Tag Archives: CPI Maoist

Sukma, CG: Cops won’t occupy fortified stations till furniture & colouring is done

Assuring the assembly of chief ministers of ten Maoist-hit states about the centre’s support in terms of training, resources and intelligence, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh added a condition nevertheless. “But states must take initiative to conduct operations and use resources optimally”, he said before inaugurating the key meeting on May 8. While the national meet was called in the wake of repeated reverses suffered in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, Singh’s words have failed in making any impact in that very place. Exemplifying that irony are two ready yet unused ‘heavily-fortified police stations which can serve as an impregnable base for nearly 200 troops’ at any given point in time.

Ready for months now and located in the heart of the troubled Sukma district, the local police has failed to move in to either of them. Inexplicably it has ensured that policemen and counterparts from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continue to operate in lesser strength from older barracks in the vicinity.

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Report appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on May 18, 2017

Running south from the town of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region is the National Highway (NH) 221, re-named as NH30. It has had a particularly bloodied past. Among the instances of bloodlust the road has witnessed, the brutal massacre of the Congress party’s state leadership in the Jheeram Ghati in May 2013 reverberates in the national consciousness to this date. Located along that highway are the towns of Kukanar and Chhindgarh, separated by 15km. It is in these towns that the two fortified police stations have been constructed under central assistance where funds up to Rs 624 crore have been made available to ten states for a total of 400 such police stations. There are in all 75 such police stations earmarked for Chhattisgarh alone.

According to a local resident in Kukanar, “The building has been ready since the end of 2016 but no one has occupied it yet. Earlier this year, villagers were asked to attend its inauguration but we are still waiting for an invite.” Similarly in Chhindgarh, locals said the building was awaiting occupancy since nearly a year. “May be it is about not getting VIPs to inaugurate it or something else, we don’t know. There are other smaller police stations in other parts of Sukma also lying empty we have heard,” said another local resident.

When asked for its response and stand on the issue, the Home Ministry kept mum. In Chhattisgarh, DM Awasthi, Special Director General, Anti Naxal Operations (ANO) said, “The one at Kukanar has been handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately. In Chhindgarh, there are minor repairs pending.” Sukma’s Superintendent of Police, Abhishek Meena when asked said, “Chhindgarh building is ready but colouring and repair work is left. In Kukanar, we have ordered furniture and awaiting its set up”.

Kukanar building
The brand new compound in Kukanar lying unused. ‘Handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately’, says senior police officer DM Awasthi. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

This delay has not gone down well with members of the security set up.

“Where is the will to take on Maoists? In Delhi, they talk about doing things on war-footing, senior officials fly in and out conducting meetings and on the ground, the police is unwilling to move, wasting precious infrastructure,” said a source on the condition of anonymity. Another source observed, “Across the country, there is outrage over how Maoists are killing security forces and here the policemen are waiting for well-designed, coloured and comfortable police stations”.

Chhindgarh building
Chhindgarh’s fortified police station lying unused. The area SP told me his force had sought colouring and repair jobs before they could move it. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Burkapal ambush in Sukma last month where 25 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists, the centre had defended the state police’s role. In a statement released on April 26th, the union home ministry had stated, “It is incorrect to say that Chhattisgarh Police is in shambles. In addition to 45,000 Central Forces, over 20,000 State Police personnel are posted in Bastar region. The Chhattisgarh police forces are well equipped and a Bastar package for police was introduced in end 2015. There is complete coordination between Centre and State forces”.

STORY FIRST APPEARED ON INDIA TODAY PORTAL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rajnath-singh-maoists-chhattisgarh-police-stations/1/955854.html

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STARTING FEBRUARY: Forces fighting Maoists to have eye in the sky as UAV base finally shifts from Hyd to Bhilai, Chhattisgarh

Article appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 31
Article appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 31

The coming year may bring in some desperately needed relief to men combating the Maoists in central Indian states in the form of better intelligence gathering and coordination. After more than three years since it was first mooted, the base of operations for the Israel-made Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will be shifted from Begumpet airport in Hyderabad to Bhilai in western Chhattisgarh. This arrangement, according to sources involved, will be in place by the end of February 2015.

Yesterday, the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) held a meeting in New Delhi where the issue under discussion was the ‘delay’ of establishment of the base in Bhilai. At the end of the meeting, according to a stakeholder who was present, “It was unanimously decided that by February we should be able to begin flying from Bhilai. It will mean better availability of the UAV, better exploitation of the asset and most importantly, more flying time on hand.”

