Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Dornapal (Chhattisgarh), Feb 17 : By bombing hundreds of schools since 2005, Maoist militants have taken a heavy toll on education in Chhattisgarh, officials say.
"Education and children's life have been severely hit in Bastar's interiors, militancy has virtually destroyed school education in vast areas where schools were either blown up or a majority of teachers refused to attend schools due to risks to their lives," Raja Toram, a teacher based in this small town in Dantewada district, some 500 km south of capital Raipur, told IANS.
The mineral-rich Bastar region spread over about 40,000 sq km in the south of the state has witnessed over 1,500 casualties in Maoist violence since 2005 and at least 440 school buildings have been bombed by Maoist rebels after the government started to use the buildings as temporary shelters for securitymen.
Officials estimate that Maoist militancy has denied at least 100,000 children access to primary education since 2005 in Bastar, especially after a government-backed controversial civil militia movement, Salwa Judum, started against the guerrillas in June 2005.
Bastar -- termed the nerve centre of Maoist militancy in India -- has five districts, Bastar, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker. After the birth of Salwa Judum, a large number of troopers occupied the school buildings for anti-Maoist drives and the rebels retaliated by targeting schools.
School teacher Toram said that Maoists were making the most of children's lack of access to education by forcibly recruiting into their ranks those who had dropped out. The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has a children's unit called Bal Sangham.
Dantewada district Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra said: "Militancy has surely affected education. Dozens of schools based in forest areas were blown off by militants though schools that come under the 'war zone' are being relocated to Salwa Judum base camps or areas where schools can be protected by forces. But attendance has dropped heavily."
Om Prakash, sub-divisional police officer at Dornapal -- an area which witnessed a string of deadly attacks by Maoists since 2005 -- remarked: "Children's life and their education have been really the worst hit since 2005; the primary school students are not enjoying education at relief camps under security cover as they earlier were in their villages."
He added: "The whole educational system in interiors has been devastated; Maoists are taking advantage of the situation and persuading parents to send their kids to Bal Sangham for which recruitment age starts at six."
The NGO Human Rights Watch released a book in July 2008, titled "Being Neutral Is Our Biggest Crime". It had two chapters - one called "Recruitment and Use of Children" and the other "Impact of the Conflict on Education".
The book says: "Naxalites (Maoists) usually enlist children between ages six and 12 into Bal Sanghams, the village level children's association where children learn Maoist ideology. Most children who are part of Bal Sanghams also work as informers and are trained in the use of non-lethal weapons such as sticks..."
"In some cases, Naxalites approach parents and pressure them to send their children to join the 'people's war'. In other cases, Naxalites visit schools and ask children to join them."
Quoting a former Maoist leader, Subha Atish, the book said: "They go to school and ask children to join a dalam (unit). This has happened in the Jagargonda area."
Jagargonda, in Dantewada district, is near Dornapal, where the state's most populous Salwa Judum camp houses over 10,000 residents who have fled their villages, plus a Central Reserve Police Force company to guard them.
Authorities deny that the presence of troopers is affecting studies. "At present, there are security forces staying in around 40 schools. Of them, 18 are schools where classes are going on at the same time. The other 22 are school buildings that had already been damaged after being bombed by Maoists and no classes could be held there any way," a Dantewada district official said.
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NEW DELHI—India's home minister Tuesday condemned an attack by Maoist rebels on a military outpost in eastern India that killed 24 soldiers and injured three.
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Charred remains of the police camp ambushed by suspected Maoist rebels at Shilda.
The attack by the Naxalites on a paramilitary outpost near a rural market in the eastern state of West Bengal inflicted one of the highest number of casualties in a single-day on the Indian security forces battling the rebels, officials said. The severity of the attack underscored the challenges facing the ruling Congress party-led government in taming the rising insurgency.
The attack Monday was "another outrageous attempt by the banned organization to overawe the established authority," Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said in a statement. He called on Indian citizens to condemn the violence and to help end "the menace of Naxalism, and bring development and progress to the people in the conflict zones."
In the past, Mr. Chidambaram has said the government is ready for talks with the rebels should they give up the use of violence.
A top Maoist leader who called local media late Monday to claim responsibility for the attack, said his group was ready to start talks with the government if it ended its offensive against the rebels.
The latest attack showed the audacity and change in tactics by the Naxalites, even as the government has ratcheted up its offensive against the insurgents over the past year.
"It was the first kind of attack with so much planning and firepower that we witnessed from them," said Pandey Santosh, additional superintendent of police for West Medinipur.
A group of 100 armed Maoists in plainclothes mingled with the local market crowd Monday, then laid siege to the makeshift paramilitary camp there, where about 60 paramilitary personnel were resting after the day's patrol.
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An officer carries his colleague's belongings from a military outpost that was attacked by Maoist rebels in Silda village.
