Sukma is a wake-up call

Only better training, equipment and tactics will help security forces prevail over the Maoists

Published - May 02, 2017 12:05 am IST

The injured CRPF jawans being shifted to Raipur for treatment.

The injured CRPF jawans being shifted to Raipur for treatment.

The Maoist attack on the 99-member Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) party in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, in which at least 25 jawans lost their lives, has once again brought the focus on not just the threat represented by left-wing extremism (LWE) but also questions of preparation, equipping, training and strategy of the CRPF that is bearing the brunt of the burden in this fight.

The fight against Maoists has been characterised by high casualty count of our security forces. The Sukma attack of April 24 was reminiscent of the ambush in Dantewada in April 2010 when Maoists killed 76 CRPF personnel and decamped with their weapons and explosives.

Deaths after deaths

Predictably there is anger, and there will be heavy payback for the Maoists. But it is indeed inexplicable that despite the five-decade-long insurgent movement, and a large number of paramilitary personnel along with State police being deployed in Maoism-affected areas, there seems to be no clear strategic approach to the problem and the forces do not have an upper hand in the areas.


The problem is compounded by the fact that the LWE/Maoists corridor spreads across several States and the perceived lack of a common plan has left each State government combating the Naxals as per their own strategy. This is costing lives of scores of our CRPF and police personnel and the patience of people to tolerate these slaughters is wearing thin.

While there has been a significant drop in Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh in the past year when 36 security personnel were killed as compared to 182 in 2007, between 2005 and 2017, as many as 1,910 security personnel were killed in LWE/Maoist attacks in India, out of which 954 casualties were in Chhattisgarh alone, including the latest incident.

For several decades, combating LWEs/Maoists has been characterised by recruiting CRPF soldiers, putting them through inadequate training, giving them a uniform and asking them to make do. There are also shortages of Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV). Successive ambushes and attacks have shown the vulnerability of the CRPF and police parties in the Naxal areas.

The damage and loss of life from attacks with grenade launchers and improvised explosive devices (IED) can be lessened with movement in armoured vehicles. In 2010, the Centre had sanctioned acquisition of 350 MPVs for the CRPF, but in March 2017, there were only 122 MPVs with the CRPF. Out of these 122 MPVs, about a dozen have been shifted to Jammu and Kashmir.

In an answer to my question on shortage of MPVs in Parliament, the Ministry of Home Affairs said there was more than one MPV per battalion — though the authorisation states that every battalion must hold 7-10 MPVs.

Need for a dedicated Ministry

Inadequate combat capability of police forces in Maoism-affected States remains the prime factor for failing security response as also dependency of State police forces on the Central government for anti-Maoist operations.

Lack of institutionalised intelligence-sharing between States and regions and regional coordination is being clearly utilised by the LWEs/Maoists.


The Greyhounds special force of undivided Andhra Pradesh has by far been the most effective force to have succeeded in reversing the trend of Maoist violence. Since 2005, 429 LWEs/Maoists have been killed in Andhra Pradesh and 36 security personnel have lost their lives; in Telangana, formed in 2014, four LWEs/Maoists have been killed with no casualties on the security forces’ side. In 2012, the Home Ministry had proposed to replicate Greyhounds in five Maoism-hit States. Clearly, the proposal has not seen the light of day, especially in Chhattisgarh.

Apart from the obvious gaps in intelligence-gathering, there is clear evidence that the CRPF lags on strategy and tactics. The use of technology (including drones) to increase surveillance around patrols to prevent ambushes is inadequate. Losing a quarter of the patrol force in an ambush like this must get the CRPF leadership to re-evaluate tactics, training and equipment. The time has come for a fundamental transformation of the Home Ministry — by moving internal security functions of the government to a new, focussed and accountable Internal Security Ministry.

The service and sacrifice of our CRPF martyrs must not be in vain and it must be a wake-up call for the government, and in particular the Home Ministry. It is a 26/11 moment in our fight against LWEs/Maoists. The battle with them must be accompanied by not just the perseverance and devotion of our men in uniform, but also better tactics, equipment, training and a determined strategy to prevail and win that combines the resources and leadership of all States involved and the Central government.


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