Friday, June 11, 2010

Countering The Maoist Threat

by Arun Kumar Singh/ Asian Age

India is haemorrhaging badly and may soon be in a coma, given the recent spate of headlines about scams — 2G spectrum scam, the Indian Premier League scam, Madhu Koda — and terror. The June 7 verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy should reinforce the argument that Parliament urgently needs to pass a suitable liability bill to protect Indian interests. The tragedy of India is that common sense proposals are often overlooked due to ignorance, arrogance and zero accountability.

No great crystal ball gazing is required to predict that the next big threat to India will arise if Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence manages to “coordinate and manipulate” the activities of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Indian Maoists, and local insurgents of the Northeast, in the same manner as it is doing in Kashmir. Media reports already mention “links” between the Maoists, Northeast insurgents and the LeT.
After the two Maoist attacks near Dantewada on April 6 and May 17, 2010, followed by a series of incidents of blowing up rail tracks and derailing trains (including the horrendous May 28, 2010, twin train derailing incident), the time has finally come to use the military while allowing the paramilitary and police time to build up the required capability in terms of personnel, training and equipment.
On May 17, 2010, news channels broadcast an interview with a home ministry bureaucrat who made the following valid observations:
l There are 350,000 vacancies in the police force that need to be filled up.
l To have sufficient capability to enforce law and order in the country, about 800,000 additional police personnel would be necessary.
Given the importance of the police force to act as the last line of defence against Maoists and foreign terrorists, it is evident that the country will need another decade to recruit, train and equip a police force that is able to combat terror and the Maoists.
Some urgent interim measures have to be found to combat terror. The reluctance of the overstretched Army and Air Force to get involved is well known. However, the fact remains that the Indian Navy, despite being overstretched on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and exclusive economic zone patrols off Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, was additionally tasked with the duties of peacetime coastal security after 26/11. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. A few available interim options to combat Maoist terror are as follows:
l Use of “benign” air power: The Indian Air Force’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be used for surveillance; helicopters could be used for surveillance, casualty evacuation, ferrying supplies and quick movement of paramilitary forces to tactically advantageous positions, while bypassing the improvised explosive device threat on land.
l Permit selective use of armed helicopters against terrorists and Maoists, especially in open areas, where probability of collateral damage is low.
l Permitting seamless movement of security forces involved in hot pursuit across state boundaries.
l The Army could be given adequate land in the most Naxal-infested areas to set up training centres, cantonments etc. The Army’s presence would boost the confidence of the local people, paramilitary and police.
l All police and paramilitary officers should serve for one year with Army infantry units at the beginning of their careers. This will ensure higher standards of common training, leadership and synergy.
The financial implications of urgently raising, equipping and training an additional force of about one million for the police, paramilitary and intelligence would be high, especially given the fact that India expects to spend about $9 billion in the next three years on equipment for its existing police and paramilitary, and would also be buying weapons worth over $100 billion for its armed forces in the next decade. Nonetheless, additional money will need to be found quickly.
While ensuring that the writ of the state government prevails and the estimated 35,000-armed Maoists and their co-conspirators (the mining mafia) are neutralised, winning the “hearts and minds” of the totally neglected tribals is equally essential. Given the fact that the tribals have been exploited since 1947, special development programmes (which protect their land, mineral wealth and forests) must be implemented urgently. The right to food, potable water and employment is as important as the right to information and education. About 75 per cent of the subsidised food does not reach the poor, while 10 per cent of our total food production is lost due to poor storage. As per a TV channel, the present potable water shortage in India is about 400 million litres per day. The country is sitting on a ticking bomb that needs to be defused.
Aesop once said, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office”. The scams of independent India have seen the loot of about $1 trillion, which is what “Imperial Great Britain” is estimated to have siphoned off in 200 years of colonial rule (according to an article by Mohan Murti, former director, CII). Also about $1.4 trillion is reportedly stashed away in Swiss banks. If this combined $2.4 trillion loot is miraculously recovered then India’s present $1 trillion economy will triple overnight, and war against poverty-cum-domestic terror can be won. Not by additional money alone, but also by good administration and a speedy and fair judicial system.
Tackling corruption is critical to eliminating Maoist terror in the long-term. In the short term, the reluctant military will once again be needed to establish the rule of law, since all other state institutions have failed. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his work cutout as this crisis cannot be resolved by inaction or appeasement.

Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Assam Rifles tipped for Bengal rebel zone

Calcutta Telegraph

The Centre has decided to re-deploy the army-led Assam Rifles from border duties in the Northeast to Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh in a blueprint that is being drawn up for a renewed stage in the counter-Maoist offensive.

The re-deployment is contingent on three factors: the situation on the ground wherever the forces are currently deployed, the availability of civil police to replace the units that will be re-deployed and the weather (the onset of the monsoon could make a large-scale redeployment tardy).

A large-scale attack by the Maoists after a series of killings in the past two months could well mark the tipping-point that would convince the Centre that police action was less-than-sufficient and it would switch gears in the drive against the rebels.

The director-general of military operations (DGMO), Lt General Anand Mohan Verma, currently on a force-projection exercise if the army were to be deployed in Left Wing Extremism-affected areas, was in the eastern command headquarters in Fort William, Calcutta, on June 4 and subsequently on a tour of Manipur, where the blockade by NSCN(IM) is snowballing, and to army formations in the Northeast to assess the availability of manpower and resources for duties in the hinterland.

Sources in the defence and home ministries have confirmed to The Telegraph that a re-deployment of forces was on the agenda of the cabinetcommittee on security, scheduled for June 10.

A senior home ministry official said the ministry wanted to put the BSF in charge of the Indo-Myanmar border and re-deploy the Assam Rifles, headed by a major general, for “counter-insurgency”.

The Assam Rifles is deployed not along the border but 20km inside, leaving scope for infiltration. Moreover, with insurgency on the decline in the Northeast, the other duties obviously lie in east and central India.

On Friday, the DGMO was given a briefing by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), Eastern Command, Lt General Bikram Singh, on the situation in the Northeast and especially on the situation in Lalgarh and the Bengal-Jharkhand and Bengal-Orissa border zones.

The army’s central command monitors Maoist activity but the Bengal area falls under the eastern command. The DGMO was himself the general officer of the Bengal Area as a major general.

The re-deployment of the Assam Rifles, and also, possibly, battalions of the Rashtriya Rifles from Jammu and Kashmir, need the concurrence of both the defence and home ministries and the army. The Assam Rifles is officered by the army. The Rashtriya Rifles, also officered and mostly staffed by the army, was raised specifically for counter-insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and its mandate would have to be amended. It is likely that the RR’s U (Uniform) force could be pulled out of currently responsibilities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Assam Rifles has nearly 50,000 men in 46 battalions and the Rashtriya Rifles about 40,000 soldiers in five “forces” — Delta, Kilo, Romeo, Victor and Uniform. The Assam Rifles is raising an additional 20 battalions in this, its 150th year.

While the possible deployment of the Assam Rifles and the Rashtriya Rifles “in support of” the counter-Maoist offensives still means that the army’s role will be short of a full-scale commitment, the army, through the defence ministry, will seek legal provisions in support of its actions.

This essentially means it will insist on the extension of the Disturbed Areas Act and include the Armed Forces Special Power Act in specified zones in eight states where the army’s central command has assessed the Maoists are active.

Section 3 of the AFSPA allows the government to decide whether a state or areas within it are “in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil powers in necessary”. Though law-and-order is a subject in the state list under the Constitution, the power to declare an area “disturbed” also vests with the Centre.

A preliminary assessment projects the need for 10 battalions (each of between 900 and 1,100 troops) spread over three sector headquarters commanding troops in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and in the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa zone. This deployment will be in addition to the state and central forces already in operation.

In addition to the establishment of the sector headquarters — one in Chhattisgarh (Raipur) and another in Orissa (Koraput) are already being developed — the army has agreed to set up more schools for specialised training to state and central forces in jungle warfare.

Till now, the army has trained some 47,000 policemen.

