Tag Archives: Insurgency

#StateOfPlay: Celebrating surgical strikes? No thanks.

By Jugal R Purohit

Speaking at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the media for its coverage of the first anniversary of the surgical strikes. These strikes were conducted in the aftermath of the Uri camp attack which led to the death of 18 army personnel on September 18 last year.

Incidentally, even as the PM was speaking, security personnel in Srinagar were responding to a boisterous attempt by three terrorists to script another Uri-like attack. They targeted the battalion headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) where close to 200 personnel and their families were present.

In the year gone by, several such attempts have been made by the terrorists. The surgical strikes, one can say, have neither deterred them nor their Pakistan-based handlers.

Yet none of this came in the way of ‘celebrating’ the operation.

Did anyone ask if all measures to prevent such Uri-like camp intrusions had been implemented? If yes, why are they still taking place? If they haven’t been implemented then why so?

These strikes were meant to be yet another option in deterring Pakistan from aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What are the other options? How have we implemented them? What happened to the question of delivering better governance in the state which to my mind is the biggest step in coming closer to solving quagmire?

For one, Delhi claims it has refined the counter-terror mechanism in Kashmir because of which it has achieved more terrorist kills in comparison to previous years. Adding to the argument, those on the ground insist the present year is a calmer one (167 violent incidents recorded till June 30, 2017) coming after 322 recorded incidents – highest in the last five years – in 2016. A senior officer in Srinagar reasoned, “We are controlling better, more tightly than before.”

Along the Line of Control (LoC), the surgical strikes were followed by a severe intensification of cross-LoC firing. The 449 ceasefire violations in 2016, bulk of which were recorded in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, consumed the lives of seven security personnel (not to speak of those 29,000 who had been temporarily displaced or the civilians who’ve been hit, killed or lost property). Interestingly, if you are to keep the casualties in the months of October and November of last year aside, data between April 2016 and March 2017 shows India only lost two service personnel in the firing.

But this isn’t all that happened.

A PRS Legislative Research Jammu and Kashmir Budget analysis of 2017-18 tells us that investment in the state which amounted for Rs 4866 crore from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging Rs 973 crore a year, slowed down to Rs 267 crore in 2015-16. What does that mean on the ground? Rate of unemployment for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state hovered at 24.6 per cent when the national average was 13.2 per cent. Among persons between 15-17 years of age, it was at 57.7 per cent when the corresponding national average was 19.8 per cent.
(http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1484568158_JK%202017-18%20Budget%20Analysis.pdf)

 

State’s Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu, on January 11, 2017, made an insightful comment when he said, “Unemployment is a social issue of serious magnitude in the state. Even as the rate of unemployment is supposed to be very high in the state, we do not have actual figures” (http://jakfinance.nic.in/Budget17/speechEng.pdf)

 

In J&K, when comparing the average growth between 2005-10 and 2010-15, a decline is seen from 5.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In agriculture (which employs 64 per cent of the population and contributes 22 per cent to the economy), manufacturing (employs 11 per cent and contributes 25 per cent) and services (employs 25 per cent and contributes 53 per cent), the current levels of growth pale when compared to the growth in 2005-10. (http://www.prsindia.org/administrator/uploads/general/1464866443_Jammu%20and%20Kashmir%20Budget%20Analysis%202016-17.pdf)

 

Two recent news reports from Srinagar caught my eye.

The Indian Express reported on October 4 that ‘schools, especially higher secondary ones, have been open for a little more than hundred days throughout the 11-month session so far. It is the second consecutive year that schools in the valley have remained shut for most part of the academic session’.  Day after, Hindustan Times quoted, ‘Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years. This year till April alone, this number is 13,352’.

Did Delhi and Srinagar face any questions over this?

When I tried finding out a voice on the ground to understand the human story from these numbers, I bumped into Muneeb Mir (37), a businessman operating from Pampore. He said, “We see the iron fist of the government, we see a return to the cordon and search approach we thought we had last seen in the 90s. We understand it helps the rightist agenda of the government to be seen as muscular but what really worries us is this – earlier the narrative of the government was one thing and the narrative of the people the other. Today that line has blurred and this dominating rightist narrative worries us.”

Speaking of anniversaries, it was in October 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, paving the way for the state to become a part of India. An undated letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Hari Singh published in Ramachandra Guha’s seminal ‘India After Gandhi’ carried the following text:

“Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail”.

So, what happened?

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE SITE DAILYO:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/surgical-stirke-uri-attack-kashmir-insurgency/story/1/19947.html

 

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BOOK REVIEW: On tackling Maoist question, an effort to provide answers

How should India grow? Does ‘growth’ have the same meaning for everyone whether in the cities or resource-rich hinterland? Do growth and displacement of natives compulsorily go hand in hand? For India to grow what is needed more – preserving tribal way of life of its natives or exploiting the resource-rich lands they inhabit? What if their grievances create hurdles in the path of growth? 