"They threw grenades from all sides before the forces could think of retaliating," Mr. Santosh said. He said the insurgents sped off in motorcycles and vans before disappearing into a nearby forest.
In recent years, the Naxalites, who advocate the overthrow of the Indian government, have made significant inroads in the center and south of the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Naxalism the biggest internal-security challenge India faces.
The government has deployed an increasing number of security forces to fight the Naxalites and regain territory lost to them.
The death toll in the insurgency rose 36% to 1,125 in 2009, compared with the year earlier, according to India's Ministry of Home Affairs. Last week, Mr. Chidambaram said it was possible the trend of rising casualties would continue this year, too.
Medinipur is one of the three districts of West Bengal with a heavy Naxalite presence. West Bengal is the home to the Naxalites. The movement derives its name from the Naxalbari village in West Bengal, where it began as a peasants' uprising in the late 1960s.
Write to Krishna Pokharel at email@example.com
NEW DELHI: While most Naxal-affected states are getting their act together, West Bengal seems to lack political will and a professional force to face a determined foe with the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in west Midnapore having presented rampaging Left ultras with virtually no resistance.
The 24 jawans of the West Bengal paramilitary force died on Monday without a fight as they were swamped by 100-odd Maoists who struck the camp with grenades and automatic fire. The easy entry to the camp and total surprise are explained by a pervasive lack of security at its boundaries and absence of any lookouts. ( Watch Video )
There was, shockingly, just one sentry on duty and the camp had no watch towers or sand bags. It is not clear whether there were any efforts to tap locals in the area, particularly adjoining the camp, to provide a warning about any threatening presence in a district known to be highly unsafe and trouble-prone.
According to the incident's preliminary report and officers familiar with the events, the weapons were not in reach of the jawans, who were pretty much cannon fodder. Inquiries have been initiated about when the camp was last visited by a senior officer and if a security audit was conducted.
Armed with sophisticated weapons, Maoists came on motorcycles and four-wheelers including a Bolero, triggered explosions near the Silda camp and barged in. There were over 50 jawans who were either "whiling away their time in the camp or busy in the kitchen". This may have been routine activity, but their weapons were not in reach and there were almost no sentries.
An official wondered how use of four-wheelers by Naxals — noticed for the first time in the area — and the clear evidence of some planning could have been missed by the local intelligence. In this context, central officials are also mystified by the free run enjoyed by top Maoist commander Kishenji in West Bengal. On at least two occasions, raiding parties have been called off at the last minute.
It is being felt that the political resolve in countering Maoists is still missing and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's preoccupations may not allow sufficient time for details of law and order. The CM also holds the home portfolio.
In Kishanji's case, his frequent use of phones to speak to media makes his presence even more puzzling. While the West Bengal government has shed its earlier view that Maoists are not really the same as terrorists or militants, a pervasive lack of professionalism seems to be at the root of continued slackness even as the ultras have hardly disguised their deadly intent.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) not being followed, poor training and absence of senior officers in dangerous areas were amply on display at Silda. The incident report shows the arms were neither secured nor were they accessible.
At the time of the attack, the camp leader — a sub-inspector rank officer — was not even present.
The number of casualties among security personnel jumped substantially in 2009 when as many as 317 personnel — mostly jawans — were killed in various incidents in as many as seven states.
Calling it a case of pure "unprofessionalism", officials in the home ministry pointed out that though the area was quite vulnerable to such attacks, the state police did not show any care in deployment.
"There was no proper guard, the camp was not adequately barricaded, and even their toilets were used by general public. All this was against basic police norms and SOPs meant for them in Naxal-infested zones," said a senior official.
"We need 10,000 to 15,000 additional paramilitary personnel for deployment in the four states," the official said. Currently, nearly 75,000 personnel are deployed in seven states for anti-Naxal operations.
Violation of SOP is, however, not the states' feature only. Central paramilitary forces too had lost lives due to their mistakes. The BSF had lost its jawans in Jharkhand during parliamentary election last year when they had used heavy vehicles to cross areas prone to landmines.
Similarly, the CRPF had to lose a number of lives four years ago in Chhattisgarh where the personnel overcrowded the Mine-Proof Vehicle leading to over 20 casualties in a landmine blast. Most of the jawans were killed as they did not wear helmets, disregarding the SOP.
Published: February 17 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 17 2010 02:00
Nestled against the forest, the bucolic villages of India's Kanker district are tidy clusters of mud-walled homes whose inhabitants eke out an existence by cultivating small patches of land and going to the forest to collect the tendu leaves used for traditional Indian cigarettes, known as bidis .
Yet behind the tranquil facade, Kanker's villagers are living in the grip of fear, caught between the radical leftwing Naxal guerrilla movement and government forces intent on quashing a spreading rebellion that has become one of India's main security -concerns.
