The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organised a seminar on “The Rising Tide of Maoist Terrorism: Implications for Indian Security” on 17 July 2008. The seminar was chaired by Lt Gen K M Seth (Retd.), former Governor of Chhattisgarh. The panel comprised of Amit Kumar Singh, Research Fellow, CLAWS, Dr. Ajai Sahni, Executive Director, Institute of Conflict Management and Brig B K Ponwar (Retd.), IGP Chhattisgarh and Director, Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker (C G). A large number of serving and retired officers and members of the strategic community attended the seminar. Mr. Mahendra Kumawat, IPS, Special Secretary (Internal Security), MHA, and his colleague Dr. Kashmir Singh also attended the seminar. The salient aspects and issues articulated/discussed during the seminar are given in succeeding paragraphs.
While delivering the welcome address Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Director CLAWS, expressed concern over the growing threat of Naxalite violence and called it the greatest security threat that India is facing. He also highlighted the complexity of the problem, its growing magnitude and adverse implications for national security. He commented upon need for better training of the counter-insurgency forces and welcomed the additional grant that has been sanctioned by the Central Government for setting up six counter–insurgency training schools. He also emphasised the need to share intelligence between various forces.
Amit Kumar Singh, Research Fellow, CLAWS presented a paper titled ‘The Rising Tide of Left Wing Extremism: A Backgrounder.’ While discussing the origin and evolution of Left Wing Extremism in India he identified the major trends in terms of the institutional development, spread, mergers and splits and the level of sophistication in the strategies, equipment and tactics adopted by left wing extremist groups during the various phases of the movement. He pointed out that even while the factors that led to the emergence of the movement remain very much present even today, some factors such as ideology, organisational strength, huge funding, continuous availability of recruits and the lack of an adequately assessed and a coordinated response from the government have provided sustenance to the movement. He also brought to light that the extremists have adopted Mao’s military strategy of Strategic Defence; Strategic Stalemate and Strategic Offensive to realise their ultimate aim of the extremists to uproot the present socio-political set up by capturing political power through the barrel of the gun. He also highlighted the evolving, flexible and adaptive nature of operational concepts and strategies.
While analysing the enormity of threat that the movement poses to Indian state, Amit gave a graphical projection of the number of casualities and the geographical spread of the movement in terms of the number of districts (194) and the number of police stations (231). He posited that the link between the other insurgent groups within India and neighbouring countries with the extremists could have implications on the territorial integrity of India and the stability of the South Asian region as a whole. The movement also poses a threat to the economy, infrastructure and communication lanes of the country. He was of a view that the movement has short-circuited the nation building exercise in a major way.
While analysing the governmental (States and Centre) responses, Amit pointed out that even though the seriousness towards countering the problem has increased, the non-utilisation of funds for police modernisation still continues. He also highlighted the various measures that have been undertaken such as the increased deployment and imparting of relevant training to the security forces and ensuring better coordination and monitoring of the security and developmental efforts. While concluding, Amit emphasised the responsibility of the State to re-enforce the writ of law and provide security of life and property. He also recommended the abolition of vigilante groups and undertaking of administrative, electoral and judicial reforms to make the government machinery professional, accountable and pro-active. He supported the government’s policy of no talks with the Naxals until they lay down arms. He identified the various non-combat roles in which the experience of the armed forces could be harnessed. He emphasized that the police forces must be suitably trained and equipped to handle the growing challenge and the army should not be involved.
Dr. Ajai Sahni made a presentation on ‘Current Counter-insurgency Practices in Naxalites Affected Areas.’ He expressed concern over the government’s unpreparedness to face the Naxal challenge and emphasised the imperative need for capacity augmentation of the counter insurgency forces. In his view there is lack of agreement on the purpose of assessment of the Naxal problem. It is also one of the major reasons for an inadequate response on the part of Government to counter the threat. It has been often found that the awareness levels of the Naxal aims, ideology, strategies and tactics are very low among the state security forces. The incoherence of response and absence of consensus on the strategy among Naxal affected states, inefficient utilisation of the capabilities and resources, poor understanding of the movement, misconceived emphasis on ‘popular resistance’ and the developmental response as an allibi for inaction further weakens the response. Irrational deployment of security forces in difficult terrain leaves the security forces at a disadvantage.
He pointed out that the population-police personnel ratio varies from Bihar 57, Jharkhand 98, Chhattisgarh 131, Orissa 99 and Andhra Pradesh 98 per 1,00,000 population, which is much lower than even peacetime requirements (UN recommended 222). In terms of Police-Area Ratio also, the situation is equally worse among the Naxal affected states. The ratio varies from Bihar 54, Jharkhand 36, Chhattisgarh 22, Orissa 25 and Andhra Pradesh 29 per 100 sq km. He brought out that the major recommendations of the GoM, 2001 and the Saxena committee have not been implemented till date. The latter recommended the intake of 3,000 additional cadres in Intelligence Bureau in 2001. Till date only 1,400 positions have been sanctioned.