While the army’s involvement in the counter-Maoist offensive could run just short of a full-deployment (unlike Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast), the Indian Air Force has issued strict directives to its crew in support of the counter-Naxalite offensive to keep their signatures low and stay out of the line of the fire as far as possible.

In the standard operating procedures that have been drawn up for the IAF in these areas, helicopters are flying with the IAF’s own armed Garud special forces soldiers while transporting the police or while evacuating casualties.

This has caused some consternation because the IAF’s insistence on foolproofing landing sides has often meant a delay in sorties. One officer pointed out, for example, that in the April 6 incident in Mukram, many of the CRPF troopers bled to death even as they were being flown to a hospital in Jagdalpur.

The IAF has insisted that the central and state police guarantee “perimeter security” around helipads, ensuring that they are out of the range of small arms fire. The Garud is tasked specifically with securing the IAF’s own assets.

Helicopter pilots have been asked to go only for “steep approaches” while landing and “steep take-offs” while taking flight. This means that they must fly as high as possible to keep out of firing range of insurgents.

The IAF currently has six helicopters doing duty in these areas and the BSF has two. The home ministry has asked for up to 35 additional helicopters from the army and the IAF. A proposal is afoot to lease more choppers from Pawanhans for logistics and evacuation.

The home ministry is yet to receive views from other ministries prior to the CCS on the proposal for deployment of army in Maoist-affected areas.


Maoists move to set up base in North East

R Dutta Choudhury/Assam Tribune
The security agencies have come across disturbing inputs of efforts by Maoist groups to make inroads in the North East and according to reports, the newly constituted Eastern Region Bureau of the rebels has been entrusted with the task of establishing foothold in the NorthEast.

Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that the Eastern Region Bureau of the Maoists was initially entrusted with the responsibility of launching operations in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and parts of Orissa. But recently, the Bureau has been given the additional responsibility ofthe North East region. The Bureau is headed by Prashanta Bose alias Kishan da, who is originally from West Bengal but now spends most of his time in Jharkhand. Interestingly, one person from Assam is also a member of the Bureau. Sources, however, refused to disclose his name and only said that he is from an area bordering West Bengal.

Sources said that the Maoists have recently adopted a resolution to support the “nationality struggles” all over the country including North East and Jammu and Kashmir and with a good number of militant outfits active in the North East, there is need for keeping a close watch on the situation. The Government of India is also keeping a close watch in North East to prevent the Maoists from making inroads as the situation in the region would deteriorate fast if the Maoists manage to establish strong links with the militant groups active in this part of the country, sources added.

Security sources said that there is enough evidence to prove the links of the Maoists with Manipur based outfit PLA and the NSCN (I-M) and there have been efforts by the Maoists to establish links with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Though there is strong apprehension that the Maoists are getting weapons from the rebel groups ofthe North East, the security agenciesstill do not have conclusive evidence of it. “The militant groups of North East have abundance of sophisticated weapons and the Maoists have started using such kinds of weapons in recent times. This raised doubts on whether the Maoists are getting weapons from the militants of NE,” sources pointed out.

Sources pointed out that the Maoists normally go step by step while making inroad in any part of the country. They first conduct surveys of the target groups of people among which they can establish bases and normally economicstruggle is the first step of movement. The economic struggle then evolves into “resistance struggle” and guerilla warfare is the final stage of their movement. In Assam, there are several groups of people whom can be targeted by the Maoists to establish their bases and the tea labourers can be the mostvulnerable. Moreover, the flood and erosion hit farmers can be lured by the Maoists as they established strong foothold in Northern Bihar by working among the flood hit people. According to information available with the security forces, the Maoists formed a lower Assam Zonal committee in the 1990s but the committee could not survive and the possibility of similar attempts in near future cannot be ruled out.

It may be mentioned here that ChiefMinister Tarun Gogoi recently commented that the Maoists were trying to establish bases in the state but they have not yet been able to make inroads because of strong vigil maintained by police and security forces.

