Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The killing lack of intelligence in Dantewada

The April 6, 2010 attack on the 62nd battalion of our force in Chintalnar, Tadmetla area of Chhattisgarh, shook the entire nation. Different people had different takes on why the soldiers were killed. Some blamed it on the weaknesses of the soldiers themselves, others found fault with the intelligence system. Still others saw the incident as a result of lack of coordination between the central forces and the state police. But no one paid attention to the actual situation.

The whole country was in grief when we lost 76 of our colleagues. People burnt effigies of Naxalites at many places. Some people also organised memorial services and lit candles. We felt that we are not fighting alone in these jungles, that the entire country is behind us. This has raised the morale of the forces.

A small district of Bastar region, Dantewada is extremely sensitive. The Naxalites’ influence is supreme from the hills of Malkangiri, Orissa, in the east to Gadhchiroli in Maharashtra in the west. The terrain — dense forests, narrow, winding, unpaved roads, hills, the Indravati and its tributaries — has played a very vital role in the war being fought for the last few decades. These natural resources are the sole property the tribals have. The ‘people’s government’ (in Naxalite lingo) is their democracy. Even the local police concede they have control only over one third of the area. Another one-third is under the control of the Naxalites, and the rest is what both sides are fighting over.The most important reason for the failure of the police and security forces in their operations against the Naxalites is the lack of authentic information and intelligence. It is not easy to gather information about the Naxalites in these areas. The Naxals have a terrorising influence over the locals. They themselves communicate in the local Gondi language and use traditional methods of communication which the security forces find difficult to decipher. Locals living in the interior areas would not dare to provide any information to the police because the only punishment, if caught, is death.

Intelligence normally is based on four things — money, ideology, conscience or enmity (MICE). A person becomes a police informer because of any

of these four reasons. In Bastar, however, people lead an extremely ordinary life. They neither have unlimited needs nor are very greedy. Ideologically, they are influenced by the Naxalites who have been present in these areas for the last 20 years and have their own people in every village. In such a situation, gathering intelligence becomes a very difficult task, and without proper intelligence, no operation can be successful.

The use of modern equipment for intelligence-gathering cannot be utilised in these forests because of the lack of communication facilities. There are no telephones, and in many areas mobile phones don’t work. The sparsely populated villages have no access to water, electricity or roads. The tribals living in these villages are so terrorised by the Naxalites that they avoid the police at all costs, leave alone helping them.

Since most of the Naxalites are locals, they know the terrain well. They know where to plan an ambush, and which way to get out. They attract the security forces by firing at them and then take a different way to surround the forces from a different direction, causing heavy casualties.

The Naxalites are experts in handling both modern weapons like AK-47s, INSAS, rocket launchers and IEDs, and more traditional guns like .303s. When the situation demands, they are very adept at fighting with bows and arrows, axes or other sharp weapons. They do not undergo any formal training but learn on the job.

The lesson from the Dantewada attack is that we are now facing a new enemy which we need to tackle with a lot of patience, skill and courage. As their tactics and methods start becoming known, we will have to change our operations accordingly. At the same time, we will also have to pay attention to the following:

NUMBERS AND COORDINATION

Considering that the area under Naxal control is very large, the current strength of central forces deployed in Chhattisgarh is inadequate. The way Naxalites gather in hundreds to carry out an attack, one or two companies of security forces don’t mean much. More deployment of central forces and better coordination with local police is a must for a successful operation.

DEPLOYMENT

There should be a rethink on the deployment, and it should be carried out in phases. At present, the deployment is very disorderly. The forces are deployed deep inside the forests, at great distances from the district headquarters, where it is difficult to carry out even the daily routine and administrative work. Due to the fear of the Naxalites, local traders do not provide supplies to the security forces. The companies have to make their own arrangements. In addition, manpower is often diverted for other works like escorting colleagues going on leave or for treatment, and that hampers operational efficiency. Therefore, the forces need to be deployed at regular distances from the district headquarters. It will not just ensure a check on the Naxals’ movement, but also help in rushing reinforcements in times of need.

INFORMATION

It is often seen that a battalion or a few companies carry out operations in their respective areas on a small scale while the Naxalites generally attack in very large numbers. Therefore, prior to an operation, there should be proper flow of information to everyone deployed in neighbouring areas so that everyone is alert and can contribute to the operation if the need arises.

TRAINING

Before being deployed in Naxal areas, soldiers must be given training in jungle warfare. Normally, soldiers doing law and order duty or election duty are all of sudden sent to fight armed Naxalites in jungles. How can they be expected to succeed? For success, it is essential that the Special Action Force, whch is specially trained in guerrilla and jungle warfare, is expanded and the CRPF soldiers are given proper training before being deployed in the Naxal areas.