The formation of Special Forces on the lines of ‘Grey Hounds’ of Andhra would take its own time and there is no way that such a force could be created all of a sudden. He also pointed out at the growing disillusionment among the CPI (Maoists) in Andhra on the success of Grey Hounds. While substantiating his argument, he stated that the response from the Andhra Government was based on proper assessment and understanding of the Maoists protracted war model. Since the training was for all ranks it gradually led to an upgradation of the response capacities of the district guards and Special Forces battalions. The measures such as fortification of the police stations, dispersal of response capacities across the state, codification of the response protocol, and modernisation would go a long way in enhancing the capabilities of the police forces. He emphasised that ‘You cannot have a first class counter-insurgency response in a third class police force.’
During his presentation ‘The Naxal Challenge’, Brig B K Ponwar (Retd.) stressed the re-orientation of the state and counter insurgency forces to enable them to counter low intensity conflicts. He expressed concern over the fact that the forces involved in countering the Naxals were ill trained and ill-equipped. He emphasised on the imperative need for imparting jungle warfare training to the state forces as that would ultimately enhance the prowess of the state police forces. He recommended training for all age-groups and all ranks. He also pointed out that there is acute shortage of infrastructural facilities in the police stations.
While analysing the threat posed by the Naxalites, he stated that there are around 14,000 regular armed cadres and 50,000 underground cadres. Besides, there are around 1lakh people who are associated with frontal organisations that work for the Naxalites in different parts of the country. During the presentation he elaborated on the various devices and tactics that are adopted by the Naxalites and provided schematic simulations of some of the well known attacks that the Naxalites have perpetrated. He was of the view that at the first instance security forces should move into the infested regions and then various developmental activities could be undertaken. He also took note of the spread of the urban presence of the Naxalites and substantiated his arguments through a display of various local newspaper clippings.
There is a need for a proper understanding of the ideology and strategies of the Naxalites to develop an adequate response mechanism. Better and relevant training would ensure a lesser number of casualities amongst the police forces. He substantiated his argument by a tabular presentation wherein he highlighted the decreasing number of trained security policemen per terrorist/Naxals killed.
Mr. Mahendra Kumawat, IPS, Special Secretary (Internal Security), MHA, stated that the Home Ministry had formulated a strategy to counter the Naxal violence and it is fully prepaired to deal with the problem. The ‘Grey Hound’ experience provides a useful model. He listed the measures that have been taken on the part of the government to tackle the problem. Besides ensuring adequate security and socio-economic development, efforts are being made towards perception management as well. As per the estimates of the Home Ministry, the number of districts actually affected by the Naxal violence in the country is 95 while those influenced by the Naxal number around 231. He brought out that the Naxals are digging their own grave as they are perpetrating violence against the Dalits and the tribals (90 per cent of those who die are either Dalits or tribals). He also expressed concern over the unfilled police vacancies in various Naxal affected states (Bihar has 20,000 vacancies). Besides, there is a lack of proper initiatives to ensure adequate and relevant training. He emphasised the need to create stake-holders in the democracy.
In his concluding remarks Lt Gen KM Seth (Retd), emphasised the need for greater dialogue within the army on the role which it could play in countering the Naxal menace. He also pointed out that the prevalence of poverty among the majority of districts affected by the Naxal violence establishes a direct link between the Naxal menace and the economic deprivation. He recommended that developmental measures such as land reforms and generation of employment opportunities should be taken seriously. There is a need to focus on better utilisation of the developmental funds as well. He pointed out that the unspent funds indicated the prevalence of corruption and lack of political will to tackle the problem pro-actively. He further stated that it is the responsibility of the State Governments to make the government more visible. Analysing the gravity of the threat that the Naxalites pose, he stated that the mindset of the Naxals could be gauged from the participation of Maoists from Bangla Desh and Phillipines in the 9th Congress held in January 2007. He expressed concern over the graduation in the Maoists tactics from the guerrilla to mobile warfare.
Most of the participants agreed with the panelists that the Maoist threat needs to be tackled on a high priority basis before it assumes unmanageable proportions. In his closing remarks, Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Director, CLAWS, emphasised that a cohesive and comprehensive inter-ministerial, inter-departmental and multi-disciplinary strategy is required to be formulated at the national level so as to simultaneously address socio-political, socio-economic and internal security issues that are at the heart of the problem. This was the first in a series of seminars and round-table discussions on ‘Internal Security’ that CLAWS plans to organise.
Compiled by: Amit Kumar Singh, Research Fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS)