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Kanker Ambush on Naxals: India’s Security Forces Must Maintain Their Momentum

The causalities in this operation are, by far, the largest in the history of Naxalism in Central India.

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In an excellently coordinated effort, the Commandos of the Border Security Force (BSF) and The District Reserve Group (DRG) of Chhattisgarh Police neutralised a large number of Naxalites including a few commanders from their ranks on 16 April in Kanker district of Chhattisgarh.

The Naxalites who were camping in their hiding place at the edge of yet unmapped Abujhmad forest were taken by surprise in a rare offensive action by the security forces and suffered heavy causalities. A large cache of modern weapons and ammunition was also recovered from them.

Having learnt the lesson from the ambush by the Naxals in the Jheeram Valley area just before the 2013 elections to the Chhattisgarh Assembly in which the Congress lost its entire leadership, and in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the security forces have increased their operations against the Naxals in respective areas of responsibilities.
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This has put a lot of pressure on the Naxals and they have been compelled to change their location frequently thus, unsettling them. Besides this, the security forces have been progressively increasing their area of domination by gradually advancing and establishing Company Operating Bases (COBs) deeper inside the unmapped jungles, thereby, confining and hampering the free movement of Naxals.

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Largest Anti-Naxal Operation

In addition to the aggressive domination by security forces, the coordination of Intelligence efforts and its dissemination has improved to a great extent in recent times. This has led to the neutralisation of a large number of Naxals in the past few months.

The causalities in this operation, however, are by far, the largest in the history of Naxalism in Central India.
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It is apparent that the success of the operation on 16 April could happen only because of the timely intelligence inputs provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) by tracking their movement through satellite.

The intelligence inputs indicated the presence of a large group of Naxals in the area from 5 April onwards. The police and other stakeholders were kept regularly updated about the movement of this group. Based on these specific inputs, the troops on the ground planned the operation meticulously and implemented the tactics imbibed in the training area to effective use.

The level of coordination achieved and minimal causalities to the security forces involved in the operation and consequent moral ascendency achieved by the security forces must be exploited by them to further push the Naxals back and assist the civil administration in establishing normalcy.

Even though this heavy loss to the Naxals will adversely affect their morale, the security forces cannot afford to rest on their laurels and become complacent as the Naxals smarting with the setback will be on the lookout for revenge through some spectacular action.
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What Must Be the Line of Action for the Security Forces?

The security forces have their task cut out in the near term, that of assisting the administration in the smooth conduct of elections. They, therefore, must not let their guard down and work hard to retain the momentum achieved.

They must continue to dominate aggressively to prevent Naxals from causing any damage or interfering with the election process. It is particularly important for the additional forces being inducted in the area to ensure free and fair elections because they will not be familiar with the area and the threat posed by the Naxals.

The forces already deployed here, therefore, must facilitate the induction of these troops.

In the long term, however, it is important to supplement the work of security forces with people-centric actions as their task is limited to bringing down the levels of violence to manageable limits so that civil administration and the government can work on redressing the grievances of locals.
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Recent successes of security forces in the Naxal-affected area having laid the foundation it is time for people-centric actions to be implemented in full earnest.

The "National Strategy and Action Plan to address LWE”, initiated in 2015, also calls for a multi-dimensional strategy to tackle the problem including security measures, launching development projects, and defending the rights of locals.

So far as security-centric actions are concerned, the affected states have to be helped to modernise their police because it is they who are at the forefront of fighting an insurgency on a day-to-day basis.

Paramilitary forces cannot be deployed forever. The funding of police under the head Security Related Expenditure for modernisation, surrender, Relief, and Rehabilitation package, therefore, has to be enhanced. Secondly, the slow widening of the area of domination by SFs as stated above must be speeded, and the presence of forces deployed to cover the entire affected area besides focussing on coordination of Intelligence collection through structures like – Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and state-level MAC.

The extensive road network created must be further extended to enable better mobility of police and paramilitary forces. Also, better communication through establishing several Mobile towers must be ensured.

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The Importance of People-Centric Action

Other components of security-centric strategy referred to by the acronym SAMADHAN (Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation, and training, Actionable Intelligence, Dashboard-based key result areas, and key performance indicators, Harnessing technology, Action plan for each theatre, No access to financing).

The security forces have the task of implementing this strategy through specialised training and empowering their personnel and leadership.

Developmental works in the Naxal-affected area to defeat their ideology come under the ambit of people-centric action. These should be prioritised and expedited. Poverty and exploitation have to be removed by making the presence of the state felt in the remotest parts.
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For the tribals, the state existed only in violent and exploitative form – forest guards and police exploited them. Hence, the image of the state has to be brought up in a positive frame. The state must correct the situation by investing more funds in healthcare, skill development (Aspirational District Schemes), education, opening girls’ hostels, etc in order to improve the Human Development Index in the area.

Settling the entitlements and rights of Jal, Jungle, and Jameen is another important step required to resettle 20 million tribals unsettled because of mining operations by the state and private industry.

Grievances and sense of injustice amongst tribals on account of this must be addressed expeditiously through proper implementation of existing legal provisions like the Forest Rights Act of 2006, The Land Acquisition Act of 2013, and the extension of PESA (Panchayat Extension Act) which provides that Adivasi hamlets are the primary stakeholders or owners of land and they cannot be displaced without their vote. These provisions have been implemented by states in some measures. However, more needs to be done.

Needless to say, excellent coordination amongst forces, besides timely and accurate intelligence led to this massive success against Naxals on 16 April. The planning and conduct of this operation must be studied thoroughly and made into a case study to impart training for best practices to be adopted in such operational environment.

As stated above, the forces, however, cannot afford to be complacent. A long-term strategy needs to be put in place in order to resolve the protracted problem and bring normalcy to the troubled region.

(Sanjiv Krishan Sood (Retd) has served as the Additional Director General of the BSF and was also with the SPG. He tweets @sood_2. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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