Handle the toughest areas first – that is the message sent to the Election Commission of India (ECI) in a security blueprint prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and submitted last month. This strategy, a copy of which is available with this newspaper, spans across nine states, 79 districts and flags 33 among them as the most sensitive ones. Not just that, a troop surge to the extent of over 2 lakh paramilitary personnel is also under proposed to be kept ready for the upcoming general elections, it was learnt.
These nine states are all, to varying degrees, affected by the Maoist menace leaving the traditional, insurgency-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern (NE) states behind.
“Yes, the EC has been advised that based on past experience and ground conditions, the right way to tackle this menace is to hold the first phase in these areas when the forces are fresh,” said a top official privy to this communication. The EC is yet to take a call on it. “Consultations are still going on,” said the official.
The forces are believed to have pointed to the difficulties faced during induction and de-induction of troops. Issues pertaining to availability of trains for force movement, moon calendar, transfer and postings were raised in front of the EC authorities. “It was pointed out that the early part of April or May is the most suitable from these angles. Of the two, it was told to them that April was the most preferred month,” said another official.
Collating data from the year gone by as well as based on the feedback by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), especially with regards to the recently-concluded assembly elections in the affected Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, the MHA has divided the affected states and their districts into three separate categories, A – indicating the most affected to C – indicating least affected of the lot.
In terms of boots on the ground, based on feedback from all the paramilitary organisations, a total of over 2 lakh troops will be deployed from the CRPF, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). The CRPF, as such the lead internal security provider in the country, will be contributing the most number of troops. Director General of the CRPF, Dilip Trivedi, when asked, “This will help us. Forces are fresh and it will be to our advantage if we have them in these difficult situations facing the Maoists first rather than have a tired force which has conducted multiple elections and is then posted there to face these insurgents.”
Dr Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute of Conflict Management (ICM) too welcomed this piece of advice. “Elections see the greatest operational penetration by the security forces since election officers need to be taken to the remote most corners. Thus that presence will have a detrimental impact on the Maoist presence there,” he said. He added, “This will be a very successful move. We saw that when we did the same in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, the polling percentages were above 70 percent in some areas, way beyond many peaceful areas.”