Stop Maoist Naxalism

Central Chronicle

The heartless act of Maoists in India killing hundreds of innocent civilians and jawans are on the rise. The country has witnessed killing of 76 para-military personnel in Dantewada (Chattisgarh) in the recent past. Again on May 17, they have blown up a bus carrying civilians in the same district of Dantewada killing about 36 people including a dozen special police officers.
The reports indicate that since last five years Naxals killed an average 3 people in 2 days. Report further says that they have killed about 2670 people so far out of which 1680 are civilians and 990 jawans. About 1440 Naxalites have also reportedly lost their lives in encounters.
Even after both of these massacres the Government is still hesitating to take concrete steps to eradicate Naxalism from the soil of our country. Is it not the responsibility of an elected Govt to save the life of its people.
When the politicians are enjoying like anything the poor are spending sleepless nights even in their own houses fearing attack by Naxals.
The Maoist Naxals have again put the nation in tears by derailing the Gyaneshwari Express killing more than 170 innocent people and injuring about 200. Before the tears of Dantewada killing have been wiped out, the Naxals have succeeded in their attempt to spoil the nation once again. Will the Govt take any concrete steps to save the life of innocent people at least now.
Surprisingly, one of the leaders of Peoples Community Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) has expressed regret over the incident and said that it was not their intention to derail the passenger train to kill innocent civilians. According to him their target was a goods train only. Are they going to achieve anything out of sabotaging and making financial loss to the nation. No. Not at all. It is worthwhile to note that majority of the Naxal leaders and its sympathizers are highly educated from reputed universities/institutions of the country/abroad and hailing from well to do families. Their ideology is very strong and are determined to do what they think. The Naxals should understand that the path of violence is not the way to achieve their goal whatever it may be. They should come forward for a meaningful discussion/dialogue across the table with the Central Government in a cordial atmosphere to sort out the issues rather than adopting the way of violence.
India has a strong Army ready to face any eventuality. Time has come now to use it and show the strength of our Army to the Naxals. We should not forget that our enemies outside the country are also watching the action of our elected Government to eradicate Naxalism from her soil.
There was an official statement from the Defence Minister last week that using of Military force to contain the maoist attacks in the country cannot be ruled out. Let's hope the Government will soon take a bold decision to eradicate Maoist led naxalism to save innocent lives in the larger interest of the nation.
VB Rajagopal

Sunday, June 06, 2010



The current attrition rate in our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists favours the Maoists
. The State is on the defensive and is not making headway in its operations against them. This would be evident from the fact that more personnel of the security forces are being killed than Maoists, more weapons are being captured by the Maoists from the security forces than the other way round and except in Andhra Pradesh , in the other affected States the Government has not succeeded in re-asserting its control over areas which are claimed to have been "liberated" by the Maoists.

2. One hundred and seventy security forces personnel were killed as against 108 Maoists during the first five months of 2010. 312 security forces personnel were killed as against 294 Maoists during 2009.During 2008, 214 security forces personnel and an equal number of Maoists were killed.

3.During the first five months of 2010, six States have suffered fatalities in the security forces at the hands of Maoists----Chattisgarh (103 ), West Bengal (32), Orissa (17), Jharkand (10), Bihar (6), and Maharashtra (2). The same six States suffered fatalities in 2009 too----- Chattisgarh ( 121), Jharkand (67), Maharashtra ( 52), Orissa (32), Bihar (25 ), and West Bengal (15). While the ground situation has remained as serious in Chattisgarh as it was in 2009, it has deteriorated in West Bengal. There has been a downward trend in Jharkand, Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra. It is doubtful whether the downward trend in these States can be attributed to an improvement in the performance of the security forces. The security forces in Chattisgarh and West Bengal have been more proactive in countering the Maoists than in the past and the Maoists have stepped up their operations in these two States to discredit the security forces by beating back their stepped-up operations. Their successful operations against the security forces in Chattisgarh and West Bengal have brought them dramatic publicity dividends and succeeded in discrediting the efficacy of the counter-insurgency capability of the security forces.