Author Rohit Prasad in ‘Blood Red River’ has chosen the troubled landscape of Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh to understand how the Indian state is answering these questions.

Located in the heart of the country, the state of Chhattisgarh means many things depending on which side one is looking at. A politically and financially stable state, a state with perhaps the richest resources both in terms of mineral and bio-diversity in the country, a state with nearly 44 per cent of its territory covered by forests, a state which has over 30 per cent of its population coming from a vibrant variety of tribes or a state locked in a brutal embrace with a rebellion which refuses to ebb even after fifty years of its emergence.

The rebels, members of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), seek to violently overthrow parliamentary democracy which they believe is a sham. The response of the government hinges on quelling the rebellion with its armed might and addressing the needs of the masses by the means of development.

The armed struggle is visible and chronicled. In comparison, the politics of development, supposed to exemplify in myriad ways the healing touch of an absent state, remains hard to track, harder to grasp. Touted as ‘a journey into the heart of India’s development conflict’, the book stands out for its focus.

Divided into sections segregated by short chapters within, the book is a sincere attempt at providing the reader with the understanding of a topic which can hardly be termed easy. A largely smooth and uninterrupted flow does emerge as the author switches between anecdotes, damning data dug from a multitude of reports, the annals of history, regulations governing the relationship between tribes and their home, the forest, the vibrant hope of a promising economy, the industrial lure of exploiting a resource-rich territory, instances of flawed ‘development’ and a society eclipsed by the shadow of the conflict which has consumed over 12000 lives. On offer are solid glimpses into the unholy nexus that exists on the ground between the government, the insurgents and the private sector which works to perpetuate the conflict at the expense of the locals.   

Interestingly, as the author, a business school professor based out of Gurugram, admits, he’d initially set out to analyse a different subject before stumbling upon something ‘far more complex’ and ‘fundamental’ which led him to write this book.

Rohit Prasad’s ground reporting from the affected region ensures the reader is exposed to the colour, the festivals, the customs as also the difficult path tribes find themselves treading and how there is corrosion of that timeless society underway as a result. Aptly captured case studies make the reader aware of the lost lives of faultless, promising youngsters in the region.   

On the flip side, there are times when the narrative shifts from story-telling to either philosophy or sweeping generalisations. Then there are outlandish claims like where the author says the US Army special forces supported Indian armed police in 2009 offensive against the Maoists! There are also times when objective analysis turns subjective. However, the biggest drawback that book suffers from is the lack of a direct Maoist voice. Scrutinising their ‘developmental works’ in their ‘janatana sarkar’ (local government in areas they term liberated) and their model would have added to the book’s effort by making two sides of the divide clear and visible to the reader.

To conclude, ‘Blood Red River’ is an introduction into a less dimension in the debate over development. Few understand that it is also essential.

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.”

GAYA EXPLOSIVES DUMP BUSTED: CRPF’s single success which will save hundreds of lives. Read more

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CRPF OPS BATTALIONS 153 & 159 INVOLVED IN GAYA, BIHAR THIS AFTERNOON

Can bomb -107 nos (40KGx1, 25×7, 10×3, 2KG x96)
Petrol Bomb-25 nos
Grenade-23 nos
Explosives -90kgs
Iron box -3 nos
Amn Nitrate-9kgs
Cordex wire- 20 meters
Radio Set-3 nos
Detonator-5 nos
Chemical-20 ltrs,
Suitcase IED-1 (20kg)
.315 Bolt Action Rifle-02 nos
12 Bore gun-03 nos

EXCL: HM Rajnath to revamp world’s largest paramilitary, CRPF; Opposition emerges from within, from the top office. My report.

Sh Rajnath Singh, Hon'ble Home Minister takes salute at the 75th CRPF Anniversary (Diamond Jubilee) Parade. Sh Dilip Trivedi, DG CRPF is also seen

A top-down effort at re-booting 3,35,000 strong Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) –  country’s internal security provider seems to have turned into a turf war.

“If a person turns 75, he is considered an old person. But the same cannot be said about you my friends in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), for yours is a veteran organisation,” said Home Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking on the 75th anniversary of the CRPF at its Gurgaon-based academy on November 13. His remarks drew thunderous applause from the men and officers of world’s largest paramilitary force. Unknown to most present there, on November 5, Singh’s ministry had put into motion an unprecedented, time-bound plan to revamp the force by re-evaluating each and every aspect of the force’s functioning. That plan has run into rough weather with resistance coming from the highest levels within the force, including the Director General himself.