That dilemma is being echoed in rural areas across vast swathes of India, where New Delhi has begun more frequently to use para-military force to challenge the hold of the Naxalites over far-flung corners long neglected by the state machinery.
The government launched Operation Green Hunt last year, sending battle-hardened paramilitary forces from Kashmir to bolster beleaguered and poorly trained police forces trying to dislodge the guerrillas.
On Monday, Maoists proved what tough adversaries they are when they attacked a paramilitary police camp in West Bengal, killing about 24 soldiers and injuring seven others. Bhupinder Singh, West Bengal's police chief, blamed residents for failing to warn security forces of the attack.
"As security operations expand across several affected states, we will find more and more villagers caught between security forces and the Naxals," says Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch. "In this kind of situation, there is never a middle. People are forced to take sides."
The Naxalites, named after Naxalbari, the village in West Bengal where their movement was born in 1967, have established a firm hold over Kanker district and the thickly forested, sparsely populated swathe of mineral-rich Chhattisgarh state in which it lies.
They have established groups of supportive villagers, called sanghams , to serve as their eyes and ears. At covert public meetings, the rebels, from the Communist Party of India (Maoist), denounce New Delhi's policies - especially plans to expand mining - and warn villagers against joining the police forces.
Each month, the Maoists, who have carried out detailed socio-economic surveys of the villages and their inhabitants, demand monthly payments and food from each family, requiring those with public sector jobs, such as school teachers, to give the most. Some teachers pay as much as Rs1,500 ($32, €24, £21).
Beatings of dissenters, rumoured killings of suspected police informers and fear that children will be forcibly taken to be Maoist cadres help keep Kanker's villagers compliant. Yet there is little doubt that the rebels' denunciations of New Delhi and its policies also resonate with many.
"Some of what they said is right," says one villager, who has attended two recent meetings, in which the Maoists attacked the Steel Authority of India Ltd and its huge steel plant in Chhattisgarh for "cheating" local people and criticised plans to expand mining in the state. "We should not sell our iron ore to other countries."
As the Maoists woo villages with their potent messages, police are stepping up their own surveillance of Kanker, visiting villages more often and offering to solve local problems. Yet rather than instilling confidence in state power, the visits merely create anxiety.
"We do not allow the police to sit in anyone's house," says one villager, who, like others interviewed, so feared retribution from one side or the other that he requested that neither he nor his village be identified. "We make them sit in the square, so nobody can be blamed for being a police informer."
The Naxalites have expanded their footprint across remote, inaccessible parts of rural India over several decades, taking advantage of local grievances and the vacuum left by a detached state architecture. The so-called "Red Corridor" now stretches from West Bengal - the site of Monday's assault - across Jharkhand, Bihar, mineral-rich Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra. Many of the guerrilla movement's university-educated leaders come from Andhra Pradesh, which was a Maoist stronghold in the 1990s before an aggressive state offensive pushed them out.
Today, no place is as crucial to the guerrillas as their so-called liberated area in the forests of Chhattisgarh, where autho-rities say leftist cadres from all over India are trained in hidden jungle bases.
The first rebels to enter the region's forests in the 1980s won popular support by protecting residents against aggressive government forest guards and helping them secure better prices for the tendu leaves they sold to the bidi industry. Many villagers later joined - or were forced to join - the movement as full-time cadres.
But over the years, unhappy at the Maoists' efforts to halt the traditional animist spiritual practices of local tribes, and at mounting violence against traditional leaders and other dissenters, many locals have turned sour towards the guerrillas.
Security forces are slowly pushing into Maoist-held areas to battle the rebels, though local human rights groups accuse them of slaughtering innocent civilians then branding them as Naxal rebels.
Security forces deny any intentional wrongdoing. But the allegations have risen all the way to New Delhi and India's Supreme Court, where a group of tribal villagers from Chhattisgarh were brought this week to testify in a case accusing security forces of massacring nine civilians in Gompad village in October.
Standing barefoot outside the courtroom, the illiterate villagers, including one who had been shot in the leg, looked stunned by the roar of Delhi's traffic and the swirl of black-robed lawyers. Inside, lawyers bickered over who should translate the accounts of the villagers, who speak only a tribal language called Gondi.
Himanshu Kumar, the activist behind the case, argued that the interpreter offered by the government was too close to the police. Mr Kumar, who speaks Gondi, was proposed, but state lawyers called him a Maoist sympathiser.
When the villagers were finally asked about the events of October, they said they had no idea who killed their relatives.
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NEW DELHI: The Centre and Congress appear to be perfecting the art of buck passing. While the Centre said that the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR)
was not adequately trained or prepared to meet the Maoist challenge, Congress said since law and order is a state subject, it was West Bengal’s responsibility.