4. Andhra Pradesh, once a hotbed of Maoist activity, has a unique record of no fatalities of security forces during 2010 and 2009 and only one in 2008. If Andhra Pradesh can prevail over the Maoists, there is no reason why others can’t. At the same time, one has to realize that the Government in Chattisgarh faces certain difficulties the like of which no other Maoist-affected State has faced. Of all the affected States, it has had the least economic development. Its road infrastructure is very poor. It has a large forest cover which favours the Maoists. Compared to the Andhra Pradesh Police, the police of Chattisgarh faces serious deficiencies in manpower and counter-insurgency capacity. It has to depend more on central police forces than its own force for the fight against the Maoists. In Andhra Pradesh, it is the local police which played the leadership role. In Chattisgarh, the leadership role is being played by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The role of the local police has been marginal. The responsibility for operational planning and other initiatives is largely in the hands of the CRPF, with the local police rarely consulted in the matter.

5. The ultimate outcome of our counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists will be decided in the Dantewada district Chattisgarh, which has become the Yenan of the Indian Maoists . After the failure of the Soviet model and the Long March to achieve the capture of political power in a predominantly rural country like China, Mao Zedong and his lieutenants embarked on the Yenan model, which ultimately led to success in 1949. Yenan is in the Shaanxi province. In his 1971 book titled “The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China”, Mark Selden describes the Yenan Way as the "discovery of concrete methods for linking popular participation in the guerrilla struggle with a wide ranging community attack on rural problems.” The Shaanxi province, one of the most drought and famine affected areas of China, provided to the Chinese Maoists an ideal base for testing their theory of exploiting mass rural discontent for creating an armed struggle against the urban areas.

6.If Yenan saw the beginning of the road of success of the Chinese Revolution, the Dantewada area of the state of Chattisgarh is looked upon by the India Maoists as an ideal base for exploiting tribal discontent to create a revolutionary fervour as a prelude to the capture of political power through an armed struggle waged from the impoverished rural areas. The focus of our counter-insurgency efforts has to be centred in the Dantewada area of Chattisgarh. The Maoists’ dream of capturing political power by exploiting rural/tribal discontent has to be countered through an innovative counter-insurgency programme to deprive the Maoist leadership of the support of the rural/ tribal masses. Strengthening the capability of the police to neutralize the Maoist leadership has to be combined with programmes to address simultaneously the grievances and problems of the masses in order to prevent the flow of volunteers to the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army of the Maoists.

6. Strengthening the capability of the police calls for measures to improve rural policing and rural intelligence collection, crash development of the road infrastructure and new training methods, which would encourage and enable the police to operate in autonomous squads instead of in top-heavy formations. Programmes to address the grievances and problems of the masses would call for energetic political initiatives to promote economic development and a feeling of social justice.
043 Second Plenary Session: Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor, India
7. The recent spectacular successes of the Maoists have attracted the attention of the international community. From the questions posed to Shri Shiv Shankar Menon, our National Security Adviser, at the Asian security conference currently being held in Singapore, it is evident that sections of the community of analysts in other countries have started posing questions regarding the security of India’s nuclear arsenal should India be unable to reverse the successes of the Maoists.

Shivshankar Menon's Address
Read the prepared version of Shivshankar Menon's Address as PDF.

The NSA has explained why the Maoists do not pose a threat to our nuclear arsenal.
  • It is a purely rural-based insurgency with very little support in the urban areas.
  • It is purely an Indian movement with an Indian agenda and not a global movement with a global agenda.
  • Its targets till now have been its perceived class enemies, the security forces and alleged collaborators of the security forces. Barring its attacks on the railway network in different areas, it has not so far attacked strategic targets like critical infrastructure.
  • Its capability for urban-centric operations is very limited.
  • Its tribal recruits from the rural and forest areas will stick out like a sore-thumb in urban areas.
  • It has not so far showed much interest in the exploitation of the Internet for its operations like the jihadi terrorists.
  • Since it recruits mainly from the semi-literate or illiterate tribal communities, Internet has no attraction for them.
  • It has not shown much interest in typical terrorist operations such as aviation or maritime terrorism. It is old insurgency still inspired and influenced by Mao’s Yenan model and not new insurgency.

8. Despite this, our intelligence and security agencies should closely monitor its evolution in order to look for evidence of its planning to adopt a mix of rural insurgency and urban terrorism. ( 6-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )