Anti-Naxal ground offensive begins
Posted by Admin on January 3, 2010
Vivek Deshpande ,Joseph John,Raghvendra Rao
NAGPUR/RAIPUR/NEW DELHI The first major, concerted ground offensive against Naxalites has started with police forces in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh launching a joint operation.
The initial stage of this offensive — kept in abeyance for the end of the Jharkhand elections — includes searching for Naxals in the interiors of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and in Maoist-dominated areas of Chhattisgarh.
It was launched on December 25 as part of what is being termed as Police Week (December 25 to January 1), sources said. It’s is for the first time that something like a Police Week is being observed in these areas.
On December 24, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had met Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police (DGPs) of five Naxal-affected states in New Delhi. Following this, the Centre plans to move in 33 battalions (almost 33,000 personnel) of Central paramilitary forces in these states as part of the “offensive.”
The Centre, however, is maintaining that it’s only providing assistance to the states and not piloting the operations.
For the record, CRPF’s Special DG Vijay Raman, commanding the anti-Naxal operations, told The Indian Express: “There is nothing like starting or end of an operation. It’s on since (the) beginning itself.”
But sources said the operation is being conducted jointly by the CRPF, regular Gadchiroli police, the Special Action Group (SAG) created specially for anti-Naxal operations in Maharashtra, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), BSF and the regular Chhattisgarh police.
The ITBP and BSF have taken up positions at strategic locations in the forest areas of Rajnandgaon and Kanker districts in Chhattisgarh, cutting off supply lines of Maoists from Maharashtra.
The forces are trying to establish their dominance in this area, which had seen a major attack on security forces in July last year, in which 32 security personnel, including Superintendent of Police V K Choubey, had lost their lives. DG Raman has already visited these areas.
Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Vishwaranjan said the objective of the joint operation by the state and Central forces was to station security forces in the area for a “reasonable period” to allow the civil administration take up development initiatives there. However, there will be surgical strikes wherever necessary.
Confirming that Maoist supply lines have been cut off at many places, he refused to divulge details, saying “you will come to know about it once the forces make advancements”.
The plan is to extend the operation further to Jharkhand, now that the state has a government. “Taking the state government on board is mandatory,” officials said.
While forces were deployed immediately after the Maharashtra Assembly elections two months ago, they have been using the time till now to get acclimatised to the terrain and conducting their operations separately. The past few days they started long range patrols (LRP) deep into the interiors.
Officials claim the Naxals are feeling the heat. “This is seen from the appeal to lower-rung policemen and officials to revolt against their superiors, with Naxals calling them fellow-sufferers,” said an official. He also claimed that while they had plans for a big strike during the recently concluded winter session of Maharashtra Legislature at Nagpur, they backtracked because of forces sealing off the entire area.
The Centre, as per information available with The Indian Express, has already increased the numbers of Central Paramilitary (CPMFs) for deployment in the Naxal-affected states from 37 battalions to 58 battalions over the past few months, an increase of 21,000 personnel.
While 25 Central paramilitary battalions have been positioned in Chhattisgarh, another 11 have been provided to Jharkhand. West Bengal
has been given five battalions of CPMFs while Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar have got four battalions each.
Maharashtra has been provided with three battalions of Central forces while Madhya Pradesh and UP have been sanctioned one battalion each. As per the Centre’s assessment, the gravest Naxal threat is being faced in Chhattisgarh and that’s reflected in the number of Central forces sent to this state.
Significantly, 49 of the 58 battalions deployed for these operations belong to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) with the remaining nine belonging the Border Security Force (five battalions) and Indo Tibetan Border Police (four battalions). The Centre, sources said, has also decided to use the specialized Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) during this offensive. EI