The two explanations are unlikely to wash as it was only on February 9 that home minister P Chidambaram travelled to Kolkata to review the Lalgarh as well as inter-state operations across four states including West Bengal. The preparedness of the forces was obviously the key issue at the meeting. Given this, it is quite bizarre that the Centre did not point out EFR’s inadequacies in taking on Naxals. Anxious to fend off charges that the Centre is not in control of the situation, the home ministry gave several explanations for the massacre at Midnapore.
Congress, which followed suit, said law and order was a state subject. “The state government should be more vigilant as law and order is their primary responsibility,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said. Congress also said the state and the Centre should work in tandem to meet the Maoist threat.
Meanwhile, Mr Chidambaram lashed out at the benefactors of Naxalites in the ‘civil rights’ corner and said it was time that they broke silence over terror unleashed by Red thugs. “I know that the overwhelming majority in this country will condemn the mindless violence unleashed by CPI (Maoist) and will support the careful, controlled and calibrated efforts being taken by the central and state governments to put an end to the violence.
However, I would like to hear the voices of condemnation of those who have, erroneously, extended intellectual and material support to CPI (Maoist). It is only if the whole country rejects the preposterous thesis of the CPI (Maoist) and condemns the so-called “armed liberation struggle” that we can put an end to the menace of Naxalism and bring development and progress to the people in the conflict zones,” Mr Chidambaram said in a statement.
Mr Chidambaram is not off the mark as not a peep has been heard from the civil rights alarmists who flood TV studios and other available fora to vent their anger against the police. On his part, the home minister described the attack as yet another attempt banned organisation to “overawe the established authority in the state”.
Launching a manhunt for the attackers, the state police said motorcycle-borne Naxals from neighbouring Jharkand sneaked in to execute the daring strike. Three persons have been arrested, an official said.
Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen admitted there was some failure on the part of intelligence and security forces, "May be there was lapse on their part", he said.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram described the attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles(ERF) camp in Shilda in West Midnapore district, 170 km from Kolkata, last evening as outrageous and accepted there were indications of "failure" in some aspects which only a detailed review would reveal.
NEW DELHI: With Maoists continuing their killings with impunity, Union home minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday accepted that there were indications of "failure" (on the part of the state police) in some aspects and appealed to the ultras' sympathisers to condemn such acts.
"While there are indications of failure in some aspects, only a thorough review will reveal how the police camp with adequate strength was overrun, when there was daylight, by the CPI (Maoist)," he said while condemning the incident of the Silda camp attack in West Bengal.
Chidambaram, who spoke to state chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said the attack was "another outrageous attempt by the banned organisation to overawe the established authority in the State".
"Every attack of this kind exposes the true nature and character of the CPI (Maoist)... Their weapon is violence. No organisation or group in a democratic republic has the right to take to violence to overpower the established legal authority," he said, criticising a number of "well meaning organizations" that find "legitimacy" in the armed struggle by CPI (Maoists).
The home minister said: "I know that the overwhelming majority in this country will condemn the mindless violence unleashed by the CPI (Maoist) and will support the careful, controlled and calibrated efforts being taken by the Central and state governments to put an end to the violence. However, I would like to hear the voices of condemnation of those who have, erroneously, extended intellectual and material support to the CPI (Maoist)."
NAXAL MENANCE: The Naxal gunned down 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles on Monday.
New Delhi: A day after 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFT) were gunned down brutally by the Naxals in West Bengal, Home Minister P Chidambaram is angry and has taunted the Left leaning intelligentsia which continues to lend moral support to the Naxal violence.
“I would like to hear the voices of condemnation of those who have, erroneously, extended intellectual and material support to the CPI (Maoist), “ said Chidambaram
However, Chidambaram's angry outburst came when even Supreme Court joined the long civil rights chorus that the action against Naxals should not be treated as a full-fledged war.
“It's not a war. They are just citizens of this country. Some of the reports appearing in the media are disturbing. Over 2 lakh people have been displaced in this fight. Where will they go? What will they grow,” asked The apex court.
The court was hearing a petition on the alleged revenge killings of 12 tribals by security forces in Gompad village of Dantewada district last year.
The apex court rued there has been very little development in the Naxal affected areas
“So much is said about the steps taken by the law enforcing agency. But what about the other steps that are being taken,” observed the court.
The court's observation seems to have sharpened the attack on the government by its critics
Human rights activist Colin Gonsalves said, “It’s like a general marching into battle with tanks and saying lets have peace. How can you go into battle saying that. You want to lead the country into war, do that. I am not part of that war from neither side.''
BANGALORE: In what might come as a rare silver lining for the government in its war against Maoist insurgency, the youth belonging to the Naxal-hit states, who were hitherto adverse to joining the country's armed forces, are now looking forward to a career in the Indian Army.
Ravished by the inconsistencies of life and with no future to look forward, youth in some of the worst Naxalaffected states in the country like Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand have been turning out in large numbers at the army recruitment rallies conducted even in regions where left-wing extremism thrives.
