We have been able to penetrate into hitherto impregnable areas, says ADGP

Despite massively stepping up encounters against Maoists, Chhattisgarh has not really managed to restrict Naxals in the last one year. The Darbha ambush is an example of how Maoists have managed to circumvent the search network of the forces.

However, the balance is tilting in favour of the police in the neighbouring Maharashtra. In Gadchiroli and Gondia districts, security forces have penetrated into “hitherto impregnable areas” and pushed rebels back on the defensive. Twenty-three rebels — none of whom are ordinary members but fullscale fighters, according to the police — were killed in 2013, compared to four in 2012 and only one in 2011. Surrenders have also increased. The data indicates the Maharashtra police have managed to infiltrate the rank and file of the underground party in the eastern fringe of the State, known to be a stronghold of rebels.

Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) (Special Operations) of Maharashtra, Prem Kisan Jain said: “We have reorganised the setup within the department, in which all anti-Naxal operations, including intelligence, training and action, have been brought under one chain of command.”

Owing to the depth and span of the Chhattisgarh State committee — Dandkarnya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) – the Central Bureau of the party is considered to be the most powerful unit. The zonal committee has eight divisional committees, of which south and north Gadchiroli are in eastern Maharashtra. Another division — north Gadchiroli-Gondia — is under the Maharashtra State committee (MRSC). An area of almost 20,000 sq. km., half the size of Bastar, is covered by the three divisions in eastern Maharashtra.

The overlapping of the committees in Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border is evident from any map that flags the divisions. The powerful Madh-north Bastar division in west Chhattisgarh is clubbed with north Gadchiroli division. The coordination between the divisions facilitated movement and enhanced presence of rebels in the area.

Mr. Jain claimed that stepping up of the duration of the stay of the forces in the forest to disturb rebels’ logistics helped them immensely. “Earlier we used to go in and stay for short durations. Now we are staying in for 3-5 days and living the way Maoists do. It is certainly difficult and we do face ambushes but we are continuing,” he said. A balance between ‘long range’ and a day-long ‘short range’ patrol in interior areas was also worked out.

“Thus we have not only managed to confine Maoists in their areas, but have also been able to penetrate into hitherto impregnable areas, which has put them on the defensive,” said Mr. Jain. Coordination among the State forces, the special force (C60) and paramilitary forces was also beefed up. Advanced training centres, manned by Army personnel, were set up and more specialised equipment were provided. Another useful strategy shift, “economical use of ammunition,” also helped the police.

“Experience and a lot of bleeding taught us to conserve our ammunition and not to run out of bullets during an encounter. There is a controlled use and we try to match the fire power of rebels,” Mr. Jain said.

Mr. Jain did not deny the possibility of civilian casualties as the police stepped up offensive but he held Maoists responsible. “I think, we have to continue with the operations and in the process some collateral damage may occur as Maoists are increasingly using civilians as human shields.”

Maoist’s recent strategy to “attack civilians and soft targets is worrying” the police.