The UAV in question is operated by the spy agency National Technological Research Organization (NTRO) and is actually flown by Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel who are on deputation to the agency. Ever since December 2011 when the first UAV flight was conducted by the NTRO for the Central Reserve Police Force in South Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, the demand has been to shift the aircraft out of Hyderabad to a location closer to the area of operation. A letter written by the then Director General of the CRPF, K Vijay Kumar to then Home Secretary RK Singh while commending the role discharged and valuable inputs it provided stated, “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.”

Ever since then MHA, CRPF as well as NTRO have been locked in discussions about just where the UAVs should be based out of. Finally in 2012, an airstrip in Bhilai was identified and work began towards upgrading and establishing all facilities there.

According to a source in Chhattisgarh aware of the actual up gradation at the Bhilai site, operations can be initiated at the airstrip by February. “As I see it, work is on in full swing and February should not be too difficult a target to achieve,” he said.

The forces have had a rather uncomfortable relationship with the NTRO. Recently in the Sukma ambush where the CRPF lost 14 men, the force complained to the MHA that the NTRO unilaterally pulled out the UAV right when the encounter began.

The NTRO’s explanation was that it had run out of fuel and had no option left. Time and again, the CRPF and MHA have been pressing the NTRO to move out of Hyderabad. However the infrastructure in Bhilai is only now coming up. Such has been the MHA’s frustration that it has ordered CRPF to procure UAVs and train its own personnel to avoid reliance on NTRO/IAF personnel. Said a source, “Issue was acquiring the land and creating the infrastructure. Multiple departments of the centre and state governments were involved and thus a lot of red tape too.”

Why Bhilai as a base

While operations from Hyderabad ensured that the UAV hardly had ‘Time on Task’ by the time it reached areas of south Bastar and Gadchiroli, far less over Jharkhand, placing the same in Bhilai makes it possible to do so. The location is central to regions of Bastar, Gadchiroli, western Odisha as well as Jharkhand and Bihar.

Why a UAV can be a game changer

UAV 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 in real time. For the security forces, UAVs changed the game. Notwithstanding the foliage, penetrating which remains a challenge, the forces know the exact area of the Maoists’presence, and also asses the topography and execute an operation – an edge they never had.

MY PIECE: Post Sukma ambush, CRPF’s two field officers get the boot; inquiry against top boss under a cloud

Report in MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 19
Report in MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 19

Recovering from a deadly blow dealt by the Maoists in the form of killing 14 of its men and looting their weapons, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has decided to move on. However, with a step forward it has also taken a step back which has raised many eyebrows not just among its rank and file but even outside.

Confirming reports about a poor fighting effort and a failure of command and control among its different battalions involved in December 1 ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has ‘attached’ and relieved from command two of its leading officers who commanded two key units who participated in the ill-fated operations.

Even as it does so, it’s effort to conduct an impartial probe into the issue has come under a cloud. The reason behind this has to do with the Presiding Officer of the Court of Inquiry (CoI) launched into this episode.

Field officers get the boot

In an order dated December 11, the CRPF HQs “attached” the Commanding Officer (CO) 223 General Duty battalion from which all the men who perished belonged alongwith a Deputy Commandant who was the officer leading 206 CoBRA battalion, a specialised force. The order has sought the respective formations to relieve these officers on an immediate basis. “They will not be given any task and will remain attached with their zonal headquarters in Kolkata,” it was learnt. When asked Director General CRPF RC Tayal said, “While there was a failure of command and control in the case of 223 battalion and the Commanding Officer was not around, in the case of CoBRA battalion, we observed that they failed to act and could not prevent the looting of arms despite not being too far from the embattled troops of 223 battalion.” According to Tayal, these actions emanated from the initial findings. “Nobody is off the hook yet, including the Inspector General HS Sidhu who was leading the operations on the ground. I am personally looking into the case,” Tayal added.

However this move has not gone down well with the force.

Said an officer aware of the entire operation, “The CO of 223 battalion had been called by the IG for a meet when the Maoists began firing. He took time to reach the location as the meet was some distance away and had to make his way back while the firing was on.” CO 223 battalion who was leading 90 odd men from his battalion was unharmed while his Deputy Commandant and Assistant Commandant fell to the Maoist bullets with 12 other men. In the case of the CoBRA Deputy Commandant, his party with specialised weapons claimed they had participated and even rescued some of the injured.