Adjutant General Lt Gen Mukesh Sabharwal, who was in the city to attend the 26th annual recruitment seminar of the Indian Army, said the encouraging response from the youth in these states was surprising.
“Most of the youth living in these regions have not seen the outside world. They have been literally living in a cocoon and now they are coming out which is very good as they not only get employment and a meaning full life to live but can also back and manage others to join the army,” he said.
The Recruitment Directorate (Bihar and Jharkhand) witnessed an overwhelming response at the recruitment rallies held in Nothian and Jamalpur in which around 8317 and 5982 candidates turned out respectively.
Similarly at Chhattisgarh the allotted 2 per cent recruitment quota for the state was completely filled.
“A lot of promotional activity was done by the government in the way of distributing study materials which has helped us to get the youth to attend the recruitment rallies at some of the worst affected regions like Ambikapur, Bastar and Jugdalpur,” said Col JS Gujral, director, Recruitment, Chhattisgarh.
There is a similar response from the youth in the trouble torn regions of Jammu and Kashmir and the North East said the Adjutant General.
On Karnataka he expressed satisfaction over the levels of recruitment in Karnataka but said that the targets were not met under the technical entry scheme.
On the steps taken to overcome shortage of Officers in the Indian Army, he said that Army would encourage Short Service Commission wherein the youth can serve about 10-14 years and then take up other jobs.
He also said that the involvement of senior officers in the Sukhna land scam was an aberration which will not have any impact on the youth in joining the Indian Army.
First Published : 17 Feb 2010 04:16:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 17 Feb 2010 08:55:00 AM IST
BHUBANESWAR: After the Pune blast and the Maoist attack in West Bengal, the State Government is apparently taking no chances. It has decided to upgrade security at important installations and launch offensive against the Maoists at the earliest.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the situation at a high level meeting here on Tuesday. Director-General of Intelligence Prakash Mishra told mediapersons after the meeting that Orissa is not opposed to the joint operation to be launched against the Left Wing extremists (LWEs).
Operation Green Hunt will be launched as soon as the paramilitary forces arrive. The first batch of five battalions of paramilitary forces will be deployed in South Orissa.
The security forces in Orissa have been alerted following the Maoists’ attack in West Bengal.
Mishra said the incident took place as the forces were in a place which was not secured properly. Orissa has fortified the places in which the striking forces are deployed.
On the situation at K Balang in Sundargarh district where panic-stricken villagers have been sheltered in makeshift camps for fear of Naxal attack, Mishra said people did not return to their villages as the situation has not improved. After deployment of more paramilitary forces, they will return.
Mishra said people squatting in front of the police station were expected to return to the villages on Tuesday. But they could not do so because of inadequate number of security forces.
Chief Secretary T K Mishra said that progress in the recruitment of security personnel, police training and security were reviewed. Describing the meeting as routine, Mishra said that steps to further upgrade the security system in the State were discussed.
Faced with terror and naxals para-military forces too show keen interest in acquiring new arms and technologies
What 9/11 did to the US homeland security, 26/11 had done to internal security scenario in India.
The security forces are fast realizing that the threat to inland targets is much more real than on the borders. Apart from their terror perception, the Mumbai terrorist strikes of 26/11 have also changed the shopping style of the para-military and police forces. At least the ongoing Defexpo suggests a similar shift.
While the armed forces still remain the biggest stakeholders, state police forces and Central Para-Military Forces (CPMF) have sneaked into the growing market of security equipments in last few years.
A status check with some of the prominent defence equipment manufacturers exhibiting their products in the exhibition clearly showed that police forces across the country will soon grab the biggest pie of the industry. Sources also revealed that with government accepting left wing extremism as the biggest security threat and the demand for advanced technology for police and para-military forces is all set to touch new highs.
"The possibility of military confrontation with any country has gone down but the concept of homeland security is expanding," said an official from Ministry of Defence.
Para-military forces and state police forces have shown keen interest in acquiring state of the art bulletproof jackets, helmets, Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV), Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) and night vision devices.
Realizing the shift in the market pattern Indian manufactures also geared up meet the growing demand. While almost all the state police forces engaged in naxal warfare are procuring bullet proof jackets the demand for high end equipments like mine protected vehicles too is rising.
Mahindra Defence Systems, which unveiled its MPV is also looking forward to orders from para-military and police forces. The company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Qhutube Hai said security agencies under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are showing tremendous interest in their products.
Besides Mahindra Defence Systems, Ashoka Leyland and Tata Industries have also launched their MPVs and are looking forward to buyers from CPMFs and police forces.
"The defence market is no more a defence market; it has become a security market which is providing equipments and services for armed forces and central para military as well as police forces," said Deba R Mohanty, senior fellow and a prominent defence analyst from Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
"Currently the products in the defence and security market are being diversified to cater to the need of para-militaries and police forces also. Many systems used by the police and para-militaries and conventional armed forces are similar in nature like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and MPVs," he added.
