Comment

Moving forward in base areas

The Union government is in the process of deploying five more battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to Chhattisgarh to scale up anti-Maoist operations, particularly in the south Bastar region.

More than 45 Central Armed Police Force battalions are already deployed in Chhattisgarh, where 14 districts are Maoist affected. Of them, eight are severely affected. Most of the 22 State armed battalions are also deployed in these districts. In addition, the CRPF’s specially trained ‘Cobra’ units and the State’s Special Task Force and District Reserve Guards are also engaged in operations in the forward areas. Though the proposed deployment is in line with the ‘National Policy and Action Plan’ of the Central government on Left Wing Extremism, its impact may have wider implications on the ground.

Despite the present deployment, Bastar still has a security vacuum in many pockets, particularly in the south Bastar and Abujhmad areas. These pockets, called base areas by the Maoists, not only provide them occasion to wage ‘mobile war’ against the security forces, but also enable their military formations, including the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army battalion, to move about freely. Though their movement is regularly checked by the security forces, the Maoists still enjoy sufficient control over the tribal populace.

Benefits of more forces

The newly inducted battalions could have multiple advantages for the State. First, as more area will now be dominated by the security forces, the Maoists’ movement will be restricted to a comparatively smaller area. In case of any attack on the security forces, the Maoists will not be able to retreat unchallenged. Consequently, the intensity of war will be reduced and the ‘mobile war’ will come down to its basics, i.e., the ‘guerrilla war’. Similarly, the Maoists’ battalion, being large in size, will become more vulnerable and in all likelihood, would be cut back over time due to continuous pressure from the security forces. Also, additional deployment and frequent movement of the security forces would improve the intelligence network.

Second, establishment of new security camps always brings immediate benefits for the nearby villages. New borewells are dug and health services are also extended by the medical staff of security camps. Once these services are initiated by the forces, the district administration scales them up by providing the required funds. The dislocated fair price shops (PDS) are restored to their original locations and villagers are not required to walk long distances to fetch their rations. All other schemes of the governments are also implemented better through these newly established security camps-cum-development centres.

Third, once the security environment improves, more roads can be laid and mobile towers and electricity poles installed for better transportation, communication and electricity supply. Financial inclusion can be improved and the MNREGA works started to give impetus to economic activities. More schools, primary health centres and anganwadis can be opened up to provide basic amenities to the villagers.

Fourth, democratic institutions like panchayats may get revived and political activities could increase with the improved security scenario. This may further lead to better grievance redressal in the existing inaccessible areas.

Being alert on tactics

However, the security forces need to be more alert to thwart any untoward incident while moving in base areas. They need to be more watchful of their tactics knowing well that IEDs and iron spikes have been laid all over by the Maoists. The collateral damage must be reduced to its minimal. The Maoists usually oppose establishment of new security camps and use villagers as their cover. A lot of violence has been witnessed in the past at the behest of the Maoists. Therefore, the villagers must to be taken into confidence and told that the new security camps will act for their welfare as centres of development.

R.K. Vij is a senior IPS officer in Chhattisgarh. Views are personal

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 5:52:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/moving-forward-in-base-areas/article33215635.ece

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