Tag Archives: maoist insurgency

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

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16 months into the job, NSA Ajit Doval takes first ground lessons in Maoist-hit Bastar

Article appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on October 2, 2016
Article appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on October 2, 2016

It is a visit about which very few knew and was to be kept under wraps. India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spent  the whole of Thursday in the region worst affected by the Maoist insurgents, Chhattisgarh’s Bastar. This was his first visit to this region since the time he took charge of India’s national security last year. His visit comes at a time when the divergence between the state and the centre has widened over the aspect of how to take the anti-Maoist fight forward. It also comes at a time when the monsoon has nearly retreated and anti-Maoist operations in full flow are set to commence.

Sources informed this correspondent that Doval flew in from New Delhi to Chhattisgarh.  Subsequently, he boarded  a helicopter and undertook an aerial tour of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh. The southern part of Sukma is a region the Maoists label as ‘liberated zone’ or a region where they, not the government machinery, run the show. After he concluded his aerial sortie, he held a review meeting with authorities on the ground which included the top brass of the state police, state government and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).He returned to New Delhi before the end of the day. “This was a visit where the NSA was keen to absorb and understand all the stake holders. He gave us all a patient hearing,” said a source.

While the official line was to keep a low profile, sharp differences have emerged over the conduct of these operations. The state administration, branded ‘non-starter’ and ‘non-serious’ many times over by the officials at the centre felt they were not being understood fully, whereas those at the centre believe otherwise. A classic example of this was the ill-fated CRPF-driven operation, ‘Operation SS (South Sukma) 14’ conducted last December which led to the loss of lives of several CRPF personnel. This operation, conducted by about 700 CRPF men saw a much smaller force of the Maoists successfully thwart it and cause casualties. That the local police was not fully convinced and thus did not participate fully only helped the Maoists. State police on its part, despite the raging insurgency, has failed to even recruit itself in numbers already authorised. There is about 10 per cent shortfall in its total strength at present.

“It is a surprise that someone as important as the NSA has found time only now. It, in a way, tells you of the priority that the government has. Nevertheless, now that he has gone we hope he has learnt the right lessons and his role will help the man on the ground perform his duty better,” said a source.

FIGHTING INSURGENCY: Pushing men as leaders stay behind, that is what is taking place in Maharashtra Police on a bloody frontline called Gadchiroli

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on August  7, 2015
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on August 7, 2015

ARTICLE ON INDIA TODAY SITE

No full-time Inspector General of Police (Anti Naxal Operations) since February 2014
No full-time Deputy Inspector General for Gadchiroli range since February 2014
No full-time Superintendent of Police (SP) Special Action Group (SAG) since June 2015
Chair of the Principal of training institute, UOTC was vacant from December 2014 till middle of July 2015. Has been filled only recently.  

After considerable gains against the Maoist insurgents over the last couple of years, things in Maharashtra may be on the verge of slipping. Critical posts, dealing with the anti-Maoist struggle, in the state police remain vacant for over a year leading to a leadership vacuum. Positions like Inspector General of Police (Anti Naxal Operations), Deputy Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli range) and Superintendent of Police Special Action Group (SAG) have no full time officers assigned. In addition, even the post of Principal of the Unconventional Operations Training Centre (UOTC) where Maharashtra Police personnel train before induction into insurgency-affected regions has only been filled recently after remaining vacant for months on end.

These charges are being held on additional charge basis by officers holding positions in the Nagpur police administration which is headquartered 170km away from the affected Gadchiroli.

Those on the ground say this lack of leadership is demoralizing and may end up providing to the Maoists a breathing space. What is important to note is that the Maoists have stated their aim is to now ‘preserve’ their battle against the might of India which has been unleashed against them since the second half of the last decade. Interestingly, while the officers at the top are missing, other officers and men at the lower level are adequately staffed.

The state police is directly under the control of the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio. A response was sought from the CM but none was received.

Recently released Union Home Ministry data recorded 27 ‘incidents’ till June 30 this year in which eight civilians and two security personnel were killed. Also 15 Maoists were arrested however not one Maoist insurgent was killed by the police, an admission which many believe is an indication of the dismal state of affairs. “I don’t particularly agree with that death figure being an indicator however, this is a serious development which needs to be addressed,” said an officer.

