Tag Archives: Conflict

Born inside the Union Home Ministry, I am SOP and here’s my story…

My name is Standard Operating Procedure. You can call me SOP.

You will hear about me whenever something goes terribly wrong or a tragedy strikes. Many carry the impression that my tribe is the cure to all ills.

Now I am not simply called SOP. That’s too generic. I have a special number assigned on file but mentioning that may make matters too technical.

Well, I was born as a two-page letter on August 3, 2010, at the hands of a clerk who worked for the then special secretary (internal security) Mr UK Bansal. In my early moments, I recall Mr Bansal sending me from his chamber located on the first floor of the North Block which houses the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to the headquarters of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Why was I created and what was the message I carried?

Back in 2010, home minister Mr P Chidambaram was said to be serious in securing the Left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas. These were sizeable parts of central and eastern India where rebels from the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) were wreaking havoc. Once when I was lying on the desk at an office I heard how four months before I was born, Maoist rebels killed 75 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one policeman in a single attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district!

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The government’s efforts however hit a roadblock when they realised that the local police forces in their states had neither the training nor the numbers to take on the Maoist insurgents who called the jungle their home. So, till the police could build themselves up, the CAPFs would help them with numbers and fire power. It was to be a partnership.

As time passed, Mr Bansal, a 1974-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, wasn’t very happy about how this partnership was progressing. The CAPFs, which did not belong there, did not know the region or for that matter even the local language, felt like foreigners. The local police on the other hand did not suffer these disadvantages but they did not participate enough. The Maoists exploited this. They killed many of our men.

On my two pages, Mr Bansal had written that for every one policeman participating in an operation, two men from CAPFs would do so too, thus maintaining a ratio of 1:2. He revised it to 1:3 later for “any planned operation”. Only in case of an urgent operation could reduced police participation be allowed. You see the point he was making?

Have you wondered how many policemen participated in the “planned” operations to support road construction in Bhejji on March 11 and in Burkapal on April 24 where the CRPF lost 37 men? Two constables in Bhejji and one in Burkapal! This despite the MHA recently stating that there are “over 20,000 state police personnel” and “45,000 central forces personnel” posted in there.

People in power have no idea about my existence.

When journalist Jugal Purohit went about asking, here is what he found:

– Abhishek Meena, Superintendent of Police, Sukma: No such guidelines exist and no such guidelines can be adhered to.

– DM Awasthi, Special Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh: Such instructions can’t be followed.

– Sudeep Lakhtakia, Additional Director General, CRPF: I will have to check up.

– K Vijay Kumar, senior security adviser, MHA: You cannot have such rigidity.

– The spokesperson of the MHA did not offer any explanation.

This is my reality.

Someone sitting removed from the actual situation thought about me and pushed me down the throats of others who had their own ideas. Then when something went wrong, newer people came together and created newer SOPs. Lessons were seldom learnt. I remain forgotten.

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CRPF personnel killed when the Maoists detonated a landmine under the truck they were moving in. March 30, 2016 MAILAWADA in DANTEWADA DISTRICT. IMAGE SOURCE: Author 

Contrast this with our enemy who bears the name of a foreigner who died more than 40 years ago. That enemy deploys his tactics and remains guided by his doctrine even today. He hasn’t forgotten.

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE DAILYO PORTAL:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/sukma-attack-maoists-crpf-sop/story/1/16963.html

Exactly a month to the ‘historic’ framework, my notes from #Nagaland

One late afternoon tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 3, asking citizens to await a historic development later in the day set the cats among the pigeons. The day ended with the government of India committing to a framework agreement to bring peace to a state that has suffered from violence for nearly six decades.

At the earliest available opportunity, I took off for Dimapur, the dusty, commercial valley which has the state’s only functional airport.

For the uninitiated, several sections of the Naga society celebrate “Independence Day” on August 14, a tradition followed since 1947 when Angami Zapu Phizo, the man who fought side by side with Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA) against the British, declared so. He was then leading the Naga National Council (NNC), a body formed in the days preceding British withdrawal from the sub-continent.

On August 14, I saw for myself the “69th Independence Day” function of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN(IM)) at its Council HQ or Camp Hebron. It is with this group, said to be the most powerful insurgent outfit in the state, that the government has signed the framework. No wonder there was enthusiasm. Young men in army fatigues sported the look most in their age would crave for, women turned up in their traditional best and many expatriates too were present.

Among them was Rachunliu Kamei, a PhD fellow with the London-based Natural History Museum. Thanks to the shadow of conflict, her father had to shift her to Nagaland from Manipur. She then had to shift out of there too so she could get to where she was today. “I do desire for a day when our young can focus on development, away from conflict which forced a challenged childhood upon people of my generation,” she said. In Kohima, I met Akhala, a young girl from the northern Naga district of Mokokchung. She was staying away from her parents to study so that she could become an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and “repair” her society. Even in Khonoma, Phizo’s village and the hub of resistance, be it against the Indian Army or the British in the bygone era, it was not too difficult to find youngsters wanting to diversify into eco-tourism, conservation and the like.

