Ever since the massacre of 76 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on April 06, 2010 in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, one has witnessed a lot of talk about how the force is incompetent when it comes to fighting a war against the Naxalites. Simultaneously, calls for involving the army and air force too have become stronger.
Before the debate moves further, a few pointers which need to be understood:
- This war won’t be won by fighting from bullet proof (BP)/armoured vehicles
- This war won’t be won using gunships letting lose their reign of bullets
- This war will be won by the foot soldier, whichever force he may belong to, by walking and dominating the jungle – a jungle where not even a survey has till date been done
- This is a war where local language, local customs have to be given prominence for WHAM (Winning Hearts And Minds) policy to succeed
- This is a war where knowing the terrain can make the difference between winning and losing; life and death
- This is a war where, even after it has been won, a policeman will have to stand guard lest the rebels return riding on discontent
After going through these pointers, I am unsure if the army and air force really fit in. That they don’t want to is a matter already highlighted by the serving service chiefs themselves.
That brings us to the question: Which is the force best suited to fight the rebels inside their den, the jungle? A force which is from those jungles – a distinction neither the CRPF, nor Border Security Force (BSF) or even the Army has.
The only one who does is the local police.
It is, however, a wrong inference that services of the central paramilitary forces are not required. They certainly are. Not only do they shore up the surge but also bring in superior men and weapon systems, vast experience of countering insurgency and a great back up support to beleaguered police forces of all states.
So, with the state police in lead followed by paramilitary does seem to be the best bet. But this, like so many other ideal and obvious things in life, will be easier said than done.
The state of the police is nothing better than a doctor who initially failed to examine his patient and is now supposed to guide an entire group of medicos unaware of the precise nature of malaise. Apart from the clichéd challenges of modernisation, better communication and armed support and similar facilities, the police force will need humongous amount of training to compete, and successfully at that, on a turf it was never meant to be on. Some efforts are being made with jungle warfare training being institutionalised in some parts.
Coming to central paramilitary forces, there is no doubt they will have to firstly shed their old baggage. Any notion that having fielded the enemy’s bullets in J&K or in the North East or on any of the borders of our nation, the reds will easily be managed will be grossly incorrect. In the last couple of years, 1/6th of the sacrifices made by CRPF men across the country are from the ‘disturbed areas’ like J&K and NE. The remaining, 5/6th is all from the Naxal-infested regions. The present tragedy has only compounded the argument that without adequate training, be it CRPF or BSF or any other force, they will remain sitting ducks for the Maoists.
More than any other force, it is the CRPF which has to realise this and make amends. For a force which has a chequered past as the CRP does, losing is simply not an option.