When asked, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Dayal said, “Yes, I agree they shouldn’t be left vacant. We are actively considering filling them up and it will be done soon.” When asked for a cause and the impact on the ground situation, he replied, “Things are going very well in Gadchiroli.” However, his officers did not share the optimism. “The reluctance among police officers to go to such places is not new. For nearly a year these posts are vacant. DGP can do what he wants and officers who don’t wish to go simply seek assistance from politicians,” said an officer. In Gadchiroli, the local Superintendent of Police, Sandip Patil said, “My seniors who hold additional charges are experienced officers who have worked here and thus we have a perfectly fine system,” he said. However an officer with the experience of having served in Gadchiroli questioned this optimism, he said, “If these posts are so insignificant that all is working well in their not being filled, the govt might as well abolish them and save revenue.”

Since the late 1980s, when the erstwhile People’s War migrated out of united Andhra Pradesh in search of safer pastures, the contiguous forest cover provided by Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur districts of Maharashtra was an attraction for the insurgents. Traditionally, Maoists have used these areas for rest, recuperation and recruitment as well as to launch attack in the neighbouring Bastar region in south Chhattisgarh. Seldom have they waged their battle with the intensity matching that in Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh.

Maharastra’s two districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia, at its eastern most fringe, rank among the affected districts. While the former has been a long-standing history, the latter is relatively quieter.

EXPERT OPINION BY AJAI SAHNI, INSTITUTE OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Lapsing into complacency is what it is. What the situation there may have improved but it can’t be called peaceful. Plus it borders the most volatile and unstable region in Chhattisgarh. You can not let your guard down. Fact that no officer is posted or wants to be posted tells you this area is far from stable. If seniors are absent, resentment will creep in. Men will say we are being pushed in and over time operational decline will set in.

MAHARASHTRA: MAOIST VIOLENCE FROM 2012 TILL JUNE 2015

34 security personnel killed
40 Maoists killed
62 civilians killed since
149 Maoists arrested

INTERVIEW: SAIBABA TALKS ON PEERS, PRISON & PM

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on July 12, 2015
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on July 12, 2015

“He is like a General Post Office (GPO) of the Maoist insurgents because he ensures a smooth flow of information between the insurgents in the jungles and supporters in urban centres and abroad,” said a senior police officer in Maharashtra, aware of his case. The forty seven year old could only smile at this thought, sitting inside his official residence in Delhi’s North Campus. “If I am a GPO and the Indian state knows that, why disrupt the flow? They can gain more by stealthily monitoring me,” he replied. Dr. G Naga Saibaba, an activist, a teacher and someone who the security establishment believes to be a ‘thorough Maoist but for his handicap and family commitments’ returned home on July 4, following a three-month bail on medical grounds, secured from the Bombay High Court.

The Maharashtra Police, whose manner of arresting Dr Saibaba, in which he was swiftly taken to Nagpur while returning from an examination in New Delhi on May 9, 2014 made headlines. The cops believe Dr. Saibaba, who was born and grew up in East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, to be a scout for the outlawed Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist who motivated and funneled leaders into strife torn regions for carrying on with the group’s violent agenda. That he teaches under graduates, post graduates and research students only adds to his importance for the Maoists, police believes. “I am a teacher, not a preacher. A number of my peers, people who studied with me, worked with me in over three decades have gone underground. Most of them are dead today. From that emanates the circumstantial suspicion that agencies have of me. It is completely unfounded,” stated Saibaba, a PhD holder from Delhi University and a resident of Delhi for over two decades. “Can anyone show me an instance where I have stated the Maoist position as mine? Yes, I oppose fake encounters and human rights abuses and oppose bans on anyone, be it CPI Maoist or Bajrang Dal, if it is banned,” he added.

Asked for his views on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to Maoists to drop the gun and pick up the pen, he smiled. “Pen was my weapon and see what was done to me. Violence perpetrated by the state is much bigger than that by smaller groups. I believe dialogue between the government and opposing groups is important however don’t ask me to lead efforts for it. I am better off a teacher,” he said referring to previous attempts to goad him into mediating a truce. With regards to the development model being pursued by the Modi government, he said, “It is no different from the UPA. The manner in which mineral resources are being pursued will lead to resistance, I am certain.”

Recounting his fourteen months in the Nagpur Central Prison’s anda cell (solitary confinement cell the shape of which resembles that of egg) he admitted that while nobody tortured him physically, “conditions were consciously created which amounted to that”. Wheelchair bound Dr Saibaba, who stated his disability as ’90 per cent’ described the prison conditions akin to those in the “18th century”, and stated, ” Video conferencing  room, medical room, meeting room have steps leading up and thus are all out of bound if you are on a wheelchair. What option did I have but to allow myself to be lifted like a luggage by fellow inmates!”.