INTELLIGENCE

The forces will have to rely only on intelligence-based operations. Humint, or human intelligence, needs to be strengthened considerably though it is correct that it will take years to do so. In the meantime, techint (technical intelligence) will have to be developed, which includes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and airships. The intelligence network of both the central and state governments need to be improved and the services of drones and helicopters can be availed for keeping better vigil.

EQUIPMENT

Since transportation is a major problem in the jungles and the entire area is infested with landmines, the use of helicopters becomes all the more crucial in transporting forces to the right place in less time, or even carry supplies of ammunition and other things. Apart from modern weapons, the forces need to be given additional special equipment like explosive detection devices, night devices, drones etc. Communication facilities need to be improved, taking the help of satellites.

Over the years, the Maoists have changed their strategy, and are now trying to prepare the ground for their entry into politics. Their aim is to establish an autonomous region in Dandkaranya. To counter their influence among the locals, the government needs to provide active encouragement to the villagers and make serious efforts at development and welfare of the people. A non-political three-pronged strategy, disarm-develop-dialogue, needs to be adopted so that common people’s faith is restored and they are freed from Naxal influence.

In the last six decades, we have faced rebellious movements in the north-east, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and have earned valuable experience and skills in tackling these. The problem of Naxalism seems to be following the trajectory of tribal rebellion in the north-east. The irony is that at the start almost every movement in this country is very violent and by the time the elements in the movement realize that they can never defeat the government, many valuable lives are lost.

Here, we want to make two things very clear. The Naxalites will surrender their arms only when they are convinced of the futility of an armed battle with the government. And the second, that a peace agreement should be arrived at only when we are in a stronger position. We have to fight a long battle with minimum force. What should be the quantum of this minimum force, the government has to decide. We have to keep our morale high and be ready for a long battle.

(This is a translated and edited version of an article that appeared in the CRPF’s in-house magazine, CRPF Samachar.)

Intel Agencies Warn Of Dantewada Redo

Pramod Kumar / Asian Age


Latest inputs with the Central intelligence agencies reveal that Naxals may repeat attacks like the ones in Dantewada and Narayanpur in blocks like Ghorgeda, Baghicha, Maudih and Tomia near Jashpur district in Chhattisgarh between July 13 and 15.

Inputs confirm that left wing ultras are planning to target security forces deployed in these areas located along the National Highway-78 in Chhattisgarh. State government has been alerted about the possible attacks of Naxals in these areas.
Sources in the central agencies said, “Some of the blocks where Maoists are planning to target security forces during July 13 and 15 are close to Narayanpur district, where 26 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed in a Naxal ambush on June 29”.
Intelligence agencies intercepted telephonic conversations between top Naxal leaders on July 4 in which they were reportedly discussing about possible attacks on security forces in July either on July 13, 14 or 15.

Army units to be deployed in Chhattisgarh: Antony

Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Indicating increasing involvement of the Army in the drive against Naxalite guerrillas, Defence Minister AK Antony today said Army units would be deployed in Chhattishgarh — one of the states severely affected by the Naxalite strikes — to help the police and paramilitary personnel in their fight against the Maoists.

Addressing a press conference here today, he said short of directly participating in the operations against the Naxalites, the Army would do everything possible to help the state police and the central paramilitary forces to tackle guerrillas effectively.

“We shall give the police and paramilitary forces full logistic support. We shall give them more training. We shall give them aircraft,” Antony said. The Defence Minister said he was aware that the Naxalites posed a “serious threat”, and added the government had adopted a two-pronged approach to face the challenge. The government had initiated steps for massive development of Naxal-hit areas, while simultaneously the police and paramilitary action against armed guerrillas was being given full support, he said.

He said calling the Army for internal law and order problem should be the “last resort”, and added he was confident that the state police and paramilitary forces would be able to put an end to the Naxalite challenge.

Security forces deployed in Bihar naxal hit areas

In Bihar additional security forces have been deployed in Naxal-hit areas to ensure safety and security to the life and property of the people during bandh. Director General of Police Neelmani told that all police stations in the Naxal -infested districts of the State have been put on maximum alert.

Instructions have also been issued to carry out raids on hideouts of the ultras. AIR Patna Correspondent reports that patrolling on the railway tracks has been intensified and track men have been asked to remain vigilant.

The railway authorities have decided that pilot engines would escort the trains during the day time in the Naxal-affected areas.It has also been decided to run trains in bunches to thwart attempts of the Maoists to create disturbances during the bandh.

The East – Central Railway has cancelled four pair of trains till tomorrow in view of bandh. The trains which have been cancelled include Patna – Singrauli Express, Gomo- Barkakana passenger and Barawadih – Dehri-on -Sone passengers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Experts warn of revenge by Maoists

New Delhi, July 5: The killing of Maoist spokesperson Cherukuri Rajkumar aka Azad could provoke a “spectacularly violent reaction” from the rebels, analysts in the security establishment are warning.

The response of the Maoists so far has been to doubt the circumstances in which Azad and party activist Hemachanrda Pandey was killed.

In a statement the CPI(Maoist) has alleged that he was picked up by the Andhra Pradesh Special Intelligence Branch in Nagpur, taken across the state border to Adilabad and shot in cold blood.

Rebel sympathiser and poet Vara Vara Rao has appealed to court to carry out a second post-mortem on the bodies and has sought action against the Andhra Special Intelligence Branch that the rebels have described in their statement as “the Indian Mossad”, their take on the Israeli intelligence outfit that neutralises Palestinian activists.

The rebels’ response to Azad’s killing is almost a repeat of the events surrounding the killing of Patel Sudhakar Reddy (also known as “Comrade Vikas”), a central committee member, in May 2009.

In that case too, the Andhra police claimed that the senior Maoist was killed in an encounter in the jungles of Warangal district. The Maoists alleged their leader was picked when he had gone to meet a contact in Nashik, also in Maharashtra, tortured and killed in the Warangal jungles after being flown there by helicopter.

With the elimination of Azad, the number of Maoist politburo and central committee members either in jail or killed has risen to 16 since 2006.

In an interview to Open magazine in October 2009, Maoist general secretary Mupalla Laxman Rao (Ganapathy) admitted this was causing them concern.

“Well, it is a fact that we lost some senior leaders at the state and central level in the past four or five years. Some leaders were secretly arrested and murdered in the most cowardly manner. Many other leaders were arrested and placed behind bars in the recent past in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Haryana and other states. The loss of leadership will have a grave impact on the party and Indian revolution as a whole,” Ganapathy said.

But this loss of leaders is taking place simultaneously with the rise in violent reprisals — mostly of security personnel or citizens suspected by them to be “informers” — by the Maoists.

“This (Azad’s killing) is a very, very big loss for them,” says P.V. Ramana, research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, who tracks the Maoist insurgency. “From what I understand about how they function, there is bound to be a spectacular attack by them,” he says.

In describing the Andhra Pradesh Special Intelligence Branch as the “Indian Mossad”, the Maoists have put the police establishment in their cross-hairs. The Special Intelligence Branch and the police have had a hand in almost all big catches and/or killings of Maoist leaders.

They tipped off the Delhi police on the whereabouts of Khobad Ghandy, politburo member, now in Tihar jail, last year. In 2008, they engineered the surrender of central committee member Lanka Venkata Papi Reddy, who had fallen from grace in the party, but was a prize catch for the state government that gave the Maoist leader the reward of Rs 12 lakh that was put on his head. The rebels will be wondering if Papi Reddy is singing.

Earlier this year, the Andhra Greyhounds interrogated Maoist leader and accomplice of Kishan identified as Telugu Deepak, who was arrested in Calcutta last year and is now in jail. A Greyhounds officer also visited the Bengal police headquarters and exchanged notes and video images to advise them on dealing with the Maoists in Lalgarh.

It is within this context that the Maoist threat to avenge Azad’s death is being seen. The immediate response of the Maoists on the ground has been to call a two-day bandh (a similar call was issued after Patel Sudhakar Reddy’s killing).

By describing Azad as “mind and soul of Indian revolution through his consistent and efficient work”, it is evident that the CPI(Maoist) has put revenge high on its agenda. The nature of a Maoist attack this time could well be different from the violent actions in which about 200 security personnel have been killed in separate attacks in the last three months.

“We just have to be on our toes but there is only so much that we can do,” a senior security official says. The accent is on protecting “high value targets” (senior police officers and politicians). When, where and how the Maoists will strike is what is keeping the security agencies guessing.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Nabbed Maoists eyed Sunderbans base

KOLKATA: Nandigram Maoist unit chief Madhusudan Mondal alias Narayan alias Selim and his henchmen Siddhartha Mondal and Rajesh Mondal, who were arrested in the city on Tuesday, were setting up the Maoist network in coastal South 24-Parganas, including the Sunderbans. Three cellphones, a letter and some documents were recovered from them.

Narayan, who hails from Durgachak area of Haldia, has been involved with ultra-Left politics for two decades. He joined Sangrami Sramik Mancha as a youngster, and switched to the Naxalite organization Party Unit (PU) — the same outfit from where former Maoist state secretary Himadri Sen Roy alias Somen started his political career, say sources.

Following the unification of PU and People's War — Narayan shifted to the merged outfit People's War Group and later to CPI(Maoist). Working under the alias of Selim, he played a key role in spreading the rebel organization in Nandigram and Khejuri during the land acquisition rebellion, say police. He recruited hundreds of youths and sent some of them to Jharkhand and Jangalmahal for advanced training.