Cloud over inquiry

The CoI looking into the episode is presided over by DIG Sanjay Kumar who is stationed at Raipur and is administratively under the IG in this case. “Can you expect the DIG to scrutinize his boss? The IG was personally leading the operations on ground so like others his actions also need to be scrutinized. With this move I am confident that no fault whatsoever of the IG will be found,” said a CRPF officer.

Retired Additional Director General of CRPF, DC Dey agreed, “Someone from outside should have been assigned this task”. Former Director General of Border Security Force (BSF) Prakash Singh said, “The force headquarters needs to step in. I understand that the IG was on the field and he may not have anything to hide but a senior officer who could have examined the IG’s role too should have been asked to investigate. Otherwise it won’t carry conviction.”

While the IG refused to comment, sources in Raipur said there was no problem at all in anyone inquiring. “The force headquarters asked the IG to appoint an inquiry and he did. If there is any apprehension then CRPF HQ should directly handle matters, there will not be any resistance”, said a source.

The operation was not planned as it should have been: RC Tayal, DG CRPF

Q. What is the takeaway from this ambush for the CRPF?
A. There is no meaning in conducting operations by announcing our presence and moving in broad day light in areas dominated by the Maoists. We have decided that we will carry out our movements by night now onwards. We have also decided to improve motivation levels among our men, incentivize postings in Maoist-affected areas and plan better. MHA is already in the loop on this.

Q. Is that then an admission that this operation was not planned properly?
A. I would say that it was not planned the way it should have been.

Q. This operation also saw minimal participation from the side of the police. Do you then believe that in the time to come the CRPF can/should take on operations in unfamiliar terrain without the local police’s participation?
A. Our role is that of being in aid to the civil police. My view is that there is no meaning in conducting operations unless the state leadership comes forward. It is flawed model if we believe CRPF can take the lead and do operations on its own

WEEK AFTER SUKMA AMBUSH: Jawans who fought Maoists tell me, ‘700 of us couldn’t take on 100 Maoists, feeling appalled’

Article as appeared on December 7 in the MAIL TODAY newspaper
Article as appeared on December 7 in the MAIL TODAY newspaper

With a hint of anger in his blood-shot eyes, he revealed, “We were close to seven hundred. They were barely over a hundred. Yet we could neither save our colleagues or their weapons nor could we eliminate the rebels”. Rajat and three of his colleagues (names changed on request) were a part ‘Operation SS 14 (South Sukma)’ from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who faced off with the Maoists on Monday and lost fourteen of their men including two officers. They are presently awaiting their return to their original location.

While Rajat Kumar is a young ‘sipahi’, joined hardly two years ago, his colleagues are not. “Nothing is going to change. I am looking at completing twenty years of service and exiting with pension,” said Mahesh Raj, a constable. For the force that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wants to become the arrow head of India’s anti-Maoist effort, it is a difficult time. Those outside see it as fighting a difficult battle. Those inside have little hope of things improving.

By November 10, officers in various battalions were informed of a major, ‘four phase’ operation to be conducted later in the month. By November 15, personnel were sought from an array of battalions which included 74th, 150th, 201st & 206th CoBRA, team directly under Deputy Inspector General (DIG) CoBRA, team directly under Inspector General (IG) CRPF and 223th battalion. Before November 15, over 600 personnel had gathered at camps like Pollampalli, Kankerlanka and Puswada among others in Sukma.

“Our operations would take two nights and three days. We had nil intelligence. We would search, wander from one location to the other, expose ourselves to the Maoists and return,” said Rajat. It was reliably learnt that the operation has come under question from several quarters within the CRPF. When asked, the acting Director General RC Tayal had earlier commented, “The traditional area domination operations need to now change. We must hit the Maoists and operations need to be pinpoint, specific and swift.” As these operations progressed, on November 21, in its second phase, seven personnel were injured by the Maoists. Later, the third and fourth phases were merged into one and undertaken from November 29 to December 1.

On November 30, five of those who participated in the operations were detected with malaria and required immediate evacuation. However a Border Security Force (BSF) helicopter flew in on that day but did not land, citing unfit conditions. “We covered a hillock and slept there for the night. Next morning, you can say our operation had turned into one where we were only scurrying to detect a suitable landing spot for the helicopter,” said Pankaj Kumar, another constable.

As luck would have it, coordination with the helicopter fleet for such a massive operation was another debacle.