While Naxal-affected states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal are taking the lead, other states are also showing keen interest in such systems. "MHA has issued a tender for 59,000 bulletproof jackets while we have already provided jackets to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Gujarat governments," said a senior official from MKU Pvt Limited, manufacturers of bulletproof jackets and night vision devices.
New Delhi/Kolkata: With circumstances pointing to the fact that the latest Maoist attack in West Bengal – that led to the killing of 24 jawans - was all but waiting to happen, the Centre and the state government seem to have woken up to the need to review their anti-Naxal strategy.
It has emerged that the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in Silda, West Midnapore had no sentries to guard the entrances; there were no watchtowers; the surrounding fence had one entire side missing; was located in the premises of a health centre in a crowded marketplace; and even had a toilet meant for use by the public – a perfect recipe for the Maoists to come and over-run the camp.
The 24 jawans of the paramilitary force had perished without giving a fight as 100-odd Maoists, who came on motorcycles and four-wheelers, swamped the camp with grenades and automatic fire.
The jawans were only sitting ducks for the attackers, as their weapons were not in reach and some of them were not even in uniform.
According to officials, most of the over 50 jawans present at the camp were either "whiling away their time in the camp or busy in the kitchen" at the time of the attack. What made matters worse was the fact that the jawans had not been taught the basics of guerrilla warfare.
The camp’s leader, a sub-inspector rank officer, was also away when his colleagues came under attack.
Even Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has expressed shock at the lapses, telling a newspaper: “If a police camp becomes a picnic spot, such a thing is bound to happen.”
Officials in the Home Ministry described the entire incident as a case of pure "unprofessionalism", saying the state police failed to secure the camp while fully knowing it was vulnerable to such attacks.
Home Minister P Chidambaram too yesterday admitted that there had been lapses in the Silda camp attack
West Bengal Home Secretary Ardhendu Sen has already admitted that there was an “intelligence failure”. State DGP Bhupinder Singh too acknowledged there were “lapses”.
The state government is also due to submit a detailed report on the attack to the Centre today.
“The Union Home Secretary has asked for a detailed report from us. We will send it by Wednesday. There might be an intelligence failure on the part of the police,” Sen said.
Meanwhile, investigations so far into the attack have hinted that the Maoists who attacked the camp came from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, while Lalgarh units gave them “local support”. There are also reports of the attack squad consisting of women fighters.
The final toll in the attack stands at 25 as a villager also died after being caught in the cross-fire during Monday’s attack.
Posted: Wednesday, Feb 17, 2010 at 0323 hrs
A team of Left Front ministers led by State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta bore the brunt of the anger of Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) personnel and their family members at Salua near Kharagpur, the base camp of the state paramilitary forces, over yesterday’s Naxal attack.
The ministers had gone to Salua to attend the funeral ceremonies of the EFR personnel killed in the attack at Silda in West Midnapore. Besides Dasgupta, the team comprised Minister for Disaster Management Murtaza Hussain (Forward Bloc), Minister for Civil Defence Srikumar Mukherjee (CPI), Minister for Sports Kanti Ganguly (CPM) and Minister for Fisheries Kiranmoy Nanda (Socialist Party).
As soon as the ministers reached the Salua camp, the policemen and their families surrounded them and demanded that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should come and apologise for the incident.
“Our husbands are over 40 years old and they do not have any training in fighting Maoists. Why are they being sent there to become sitting ducks? We want the Chief Minister to come here and give us an answer,” said Basanti Chhetri, the wife of an EFR policeman.
The crowd did not pay any heed to the ministers’ appeals to maintain calm. The ministers were then escorted to a government office in Salua, where they remained holed up till late at night, with a large contingent of policemen being deployed to guard them.
When last month Union home minister P Chidambaram wrote a letter to West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regarding the seriousness of Maoist challenge and the deteriorating situation in the state many in the Writers Building in Kolkata were fuming. Bhattacharjee himself chose to publicly rebuke Chidambaram. But with the brutal massacre of about two dozen police personnel in West Midnapur on Monday it will be difficult for him to answer questions.
There are issues of ill-preparedness of police and deployment of forces without fortified structures. But most important is the question as to why is the state, which most effectively controlled naxalite movement in 1970’s, almost shivering in front of the same challenge. The Monday attack has been the biggest on security forces in the state. But those who understand the war and its tactics can safely and unfortunately say that this is not the last one.
In fact, an analysis of the ground situation makes it clear that in coming years naxalite violence is going to be a major problem. With a clear policy and initiation of their capacity building process other affected states like Maharashtra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand may be able to contain the problem in a few years. But having missed many trains West Bengal might have to suffer for a longer period, with or without a Left front government in Kolkata.
