no militant outfits is ready to talk,” he said.

“It is as much a psychological war as physical offensive. If the Maoist leadership gets convinced that come what may, we will not relent, they will succumb and their cadre will start disintegrating,” an official said.

With six States and more dozens of districts in serious grip of the Maoist menace, the Centre would desperately hope that their strategy bring desired results. As things stand, the preparatory exercise to unleash the war in three districts alone has taken months, and if other districts have to be covered, it could be a long haul, source said.

Also, States like Odisha are not prepared to take part in the offensive because their policemen are not trained, and Jharkhand is headed for Assembly election. “Both Jharkhand and Odisha are critical States and we are hoping the party which comes to power in Jharkhand will cooperate fully in the anti-Naxal operation,” said an official, confirming that Odisha was reluctant, as of now, and has demanded major deployment of additional paramilitary forces.

Sources said the Government is also looking at the proposed offensive in Kanker, Rajnandgaon and Gidchiorili as an experiment of sorts because it involved joint operation between the paramilitary forces and local police. The forces will work under direct control of respective DGPs and Raman’s task will be limited to coordination of the operation between different States.

“Depending on the success of the operation in the three districts, we will proceed further,” said an official, adding, “Those expecting bloodbath and large-scale killing by the forces will be disappointed. We fully understand the delicate nature of the problem and the use of force will be minimum. Area domination will be primary task of the forces in these three districts where they will destroy hideouts and arm-manufacturing units and prepare the ground of ushering in development.”

Meanwhile, top Maoist leader Kishenji said on Tuesday they were ready for a ceasefire with the Government, but they will not accept Centre's demand to abjure violence.

Reacting to Home Secretary GK Pillai's statement that there was a possibility of a dialogue with Maoists if they abjured violence, Kishenji told PTI over phone, "Abjuring violence is not on our agenda. We believe in armed struggle."

Top-down strategy

* Top Maoist leaders, including Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, are prime targets of security forces

* Govt hopes if senior leaders are eliminated first, the demoralised cadre would disintegrate

* The Maoists have great propaganda machinery and they will try to highlight each of their casualties as a case of killing of ‘innocents’

* Forces to lay more emphasis on intelligence gathering

* Three districts - Kanker and Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh, and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra -- have been identified to start the operation

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