A note from the MHA, a copy of which is available with this correspondent, stated ‘to examine all issues relation to the functioning of CRPF with a view to enable the force to efficiently discharge its responsibilities as the lead Counter-insurgency Force of the Union with special emphasis on the LWE (Left Wing Extremism) theatre’. It constituted two, 4-member committees under former CRPF chiefs K Vijay Kumar and AS Gill and sets a time period of 60 days for submission of their reports. Work has already commenced.

Reacting to this, DG CRPF, Dilip Trivedi, said, “I frankly do not see the need for this. Administrative action at the level of the DG would have sufficed.” When asked whether the government’s move to examine all issues indicated it was unhappy with the force, he replied, “What the government feels about the force is best answered by the government.” Interestingly, the MHA note puts Trivedi’s name as the fourth member of both the committees. Asked if he attended the first meet under AS Gill held last week, he responded in the negative. Whether or not he will take part in future deliberations, he said, “I do not think so. It mentions my name as the DG CRPF. By this month end, I will have retired and then it won’t be required of me to attend.”

Trivedi’s resistance stems from the fact that under him, earlier this year, the CRPF had wanted to implement a new transfer policy and re-organise command and control. However, owing to resistance from within, matters went before the then Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and got stalled. Now, the MHA not only wants to re-evaluate the above-mentioned issues but look at a host of others too. And to do so, it has widened the debate by roping in many more, beyond those in the hierarchy. Sections within the CRPF indicated their unhappiness with the MHA. “We would have welcomed the MHA’s action had they done what was required of them. For years we have been asking them for a hardship allowance for our jawans fighting the Maoists but it has not materialized. Issues like adhoc deployment and lack of bullet proof vests, helmets etc are all courtesy the MHA,” said a senior officer.

Defending the move, a Home Ministry official said, “Home Minister wants to develop CRPF as an operationally fit force for fighting the Maoists and all will be done to ensure that goal is met.” K Vijay Kumar, former DG CRPF when contacted said, “This is a time-bound action decided at the highest level of the national security apparatus. All should join. Everyone’s views will be given the highest regard.”

BOX:

Committee One

·         K.Vijay Kumar, Senior Security Adviser (LWE), MHA-Chairman.

·         Members- Durga Prasad, Director, SPG,  Maj Genl(Retd) VK Dutta, Maj Genl(Retd) Dalbir Singh. NS Bhatti, OSD, Greyhounds, Dilip Trivedi, DG, CRPF.

·         Will examine: Training, SOPs, Intelligence, Operations Modernisation etc

Committee Two

·         AS Gill, Ex-DG,CRPF-Chairman,

·         Members.- PM Nair, Ex-DG,NDRF, 2. Valsa Kumar, Ex-ADG,CRPF, GJ Singh,Ex-IGP,CRPF, Gurcharan Singh,Ex-IGP,CRPF, Dilip Trivedi ,DG,CRPF.

·         Re-organisation of command and control, co-location of battalions and group centres, weaponry, equipment, incentives etc.

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.`

RE-POSTING: Opinion Piece – The #CRPF has bottomed out, time to clean-up

But for my dad and these men, the risks they took, the wounds they suffered..they did that for their buddies.. They may have fought for their country but they died for their friends.. for the man in front, for the man beside them 

Flags of our fathers (2006)

My cameraperson Prem Mishra kept asking me this question as our flight touched the tarmac of airport at Raipur and we began work. We were there because just a few hours ago, the Maoists had ambushed and killed 11 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, four police personnel and one civilian.

“How did they kill so many despite more than half of the personnel in the operation emerging relatively unscathed?” he asked. For a reporter, establishing facts come before analysis, I said.

The thought never left me though. It was something which nobody ever denied.

Finally, on Friday, CRPF suspended 17 men for ‘inaction/lack of satisfactory counter action’ in that incident in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on March 11. The police also suspended its representative who was a part of that team. Though some say their only fault is that they emerged alive from a deadly ambush, officially atleast, these men now stand accused of fleeing, leaving behind their colleagues on the battlefield.

When that happens to a force it knows it can’t sink any further.

Having seen this force since the last five years, this saddens but does not surprise me.

Imagine a force in which senior officers do not wear the uniform right, imagine a force which does not feel proud of its unique identity, imagine a force in which it is not mandatory for the man on top to have experience of the toughest duty the force performs, imagine a force where the juniors complain against their seniors because they feel unheard, imagine a force which gives up on a rich tradition of annual change-over of battalions to save a few crore rupees of the government. The CRPF is such a force.

Why this is not changing can be explained by the fact that those in power are blissfully unaware of the rot that has set in. Why most don’t care is because the Maoists who kill the CRPF men do so in the jungles, away from our malls and metro trains, unlike terrorists.  But can there be any doubt about the need for the Maoists to be stopped when their goal is to capture Delhi’s Red Fort?

The CRPF is equipped for it. What it needs is leadership and awareness among those who control it.