Two days ago, in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, the hub of Naxalism, 22 jawans of paramilitary forces were martyred and 31 sustained injuries in a gruesome Naxal attack. On the Naxal side, 15 were killed and 20 were injured, according to reports.
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) have launched an operation against Naxals from five places – Tarrem, Usoor, and Pamed (Bijapur) and Minpa and Narsapuram (Sukma) to wipe out them completely from the state.
For the last five decades, the government is trying to end left-wing extremism with the help of the state police and CRPF, but despite an aggressive approach in the last few years, it has not been able to wipe out Naxalism. The major problem is that the CAPFs are headed by the Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, who are not field experts and are inadequately trained to deal with such security threats. Moreover, IPS officers do not lead anti-Naxal operations on ground causing a leadership crisis that is exploited by the enemy.
Specialised CRPF battalions like the elite CoBRA have gained tremendous experience in dealing with the threat but in the last decade, hundreds of CPRF personnel have been martyred in attacks by Naxalites. This means that the current system of dealing with Naxalites through the CPRF led by IPS officers is not proving to be effective.
To ensure the complete wipeout of left-wing extremism, what India needs is a specialised armed force akin to the Assam Rifles (AR), a time-tested counter-insurgency force that serves in the Northeast and the most decorated Rashtriya Rifles (RR), which serves in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2010, after more than 371 civilians and more than 150 security personnel were martyred in Naxal attacks, it was reported by India Today that the Indian Army is preparing to deploy counter-insurgency specialists in the Naxal affected areas. “The Indian Army is identifying eight battalions or nearly 8000 specialised counter-insurgency troops for deploying against the Naxals in central India,” reported India Today.
However, the idea was repeatedly put on the back burner, time and again, for political reasons and other apprehensions. Now the Union Home Ministry must shed all the baggage to create a specialised unit for an all-out operation against Naxal terrorism.
Anti-Naxal operations should be led by the Indian Army instead of the IPS, and should follow the structure of the Assam Rifles or Rashtriya Rifles. The specialised battalions of the CRPF such as the elite CoBRA or the STF, should be brought under the operational command of the Indian Army. This force may report to the Ministry of Defense (like RR) or the Ministry of Home (like AR) but it needs to be kept at arm’s length from the IPS lobby. This force shall work more efficiently and effectively towards resolutely wiping out the menace of left-wing extremism.