By Dr Mathew Simon
Assessment of Maoist insurgency in India
Maoist violence on decline: The CPI (Maoist) insurgency or Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in India is on the back foot due to sustained, accelerated pace of security operations conducted by para-military forces and State police agencies. This is evident with decrease in incidents and deaths of LWE related violence as reported in Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Annual Report (2018-19). In 2018, there has been an overall 26.7 per cent reduction in violent incidents (1136 to 833) and 39.5 per cent reduction (397 to 240) in LWE related deaths as compared to 2013. Geographically, the spread of LWE has been shrinking considerably. In 2018, LWE violence was reported from 251 Police Stations (PSs) in 60 districts spread across eight States as compared to 330 PSs in 76 districts spread over 10 States in 2013.
Causes for Maoist contraction: The reasons attributed to decline in LWE violence related incidents and deaths are manifold. These include the declining appeal of ideology and leadership crisis, greater presence and increased capacity of the Security Forces across the LWE affected States, better operational strategy and better monitoring of development schemes in affected areas.
PLGA and its strengths: The main armed wing of Maoists, People Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) estimated strength is that to be around 8,000-9,000. Maoist armed cadre knows how to use crude rockets, pressure activated mines, wireless activated mines, booby traps. They have studied the efficacy of the Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) deployed by the security forces. Maoist weaponry is obtained through weapons loot and snatching of arms & ammunition from Special Forces (SFs). The military armory includes RDX cable wires, gelignite sticks, detonators, country-made weapons, INSAS rifles, AK-47s, SLRs, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC) of the NSG, in a report observed that in 2016, 65 per cent of all IED blasts were triggered by the Maoists using high explosives.
Analysis of deployment of Special Forces in LWE affected districts
Guerrilla warfare tactics: Special Forces are adept in guerrilla warfare tactics and training for the same in terms of capacities and capabilities building are sourced from Central training schools – Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Mizoram (CIJW) and Counter Insurgency Anti-Terrorism School (CIATS), Madhya Pradesh. For instance, Special Task Force (STFs) and District Reserve Guards (DRGs) based in Chhattisgarh have had successful counterinsurgency campaigns in neutralising top leadership of Maoists. There is however a need to incorporate training techniques and strategies of Central Training School and adapt the same to other LWE affected states. The Special Forces given their rigorous training are at a vantage point to grasp and decipher the mindset of a Maoist guerrilla which is not in the case of understaffed, semi-fit police forces.
Successful Ops against Maoists: Since inception of Maoist insurgency in India, there have been successful counter insurgency campaigns, earliest being Operation Steeple Chase in 1970’s to the recent Operation Prahar I and II wherein joint operations were conducted to track the movement of Maoists using high tech gadgets like drones and satellite technologies. Use of night helicopter facilities have aided in the evacuation and rescue of injured soldiers. Such operations are effective in curtailing Maoist web of violence as many of their armed cadres with their ammunition are also duly apprehended. Effective Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) are also conducted by State police forces (Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand) to counter Maoist propaganda to wean village youth from getting indoctrinated into Maoist ideology.
Weaknesses in Campaign against Maoist insurgency
Track and Kill Maoist leaders: Even after half a century of Maoist insurgency, the Central and State Government agencies have not been able to track and wipe out the Maoist leadership. Battalion 1, the special armed squad that protects top Maoist leaders is still like a chameleon that is untraceable in thick forests of Central India.
Lack of in-depth strategic knowledge on Maoist hotbeds: Maoists operate in tough, inhospitable terrains that serve as strong bastions of Maoist. For instance, para-military forces have not gained effective access to Abujmarh forests of Chhattisgarh wherein Maoist activities were reported.
Non adherence and compliance to SOPs: It is observed after review of encounters and battles with Maoist guerrillas, tactical errors were committed and security forces did not strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SoPs) when they undertake joint combing operations.
IEDs are a problem: Maoists have effectively used more IEDs against security forces leading to casualties. It is necessary to counter threats of IEDs by employment of Road Opening Parties (ROPs) and using Ground Penetration Radars (GPRs) for early detection and defusing of IEDs.
-Wiping out Maoist leadership at their core base areas and employment of effective local information network is necessary in order to penetrate the structure and hierarchy of Maoist party and its front organisations. It may be required at a later stage to also create differences within top leadership so as to create confusion in rank and file of Maoist cadre.
-Case may be made out in utilising strategic information as received from surrendered and apprehended Maoists in tactical operations. Those surrendered/apprehended Maoists after due process of de-radicalisation can be used also as role models for tribal youth in local populace.
-Choking Maoist finances through joint coordination of NIA and ED that would complement in disrupting their terror activities and track their sources of arms supplies and locations of ammunition dump would further complement in stopping the financing of Maoist terrorism.
-Discourage the local population of villagers and tribal youth in joining Maoist path by employing effective local governance initiatives through conduct of civic action programmes by paramilitary forces.
–The writer is a Research Analyst at Internal Security Cluster, MP-IDSA. Views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or the Government of India or Raksha Anirveda