The IAF team at Jagdalpur readied itself to fly but all day the CRPF could not confirm just where to land till it was in the sunset range! “Helipad locations kept changing throughout. At 1610 hours, the fourth location came. And mind you, all along CRPF never uttered a word that there was an ambush. We got curious. Finally, at 1640hrs they asked us to go to evacuate their injured and we couldn’t because it was too late.The state government, despite repeated reminders has failed to install equipment which can allow us to land at night. Had they done that even at their Chintagufa camp, where the troops returned that night, we would have evacuated the injured,” said a MoD official.

Little of this means anything to these men on ground. “Forget malaria cases, even if the IAF/BSF had flown the next day when we asked them to on the day of the ambush, two of out men would have been alive today,” said Pankaj Kumar.

On ground, before all hell broke loose, all the team commanders were called to meet the IG at the ground zero. It was close to 9:30am. As the encounter began with firing from a ridge on to CRPF position near Kasalpad village, instead of fighting the hundred odd Maoists, different units of the CRPF were moving in different directions. “We still don’t know why many things happened the way they did. We did not act as one,” conceded an officer who was a key element of the entire operation.

Frustration written over his face, Rajat said, “We were looking for the Maoists all these days. We were tired but we wanted to finish them off because they had showed up finally. But when firing began we noticed that not all were fighting.” His colleague, Mahesh, quiet till now said, “In J&K, when militants show up, the entire area is cordoned and militants are not allowed to walk away like it happened here.”

The MHA has announced a slew of committees to investigate the lapses and review the CRPF’s functioning apart from the statutory Court of Inquiry (CoI).

An inspector who was watching the conversation flow said, “I have seen the CRPF for over 25 years. Never before has the force taken so many hits. We are being called upon to do the kind of work that militaries do yet we neither have that kind of training nor powers.”

BOX – WEAPONS MAOISTS LOOTED

  • 2000 AK47 rounds
  • 300 rounds INSAS Light Machine Gun
  • 30 Under Barrel Grenade Launchers
  • 10 AK47 rifles
  • 01 Self Loading Rifle
  • 01 INSAS LMG
  • 04 Bullet Proof Jackets
  • 01 GPS Set
  • 01 VHF Manpack set
  • 02 Binocular

BEING HUMAN: CRPF to involve juniors in planning, wants to know about the living conditions of its men too

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on December 5
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on December 5
This is how CRPF men source drinking water in a camp in Bastar
This is how CRPF men source drinking water in a camp in Bastar

Smarting from the deadly encounter in Sukma and the controversy over uniforms of their dead being dumped in a bin following post-mortem, senior officials of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have begun damage control. Indications are that not only are operational aspects being reviewed but also efforts are being made at assessing the living conditions of their men who serve the force and the nation in inhospitable jungles of Bastar, something that seldom done and pursued.

When asked, the acting Director General RC Tayal chose his words carefully, “We have to hit the Maoists hard, there is not going to be any slowing down. But instead of continuing the traditional area domination kind of operations we will now need to look at specific, swift and pin point operations.”  His words hold significance given the criticism about conducting a 15-day long operation in Sukma and the fatigue it created for the men. Though the inquiry is on, many from the CRPF are quietly upset over an operation which was “too long, without a goal and ill-planed so much so that despite so much preparation the CRPF could not ensure a single helipad was secured for IAF choppers to evacuate”, in the words of an officer. It was also learnt that operations need to not only be better planned but also need the active involvement of the junior leadership at that stage.

Sources say the senior leadership went into an overdrive in the region on Thursday. Unit deployed in far flung areas were asked to immediately forward details of their living conditions, number of toilets in their camps, number of malaria cases, number of personnel, ration issues if any, leaves utilized or not and requirements. Many unit commanders were taken aback. “For years what has not mattered is suddenly important,” said an officer. When asked what could be the cause, “May be someone has reported about the pathetic conditions in which we are forced to live.”

From inadequate, filthy toilets to lack of communication facilities to improper potable water supply, camps have often come up with scant regard to the living condition they provide. The district police, as an end user of the CRPF, is responsible for the plight of the camps. Operational requirements have often ensured that camps are created without even security or communication links. For example, following the massacre of the Congress party leaders in Darbha region of Sukma in May 2013, a camp was opened near the ambush site within a month. “There was neither barricading nor communication links since satellite phones too aren’t really reliable in this region. So our bosses agree in creating sitting ducks out of us in a known Maoist stronghold,” said a source. Very often the on paper ‘facilities’ of a camp can be very different from the reality. “On paper, we have ten toilets for 120 men. In reality, only five are made and work on, the other five are yet to even take off,” mentioned another source.