Why so?

As noted human rights activist Neingulo Krome put it, 18 years of relative peace in the post-ceasefire era following 1997 have offered a glimpse of the possibilities that could materialise provided peace prevailed.

Would it be right to say the Nagas have been tired into submission? Well, nothing could be further from the truth.

Young or old, Nagas value their past – their identity. Work towards obliterating that and there will be a rebound. As Thino Selie, a self-styled “General” of the “Naga Army” who underwent training in East Pakistan and China in the early days of the insurgency, said, “Our movement in the early 50s was political till we saw killings and rapes. It was the youth who grew agitated and forced upon the movement the need to raise a fighting arm with which began the insurgency.”

A solution has to be found where peace and honour arrive, hand in hand. We’ve been there before and the temptation to give into the shorter route can seldom vanish. The failed Shillong Accord of 1975, creation of the Nagaland state in 1963 and even before so the creation of Naga Hills district to somehow calm things down hasn’t helped.

While we are still exploring avenues, it may not be a bad idea to look back, deeper into history, into the periods of relative peace that the Nagas enjoyed.

One such instance was in the 13th century when the Ahoms, who entered the Naga Hills from the Patkai range of Myanmar in search of salt mines, ran into a savage conflict with the original inhabitants there. History records calm prevailed after a political settlement was arrived at – one which saw a degree of self rule and respect for either side. Similarly, the British too, after having burnt their fingers fighting the Nagas in the late 19th century, vowed to pursue the policy of “non-intervention”. While that turned into a “Forward Policy” of incrementally gaining ground with time, it came at the cost of precious lives and yet most of the territory remained un-administered.

A time-tested principle of yesteryears coupled with the economic integration of today will be welcomed at least by the young, if no one else.

Standing in front of a closed door in his ancestral village of Khonoma, Mhesie Khate made to me perhaps the most important symbolic argument in my tour of Nagaland.

“When I was a child, August 14 used to be a very important day. All shops would be closed because families would meet and there would be feasts in almost every household,” he said. In his mid-30s now, Mhesie who owns a fleet of cars for rent, zoomed onto the present: “Now, no such thing happens on August 14 and on August 15, people prefer to close shops and relax at home. It is slipping away, that feeling is.”

NAXAL TAPES I & II: Entire Headlines Today & Mail Today expose here. Please read, view and comment

Three years after the Dantewada massacre, in which 76 security personnel were ambushed and killed by Maoists in the Tadmetla forest, the horror of the attack remains largely buried in the classified files with the authorities. Mail Today accessed the inquiry report prepared by retired director general of the Border Security Force (BSF) E.N. Rammohan on the instruction of the ministry of home affairs.

Appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on April 3, 2013
Appeared in the Mail Today newspaper on April 3, 2013

The report highlights the lapses on part of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force (CRPF) in gauging the Naxalite threat and of the government in reacting to the gravity of the situation. Even before the incident on April 6, 2010, there were signs of trouble for the security forces.

On March 10, the rebels had shot at the personnel of 62 Battalion barely 300m from the site of the ambush, injuring one CRPF jawan. On April 1, Nalin Prabhat, deputy inspector general, operations, CRPF, suggested launching an ‘area domination’ exercise where the troops were to remain out for 72 hours to sanitise the area near the camps.

CRPF’s leadership made a deputy commandant (DC), totally unfamiliar with the area, lead the operation. The report notes that the DC had been sent to the area for supervising a change of companies. “Sending an officer without knowledge of the terrain was the initial mistake. Any patrol of the coy should have been led by the officer in charge of the coy (company) located there,” the report states. As per the plan, the operation had to cover an area of 5-7 km around the camp. It was to be launched from the Chintalnar camp of the CRPF at 1900 hours on April 4 and the personnel were to return to the base on the morning of April 7. However, the troops did not follow the plan. They not only started late, but also moved in a single file and did not stick to the destinations that they were to cover.

The entire party camped at 12.30 am at Mukhram village where they cooked khichdi with the help of locals who provided them firewood, utensils and water. Rammohan’s report says: “It is possible that their (troops) plan to go to Tadmetla could have been described by someone (from the force) in front of the villagers.”

On April 6 morning, the CRPF men moved towards Tadmetla, only to walk into a fool-proof trap laid by the rebels. Firing started at 5.45 am and by the time the rescue party reached the ambush site at 9.30 am, all 76 personnel, including 75 CRPF men and one policeman, were dead.

The report lashes out at the casual manner in which the state government and the CRPF leadership treated the men on ground. From poor living conditions for troops to lack of inspections, senior leaders not participating in operations and making short visits to far-off camps in helicopters, all issues have been highlighted in the report. Rammohan, in fact, called for a comprehensive change of approach and Standard Operating Procedure to salvage the situation. He also added: “I did not find any lack of training in the field but there is a lack of leadership.”

