TAMIL NADU

`Operation Mukkoti' against naxals a success

KHAMMAM, DEC. 22. Heavy deployment of police forces in PWG strongholds marked the four-day long `Operation Mukkoti' -- a massive combing exercise undertaken to track down the armed squads finding refuge

in the forests along the Godavari.

In all, 16 teams were engaged in the raids aimed at giving them exposure on aspects like positioning, camouflage and deceptive movement. The successful exercise was taken up to make the forces battle-ready in view of the spurt in naxalite activities and certain instances which exposed the poor preparedness levels of police personnel. The police top brass was upset with the fact that guerrilla squads were committing offences in villages by hoodwinking the patrolling parties.

Hence the need for `Operation Mukkoti.' It is only a beginning of a new training programme that would help the combing parties analyse their strengths and shortcomings. Sub-inspectors and constables summoned at a brief notice from all police stations in the district were given the route maps and operation plans covering the worst-affected villages along the river course. Some teams had their raids planned with full-fledged information on the movement of the guerrilla squads.

The special parties had SIs from the free zone posted in the district for a three-year term. The parties had the escort of scouts and were equipped with night vision glasses. While some had problems in reaching the target places some others were lost in the forest routes. Some survived only on dry food. Some parties were provided with global positioning system to help them through the forest tracts.

The combing parties had to cover long distances in formations of single line, double line and arrow-head, avoiding the landmine-infested routes. The exercise that was called off on Friday gave the forces experience of ambush halting, low ground and high ground positioning. In the forests of Adaviramaram and Damaratogu, the water points were same for both the naxalites and the police. The parties had to lay in wait in biting cold for long hours. Though they were tempted to escape to the school buildings in the villages on the forest fringes, they could not do so as it would amount to deviation from the main task.

Members of PWG dalams were reported to have left some villages in Manuguru sub-division a few hours before the police parties could reach the place, thus avoiding a showdown. Ever since the PWG district committee leader, Suryam, was killed by the police in an encounter at Sampathnagar, the police were feeling the pressure. A few weeks before the encounter, a police party in ambush near Bodu could sight a PWG dalam led by key leaders. At another instance, a police party failed to spot a PWG dalam camping in a mango groove that upset the officials.

The PWG which observed the first anniversary of the PGA formation in the first week of December triggered a blast in `Addalameda,' the holiday home of Singareni Collieries Company Ltd on the Kinnerasani river bank, near Palvancha. Though the police could prevent attacks on vital installations and Government offices during the period, officials say they cannot afford to be complacent as the area bordering with Chhattisgarh and Orissa is turning into a trouble zone with reports of steady influx of naxalites.