Explained a source, “Our decision makers are IPS officers who come on deputation as IGs, ADGs and DGs. Hardly any IPS officer in his career has operated in a hard core area at the fighting level so they seldom understand our problems.”

Multiple committees are in the process of reviewing the force’s functioning. The MHA is keen to make the CRPF the frontline force to counter the Maoists and thereby attempting to review the functioning and revamp, if need be.

A ‘technician’ who gave up & a veteran who was while planning his move, picked up. Why today is important for forces battling #Maoist menace

Police officials in Bastar, announcing the surrender and arrest today
Police officials in Bastar, announcing the surrender and arrest today

Kamlesh alias Tati Gandhi alias Jagdish, a member of Maoist’s People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) Platoon No. 12 member has been apprehended. He carried a reward of Rs 40,000, was an accused in 31 cases which included murder, attempt to murder, kidnap and arson in Bastar’s Bijapur district and had 10 warrants on his name. He was arrested in Dantewada today while there to carry out an attack, claimed the police.

Deputy Commander of the Regional Committee’s technical team No. 13, Budhram Lekami (28) alias Rangu alias Vikas surrendered before Inspector General of Police, Bastar, SRP Kalluri in Jagdalpur. He is a specialist in repair and maintenance of the weapons the Maoists posses.`

My piece on the ‘VIP Maoist with Prabhakaran-like looks’ who gave up before Andhra Pradesh police on Friday

 

“He is a VIP among the Maoist leaders whom we are chasing in Bastar,” said an Indian Police Officer (IPS) officer posted in the troubled central portion of Chhattisgarh.

The person being referred to was GP Reddy (53) alias Arjun alias Ravinder, a member of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), the body which administers what the Maoists term as the ‘liberated area’ of Dandakaranya, a region largely co-located with Chhattisgarh’s Bastar.

In Hyderabad, on Friday afternoon, following days of interrogation, the Andhra Pradesh police made public the surrender of Reddy and his wife Sumitra.

Informed sources indicated that the surrender was in the pipeline for many days following which Reddy, a bachelor degree holder, and Sumitra trekked from Bastar to reach Andhra Pradesh. While Reddy carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head, his wife was described as a ‘hardcore Maoist’ though the reward amount was not immediately known.

For those having to deal with Reddy, his surrender is a cause for relief. No ordinary man, he commanded the Battalion No. 2, formed as recently as 2012, which guards and operates in Abujmadh, an unsurveyed geographical expanse where the top leadership of the Maoist insurgency is believed to be holed up. Only a few weeks ago did he replace Ramder, another dreaded Maoist military planner, to lead the battalion. “It is a good development for us,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP) Bastar SRP Kalluri. Among Reddy’s recent and known action is the massacre of 26 troopers from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at the entry to Abujmadh in Bastar’s Narayanpur district in June 2010. Police sources indicate he was also instrumental in the 2009 killings of a Superintendent of Police (SP) and his 25 men in Rajnandgaon district, another location no too far from Abujmadh.

Among those who’ve met Reddy is journalist and author Shubhranshu Choudhary. He compared Reddy’s looks to those of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) boss Velupillai Prabhakaran and described Reddy’s loss as a ‘huge setback’ to the Maoists. “Arjun, as he was known, had the reputation and the looks of a deadly military commander and his elevation in the Maoist hierarchy is hardly surprising. What is significant is that if dedicated people like Arjun are leaving the insurgency, things must be in a very, very bad state for them,” he added.

A native of Warangal district in Telangana, Reddy spent over two active decades as a part of insurgency. His insight about the top leaders’ whereabouts, tactics etc is bound to rattle the Maoists. Reddy is believed to be among the early members of the erstwhile group People’s War (PW), who were asked by their leader Kondapalli Seetharamaiah to explore and establish safer sanctuaries in the Dandakaranya region, away from the Andhra Pradesh police’s reach.

Interestingly, despite a ‘career’ spent committing crimes in what is present day Chhattisgarh, the reward on Reddy’s head in the state is merely Rs 2 lakh, whereas that in Andhra Pradesh Rs 20 lakh. Not surprisingly, he took the route which mirrored that of GVK Prasad alias ‘Gudsa Usendi’, who gave up before the AP police earlier this year.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/maoist-gp-reddy-arjun-sumitra-narayanpur-prabhakaran-ravinder-dandakaranya-andhra-pradesh-police/1/375306.html