Raipur: Well conversant with the inhospitable terrain and dense forests of Bastar, the District Reserve Group (DRG), a locally raised force vested with the task to tackle Maoists has added muscle to the counter insurgency operations in south Chhattisgarh in past one year.
Dubbed as "son of soil" because its personnel are recruited from among local youth and surrendered Naxals in Bastar division, the DRG earned accolades recently for its well executed strikes in the Maoists' self-proclaimed liberated zones like Abhujmad and south Sukma.
"DRG's boys have done an exceptional job in past one year and added a new dimension to anti-Naxal operations in Bastar," Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, SRP Kalluri said. "They are emotionally attached to the region as they belong to this place. They are familiar with the culture, ethos and language of people. Having a bond with the tribals, they are better mentally-conditioned to handle them. They are fighting Maoists efficiently because of their inherent motivation for doing so," Kalluri said.
As per the statistics, the DRG carried out 644 anti-Naxal operations in 2015, both individually and in coordination with other state forces and paramilitaries, during which they gunned down 46 ultras. This year so far, 25 Maoists have been killed in 144 operations carried out by DRG alone as well as jointly with other forces without any casualty to the security forces.
The DRG was raised over different periods of time in seven districts of Bastar spread in an area of around 40,000 sq kms, to fight the menace of Left Wing Extremism ongoing from over past three decades. It was first set up in Kanker (north Bastar) and Narayanpur (comprising Abhujmad) districts in 2008 and after a gap of five years, the force was raised in Bijapur and Bastar districts in 2013.
Subsequently, it was expanded in Sukma and Kondagaon districts in 2014, while in Dantewada, the force was raised last year. The DRG has a strength close to 1,700, including officers. The maximum 482 personnel of DRG are deployed in the worst insurgency-hit Sukma followed by its neighbouring district and equally dreaded Bijapur -312, as per official figures.
"DRG men have several distinct features than other forces engaged in Batsar. Surviving on what's available in the harsh terrain, they remain on the job all the time. They relentlessly track the guerrilla with the help of their own intelligence channel and plan operations," Kalluri said.
Many of the recruits in DRG are surrendered Naxals and having served with the outlawed CPI (Maiost), they are aware of the movement of the ultras in forests, their schedule, habits and the operational pattern. Lower rung cadres of the Maoists like sangham, dalam, militia and chetna natya mandli members are also known to them, making it easy for the DRG to track their activities and strategies, the IG said.
Moreover, having a rough idea about the shelters of rebels in the forests in different seasons, probable locations of their transit camps, sources of Maoist's logistical support in different villages and good tuning with local people also help DRG's men to plan their operations, he said.
The force has been given advanced field crafts and tactics training at Army camps of other states while some of the units have learnt basics of jungle warfare at Greyhounds (Andhra Pradesh) camp.
On DRG's operational strategy, Kalluri said, "They fight with guerrilla like a guerrilla." "DRG's good local information network helps them to launch operation based on specific inputs. They prefer to penetrate into forests in small numbers as 'small action teams' to maintain secrecy and element of surprise," he said.
"Small composition of forces also reduces the chances of casualties as everybody remains alert anticipating possible attacks," the IG said. Sometimes, it becomes impossible for villagers to identify the DRG as they belong to local area and clad in civil uniforms make them indistinguishable from the local armed Naxals, he said. "They have gained a fearsome reputation among Naxals in the past year.
The motto of DRG is to reclaim their lost land and set it free from violence," the police officer added.