CASE AGAINST DR SAIBABA:

Police have charged Dr Saibaba with being a member of a banned organisation, hatching criminal conspiracy for arranging meetings of urban and the underground cadre in the jungles of Abujmadh forests along Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border as well as forging international links to support the CPI Maoist. Sections  13, 18 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 have been slapped against him.

OPINION: @drramansingh, the collector’s sunglasses are off, what about the blinkers you are wearing?

It took me a while last week to digest the message I had just received. When I did, I was left impressed.

After all, it speaks about the efficiency of an administration when it spots and decides to pull up its senior staffer (that too an Indian Administrative Service officer) for wearing inappropriate clothes and keeping his sunglasses on while receiving someone as up the order as the prime minister.

No sooner did I sit back, feeling good, something else hit me. It was my duty, I felt, to inform such an establishment of what I knew, since my editors have been liberal in allowing me opportunities to report from the conflict zone that the Bastar region is.

So here is my effort to help them.

To begin with, in any insurgency-hit region, the police have to stabilise the situation for the civil administration to come in. Till that happens, vacancies will remain in sectors like education, water supply, medical services, revenue and the like. The impact this has on the public, which is as such, in dire need of basic services, is self-explanatory. This also implies that the only department which does not, and cannot, have vacancies is the police.

Speaking of Bastar, despite the bloody insurgency marauding the inhabitants for nearly two decades, even as on date, the local police department is understaffed. Of the 9,245 police posts sanctioned, 8,214 have been filled up, leaving Bastar understaffed by 1,031 police personnel across ranks. To fill up the void, it must be conceded, the efficient administration announced an initiative in 2013. It appealed to all the existing and retired Indian Army personnel to join its ranks. What better can a challenged police ask for than the trained and disciplined army personnel manning its ranks! But so poorly crafted was the scheme that till date, army headquarters data shows not more than two army personnel have taken up the offer.

Recently, when I was in Dantewada, I sat with a notepad and let jawans from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) speak unhindered (CRPF is the biggest contributor to the anti-Maoist efforts in the region). Before going ahead, what is important to note is that these jawans are operating on the invitation of the state government which sought their presence to counter the Maoists, which in turn, makes the state responsible for providing them with basic amenities like drinking water and accommodation.

The photograph of the camp where I chatted with the jawans speaks volumes of how the administration has treated them. So I will refrain from expending words. It was brought to my notice by these men that many of them have to cheat death just so that they can go on leave. These men, the flag-bearers of the state’s existence in the conflict zone, say the moment they step out of their camps, their force disowns them. They are provided with no facilities to navigate out of the danger zone. Instead, they are to wait for a civil bus to pick them up and take them home – a process in which only recently two policemen have been identified, pulled out and shot dead by the insurgents.

The state of the inhabitants is worse than those posted there for duty.

What this administration deserves to know is that at an average of one per week, at least 21 civilians have been killed, caught in the crossfire between the security agencies and insurgents, since January 1 this year. Add to this the casualties of security personnel and Maoist fighters and the number goes beyond 51 in less than six months. Such is the intensity.

Does it call for a ceasefire? A solid initiative for talks to begin? Many say that if India can talk to Pakistan, China and insurgent groups in the North East, why not with the Maoists? Whether there is merit or not in initiating a dialogue, the fact remains that the administration is not uttering a word. It is as if, normalcy prevails.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), compiled by the Bastar-based Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group has further substance which the administration deserves to look at. The already-crowded prisons of the state are overflowing and the percentage today is more than twice the national average. Bastar’s prisons, most notorious among which is the one at Kanker, have clocked overcrowding of up to 623 per cent. There is data to prove that while in the country overall, an undertrial has to languish for 9.7 months, under the administration in Bastar, an undertrial has to wait for 21.8 months, which is almost two years! All this on one side, and complete acquittals to the extent of 96.2 per cent (as seen in the latest available data of 2013) on the other side, tell you that most of those made to suffer the wait are the local tribals and are seldom convicted.

While my effort is that of informing the administration in the hope that they will focus their attention on these issues, the fact is that today’s government in Chhattisgarh is in its third term. Does that leave chief minister Raman Singh any room to speak about not having enough time on hands?

So while the sunglasses are off, frankly, I am waiting for the administration’s blinkers to go too.

ORIGINAL PIECE APPEARED HERE: http://www.dailyo.in/politics/bastar-raman-singh-dantewada-chhattisgarh-maoism-naxalism-narendra-modi/story/1/3935.html