In last few months naxalites and their armed sympathisers have killed about 100 people in Lalgarh area of West Bengal. Nowhere in the country have such a large number of civilians been killed in naxal violence in recent times. They have been murdered one after another in separate incidents.
The state has not effectively responded to such serious and continuous violence in spite of the fact that most victims belong to the ruling alliance. The CPI(M) is a cadre-based party which gives a lot of importance to its workers. In fact, unlike parties like Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party or Samajwadi Party where the top or at the best middle leadership reap the benefits, in the CPI(M) the workers also share the booty. The Left in West Bengal is also known for its uninhibited use of muscle power. One should be surprised as to how the Left is not responding to killing of its cadre. Why there are no orders to police to swing into action?
The answer is very simple, yet disturbing. The West Bengal police do not have the capacity to take on the Maoist challenge. Capacity building in the police establishment has never been a priority of the state. The most successful state in fighting the naxalites is Andhra Pradesh. The Grey Hound commandoes of Andhra Pradesh have mastered and beaten them in their own art of jungle warfare. While addressing the conference of chief ministers on the issue even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had advised other states to follow the Andhra pattern. Today Chhattisgarh and Orissa have raised commando forces on the pattern of the Grey Hounds. They have created their own commando training schools at Kanker and Chandaka respectively. West Bengal chose to ignore the advice.
When Midnapur and Lalgarh are bleeding West Bengal police have no component in its force that can face the challenge. The government is relying on the CRPF. But the CRPF has always played the role of a supporting force. It can only deliver where the lead role is taken by the state police, especially in intelligence collection and planning of operations. Bhattacharjee has been honest and candid in confessing that the state police are not able to track Maoist leaders in spite of the fact that they are talking to senior officers in state secretariat over phone. Compare this to Andhra Pradesh where out of fear the Maoists have prohibited use of mobile phones for their cadre and leaders.
However, the problem with the Bengal police is not entirely about resources. The morale of the force is so low that converting it into a fighting force is going to be a very difficult task. For about three decades the police have been made to feel subservient to the party cadre. The senior officers have been made to bend and juniors have been publicly ill-treated. It will be too much to expect that the force which has been systematically made spineless will stand up straight in front of Maoist challenge.
West Bengal has other peculiarities also. The entire ruling class, across party lines, in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh are against naxalites. In Bengal there are differences within the Left front on the issue of dealing with the naxalites. When the Maoist leaders from Andhra and Chhattisgarh were openly mobilising people in Lalgarh no one bothered in Kolkata. There are reports that for many years Kishenji was staying in Kolkata but police were never allowed to target him.
When all the affected states banned naxalites and their frontal organisations, West Bengal refused to do the same. Only after the Centre imposed a blanket ban did the state reluctantly accept it. Naxalites have always used border areas of affected states as safe sanctuaries. In case of pressure from one state they could cross over to other states. Having realised this most of naxal-affected states have allowed their neighbouring state police forces for a hot pursuit in case of encounters. Thus forces from Andhra Pradesh have been conducting successful anti-naxalite operations in the bordering areas of Orissa and Chhattisgarh and vice-versa. West Bengal is an exception.
Both the ruling and opposition parties in West Bengal are not clear in their approach towards the problem. The Trinamool Congress has been accused of hobnobbing with the naxals. That may not be entirely true but it would be unrealistic to think that a change of government will essentially solve the problem. In the case of the Left front losing power in the state, there is a possibility that the cadre may end up in joining naxal ranks. In any case, to follow Mao is easier for the people who have learnt about Marx and Lenin for 30 long years.
The forthcoming election has also put the Left in a Catch-22 situation. If it decides to hit hard against the naxalites collateral damage to civilians will hamper its election prospects. If it does not act swiftly the situation will worsen and hamper its chances of winning. In any case, even if the government decides to act, it is already late. Any preparation or capacity building has a necessary gestation period. The state cannot afford this delay. The Bhattacharjee government, only last month, decided to raise its own commando force. They would like to forget the fact that Andhra Pradesh raised its force in 1989 — two decades ago.
NEW DELHI: Lack of training in guerrilla warfare and disregard for standard operating procedures (SOPs), prescribed by the Centre to minimise
casualty during counter-Naxal operations, appear to have done in the Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans who were mowed down by Maoists in West Midnapore on Monday.
When the Maoists swooped down on the EFR camp on motorcycles, cars and SUVs — a pointer to their growing might and resourcefulness — on Monday, the troops were not armed. Oblivious of the planned assault, the policemen had their weapons deposited in the camp’s armoury. This obviously made them sitting ducks when Naxalites started firing. Needless to say, they took away the AK-47 s and INSAS rifles after killing 24 policemen.
