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Endgame: Naxals are not going to vanish overnight; not the way we think

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On 4 April 2021, 250-400 Naxals ambushed a 2059 strong police party near the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh and killed 22 policemen and injured 30 of them. Just seven days before this incident they had killed 5 policemen by blowing their vehicle in Narayanpur. The policemen who were ambushed and killed on 4 April were from CRPF, District Reserve Guard, Cobra Commandos, and STF.

Of course, the senior officers insist that the operation was well planned and there was no negligence but is it true? The Ambush took place in the plains area and the officers say the Naxals were occupying the ridgelines. That is precisely the point, why tactical patrols were not sent to these ridges? Why the entire force was bunched up instead of moving on a broad front? What about drones, and satellite imagery? No wonder every time mistakes are committed but swept under the carpet.

Home Minister Amit Shah had to cut short his election campaign in Assam and rushed to Delhi where he had an immediate meeting with the bosses of police. After this meeting, he said that after 2 May an all-out war will be waged against the Naxals. Why is it that over the last two decades we have been listening to such rhetoric during the regime of various governments at the Centre – without any change in ground realities.

In 2010 in Dantewada Naxals ambushed and killed 76 CRPF jawans. In 2013 policemen were killed by the Naxals in Sukuma. Once again in 2017 Naxals killed 25 CRPF jawans in Chhattisgarh after the Modi Govt came to power in the Centre. In all probability, the latest outburst of our Home minister will end up as yet another rhetoric unless some hard decisions are taken on the ground.

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Yes, there has been some reduction in Naxal activities but they are still going strong in 50 districts of India which is a serious affair.  These Naxals follow Mao, Lenin Marx philosophy, this philosophy itself is now moth-eaten. However, both the central government and state governments have failed to psychologically isolate the Naxals and sow seeds of hatred against them in the minds of the local people? If the bureaucrats in Delhi are to be believed these Naxals are misguided people who will come back to mainstream one day. Nothing of this sort will happen. Naxals have a big stake in keeping tribals away from development. They are the ones responsible for the lack of education facilities, infrastructure, health care in the tribal areas but no one dares to complain because of the fear they generate.

These Naxals are using the jungles, and mining to illegally make money. No government contractor can work in Naxal areas without paying a bribe to Naxals. Local politicians also seek their help to win elections. This is their main source of income and helps them pay for all kinds of sophisticated arms? Such people cannot be dealt with a soft approach, they must be hit hard and where it counts. Just talking to them will get no positive results and Army which is already overstretched with the China-Pakistan nexus cannot be used against them. So what is the answer?

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First and foremost the grip of IPS officers over paramilitary forces like BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, and SSB must be broken. The heads of all these organizations are clueless IPS officers. Why? Why is it that the officer cadre who have served the organization for the past many decades not been found suitable for promotion to head these organizations?

What is the special training of an IPS officer? What knowledge if any do they have of jungle or mountain warfare? Own cadre commanding officers will have a tremendous effect on the morale of these forces. The cadre officer who has gone through thick and thin with the jawans and not just been parachuted to command troops should be selected from these forces and placed under the command of the Army.

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This new organization can also absorb the highly trained manpower of the army who retire young to maintain a young Army. This new organization can be equipped with helicopter gunships and trained in Army training institutions. This new organization must have capable leadership and advisors from Army on jungle and mountain warfare and should only be launched when they are fully ready. They must deal with Naxals ruthlessly without any remorse.

If we are really serious about finishing off Naxals, just military efforts will not help. We must bring in new laws to punish shady politicians who cultivate the Naxals to make money or silence their opponents. We must also target intellectuals and urban Naxals who are as dangerous as field Naxals. These urban Naxals and intellectuals must be put behind bars. Without this all-inclusive effort, the Naxal problem is not going to fade or vanish overnight.

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Brig Arun Bajpai
Brig Arun Bajpai
Defence and Strategic Analyst



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