VIDEOS:

UAVs for Anti-Naxal Ops: Agencies can’t coordinate so will duplicate

Troops fighting Naxal violence continue to be denied the technological edge already paid for by the govt. On the other hand, an ‘upset’ Home Ministry will duplicate assets and splurge thousands of crores because the spy agency NTRO rides roughshod with them

NTRO operates the Heron, a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV from its base out of the Begumpet airport, Hyderabad. Photo credit: Image credit: SSGT REYNALDO RAMON, USAF
NTRO operates the Heron, a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) UAV from its base out of the Begumpet airport, Hyderabad. Photo credit: Image credit: SSGT REYNALDO RAMON, USAF

Sitting 50 yards away from the site of the deadly encounter which claimed the lives of nine of his ‘boys’ in Latehar, Jharkhand, in the first week of January, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer said, “But for a UAV, the tables would have turned. We would have spotted their ambush and planned accordingly.” This commander’s suffering is neither new nor unattended to. Yet it is unlikely to be adequately addressed anytime soon.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Technological Research Organisation (NTRO), which operates the UAVs across central India for electronic intelligence, are unable to match steps. So much so that the Home Secretary RK Singh now wants CRPF to ‘reduce its dependence on NTRO/Indian Air Force’ by raising an entirely new fleet of UAVs – a complex, costly & time-consuming task.

Why the UAVs are so important

Flown and controlled from Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport, NTRO’s UAV (Israeli-made HERON) relays live images of the situation back to the control room with the help of a high-resolution camera on its belly and satellite networking, which is then shared with the troops.

For the CRPF, the entry of UAVs changed the game. Not only could the forces know the exact area of the Maoists’presence, but could also asses the topography and execute an operation – an edge they NEVER had. Seeing the utility of UAVs the CRPF is now working on establishing an Air Surveillance Unit (ASU) to ‘continuously monitor’ the movements of the insurgents. This even as there is growing clamour from within to fly more number of these assets from larger number of bases for all round coverage.

The then Director General of the CRPF, K Vijay Kumar wrote to the Union Home Secretary RK Singh in December 2011, commending the UAV’s role in the first-ever UAV-aided operation in Chattisgarh, but also warning, “The UAV almost took three hours to reach from Hyderabad and could effectively be utilised only for 3-3 1/2 hours for the area of operation.” He advised Singh to take up the issue and make NTRO shift to bases closeby.

Why the game-changer lost steam

Notwithstanding the initial success, issues have remained particularly in terms of the manpower the NTRO provided for UAV operations and unpreparedness to shift out of Hyderabad.

On November 17, 2011, the Chairman, NTRO informed the then Home Minister P Chidambaram of ‘certain logistical problems’ in shifting out of Begumpet. Not to give up, in December, Chidambaram wrote to the National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon to whom the NTRO reports. Terming the operations from Begumpet as ‘extremely limited and skewed’, Chidambaram stated that the ‘deficient crew inhibited operational efficiency’.  This author in fact learned that of the 110 requests placed by the CRPF for UAVs to fly in 2012, the NTRO flew them only on 26 occasions.

A senior CRPF officer narrated, “In February 2012, we were told that two additional bases were being expeditiously created for UAV operations.” That there was no change was evident when an exasperated Chidambaram warned the NTRO in a meeting on April 20, 2012 to shift out of Begumpet ‘within two months’. “Yet even today, they continue to operate only from there,” said a source. Out of the total nine states affected by the Maoist insurgency, Begumpet base barely ensures a coverage of only Odisha, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh leaving out Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.

The road ahead
The CRPF has made it clear that UAVs will have to continue flying, with or without the NTRO. The MHA has given the go ahead to the CRPF to acquire ten mini-UAVs and also firm up their Qualitative Requirements (QRs) for regular UAVs like Heron. All of this may mean incurring more than Rs 1000 crore, besides duplication.

NTRO’s defence
A senior officer from the NTRO informed that work is already in progress and within a couple of months they will begin operations from an additional base in Chattisgarh. “Our UAVs are biggest-ones available, the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE). Thus it is not very easy to simply shift them and start operating. A lot of related infrastructure which includes an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and specialization goes in. It takes time,” he said. It was not clear if with an additional base, the NTRO was also deploying an additional ground station.

It is learnt that the entire UAV operations of the NTRO are controlled by an Air Vice Marshal (AVM) from the Indian Air Force (IAF), who is on deputation with his office in New Delhi. Further, the entire staff he has is also from the Air Force. An IAF spokesperson confirmed this by adding that the Air Force staff reports to the Chairman NTRO and not the Air Chief, which according to informed sources made things complicated. “Why do you think the army was forced into acquiring their aviation wing and now attack helicopters? We face similar problems with them. No effort is made to understand the ground situation. All they do is operate as per the book,” said a MHA official.

The spy agency, a creation of the post-Kargil K Subrahmanyam committee, has no independent cadre like the Research and Analysis Wing (R & AW) does. It is thus staffed by men on deputation.

ALSO

VIEW my report on subject, which was aired on HEADLINES TODAY on March 5, 2012: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/anti-naxal-operations-drones-uavs-union-government-crpf-ntro/1/252697.html

READ related reports