The vulnerability of EFR jawans — who had no intelligence from the state agencies on the impending Maoist assault was there for all to see. The state police admittedly fail to secure the camp by posting armed guards, preferably with sandbags for cover.
The concrete perimeter wall too had not been replaced by barbed wire, as advised by the Centre, to ensure a better view of the approaching adversary. Even SOPs prescribed for camps in Naxalhit zones and shared time and again with all affected states — such as physical protection of forces’ accommodation from gunfire, quick access to arms 24x7 and a communication link between the guard outside and inmates of the camp and also between the camp and the force’s headquarters to seek reinforcements — were not followed.
The commanding officer of the camp, a sub-inspector, was not present inside at the time of the attack. “This clearly points to the complete lack of training and preparedness of EFR personnel in taking on the Naxalites ,” a senior MHA official pointed out adding that “in a normal situation, a policeman may deposit his weapon when off-duty , but with training in counter-Naxal tactics, the first thing he must learn is to keep his weapon close at hand all the time.”
Central agencies are not ruling out the possibility of the Naxal attackers having crossed over from Jharkhand. This, officials here felt, only strengthened the Centre’s case for inter-state operations — which chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had opposed in January 2009, before coming on board in the Lalgarh aftermath.
Notwithstanding the massive casualty it suffered on Monday, the West Bengal government has decided to learn from mistakes and be more careful in dealing with Maoists. Some correctives that may be introduced are training of police personnel in jungle and guerrilla warfare, ensuring that a policeman always retains his weapons and putting a barbed wire around camps and armed guards outside always.
A senior MHA official will travel to West Bengal to review the situation in view of the Naxal attack and once again reiterate the standard operating procedures and precautions that must be taken by the police on counter-Naxal deployment. The need to have the state police trained in jungle warfare to improve their response and preparedness against Maoists will also be stressed.
The state police will also be told not to review the security of all police camps in the Naxal belt and introduce safety measures such posting of a round-the-clock sentry with sandbags for cover. Importantly, the Centre will insist that police camps are not located in a crowded neighbourhood and are properly manned and commanded by a senior officer
NAGPUR: As many as 319 Naxalites have laid down their arms before authorities in the Naxal-infested Gadchiroli district in eastern part of Maharashtra, official sources have said.
"The Maharashtra government, after examining Naxal surrender policies of other affected states, also came out with a identical scheme on August 29, 2005 and this has helped both the Naxals and the police in implementing it. The response has been good so far," additional district superintendent of police, Manoj Sharma told PTI.
He said the state government has given periodical extension to the scheme. "It has certainly helped the misguided poor tribals who took to arms struggle to avail an opportunity to give up violence and isolated life and miserable living conditions."
The scheme has also helped the police to provide a chance for those Naxals who want to return to main stream and spend rest of the life under security cover and enjoy the freedom, Sharma said.
Giving details of surrendered Naxalites, Sharma said one sub zonal committee member is the top Naxal leader followed by six dalam commanders and nine deputy dalam commanders.
Sharma said, In Naxal movement, the Area Rakshak Dal and Gram Rakshak Dal (ARD and GRD) also play an important role
since they are like second rung leaders and provide logistics
and communication also. As many as 200 ARD and GRD have also surrendered during this period.
There are 10 couples who are a part of 319 surrendered Naxalites during the last four years.
Maharashtra govenment has so far extended financial assistance to the tune of Rs 1.38 crore and another Rs 30.20 lakh from the centrally sponsored Security Related Expenditure (SRE), Sharma said.
As per the laid down scheme, whenever Naxals surrender, they are produced before a committee headed by district collector which include superintendent of police and other officials to accept their surrender and accordingly the cash reward is decided as per their rank and involvement in offences.
Police have recovered from them 81 rifles, mostly 303 and self loading, 110 cartridges, one hand grenade and other explosives besides Naxal printed materials about their ideology, he said.
Six Naxals had surrendered during the Republic Day Parade in Gadchiroli where Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil unfurled the tri-colour. He welcomed them into the main stream.
Monday, February 15, 2010
At least 17 persons reportedly were killed as armed Maoists attacked a joint security forces camp and planted landmines on the road leading to it at Sildha in troubled West Midnapore district this evening.
District Magistrate N S Nigam said at least 50 Maoists riding on motorcycles attacked and overran the camp with
"The Maoists burnt the camp and planted landmines on the entire length of the road leading to the camp. Night
vision force with anti-landmine vehicles have been sent," Nigam said.
According to Nigam, two bodies were seen lying on the roadside near Belpahari police station.
DGP Bhupinder Singh said the number of casualties was yet to be known.
Asked how many personnel were there in the camp, Singh said, "There were nearly 40 Eastern Frontier jawans in the
camp and we still don't know the exact number of casualties."
Singh said enforcements had been sent from Binpur and Belpahari camps. The forces had been warned of hidden
landmines on the entire stretch of of road. (With agencies input)