After Nandigram, his zonal committee was assigned to expand the organization in coastal South 24-Parganas adjacent to Nandigram. This is crucial to the Maoists, who are trying to build a safe corridor from coastal West Bengal to Chhattisgarh through Gopiballavpur and Nayagram in West Midnapore, bordering East Midnapore and Orissa.

Police reports suggest that Narayan had succeeded in setting up strong bases in Diamond Harbour, Kakdwip and parts of Sunderbans which are still remote and isolated.

Narayan is a significant catch because it will hit the red brigade's efforts to build a safe corridor, say police.

Sources said that a section of political activists from both the Trinamool Congress and CPM helped cops track Narayan since his men emerged as a major threat to the Trinamool leadership in East Midnapore in the post-Nandigram period. Police suspect Narayan was the key man behind Trinamool panchayat pradhan Nishikanta Mondal's murder in Nandigram.

While Narayan was one of the architects of Maoist expansion in the state, Sachin Ghoshal, 44, who hails from Bagnan in Howrah, was no less important in the Maoist network. He used to monitor the supply lines, apart from overseeing the party's intelligence wing.

Siddhartha Mondal, a native of Khejuri and once a close aide of Narayan, disguised himself as Sankar when he worked in a small factory at Garia. Rajesh is a fresh recruit and was nabbed on his way to deliver a letter to Narayan. "The letter was sent by another Maoist leader, Debu," said P Nirajnayan, IG-I CID. Rajesh's father Sanjay has been booked for harbouring the Maoist leaders. He is from Noorpur in South 24-Paragans.

All five have been booked under UAPA and will be produced in court on Wednesday. (ToI)

Avoid debate, focus on strategy

Deccan Chronicle

It is time to go about shaping and refining the anti-Naxalite strategy without breast-beating or fanfare. And certainly we can do without the loud, controversial and unproductive debate on the deployment of the Army and the Air Force which has been made edgy on account of political one-upmanship engaged in by those who place a premium on flag-waving and call themselves “strong”. Last Tuesday’s attack by the Naxalites on a CRPF party in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh, which killed 27 jawans, was tragedy piled upon tragedy. In early April, 76 CRPF men had been ambushed and slain by Maoists in Dantewada district in the same state. In the intervening period, a group of eight of the same Central police force were blown up in their jeep, also in Narayanpur. The sequence of events suggests that procedures followed by the security forces may suffer from weaknesses. Alternatively, the procedures are not being implemented according to the rules of jungle warfare. It is for professionals to do a meaningful critique of the conduct of the CRPF combat units in hostile terrain where the road network is pitiful, communications difficult, and the area bigger than a couple of European countries taken together. Instead, the bogey of lack of coordination between the state police and the CRPF is being raised. This is a pity. The irresponsible innuendo can only do disservice to the leaderships of both forces, and demoralise the men under their command. Instead of looking at such specifics, which might have a bearing on the efficiency of the security forces in the future, we seem to have developed the special faculty of converting every operational setback into a political discussion. Such an approach can only comfort the elements the dedicated jawans are fighting in difficult circumstances.
There appears to be some thinking in the government that the deployment of CRPF units needs to change as it is based on threat assessments for different locations made five or six years ago. This is understandable. Men should be sent where they are most needed. However, this matter does not appear to be connected with the issue of high-profile Maoist attacks on our forces when they are engaged in routine operations such as road-widening or area domination to keep the insurgents at bay. It is important that we ask the right questions and not be diverted by esoteric discussions, such as the one concerning sending of the Army at least in non-combat roles. It also appears to be the case that the changing nature of Maoist tactics over the years, and the greater sophistication of the military equipment they have managed to procure through clandestine channels, need to be factored in as a part of the training and drill the counter-insurgency units are put through. It is better training, innovations in methods to counter the insurgents, better equipment, more advanced terrain-related tactics, and an upgrade of the intelligence apparatus which are needed to deal with the Naxalites. Let’s focus on these with due diligence and not be carried away by arcane meanderings.

2nd Maoist killed in AP was a journo

Hyderabad, July 3: The other person who was killed along with the CPI Maoist top gun, Azad alias Cherukuri Raj Kumar, has been identified as Hemachandra Pandey alias Jitendar from Uttarakhand.

Family members claimed that Hemachandra Pandey was a freelance journalist but police alleged that he was an active Naxal.

Police say that 30-year-old Pandey was a zonal committee level Maoist and hailed from Devalthal village near Pithoragarh town of Uttarakhand. Hemachandra did his MA history in Nainital University and got registered for PhD programme. He was also an active member of student associations and moved into radical groups, police said.