Forces kill 20 Maoists in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli: Offensive against LWEs, swift action on intel inputs ensured operation success

Using local intelligence inputs effectively and acting swiftly by taking the fight to the Maoist heartland, the Gadchiroli police have succeeded in one of the most high-risk operations carried out by the security forces in the country on Sunday.

Considered as one of the biggest successes in the anti-Maoist operation in the country, the elite commando force of Gadchiroli police — C-60 along with Battalion 9 of the CRPF, eliminated 16 ultra-Left rebels near Kasnasur village in Maharashtra's Bhamragad tehsil. Reports said that four more were killed on Monday in a fresh encounter.

The operation compels us to introspect the factors that led to its success without any casualty for the security forces. More significantly, the operation led to the elimination of two dreaded senior and experienced Maoists commanders — Srinu and Sainath — duo had been operating in the area for the last 15 years. Prior to this, two other senior commanders Aitu and Sunil Kulmethe had been killed.

 Forces kill 20 Maoists in Maharashtras Gadchiroli: Offensive against LWEs, swift action on intel inputs ensured operation success

Representational image. Getty

Fresh operation has virtually wiped out the top Maoist leadership in Gadchiroli. A police officer with the Gadchiroli station requested anonymity and told Firstpost that the police have recovered a sizeable chunk of weapons — AK-47, Insas rifle, bullets and other ammunition from the encounter site. "The exact recovery will be revealed in due course," the officer said.

Gadchiroli, the only district in Maharashtra considered as a Maoist hotbed, has become a sanctuary of the Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) over the years. In early 1980s, the Naxals used Gadchiroli as a transit passage for their movement from Andhra Pradesh to Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and other districts on the Red Corridor. Factors like dense forest and exploitation of tribals by government officials and money-lenders in the region, made it a safe haven for Maoists.

Besides operational efficiency, the contribution of the government's free-hand to the police force and initiatives taken by the authorities which instilled trust among the locals, also deserve credit in the success of the operation. "Maharashtra government has not only given a free hand to the police to curb Maoists, but it has also taken initiatives on the development front, which is gradually helping local population to trust us," the police source said.

Why Gadchiroli operation has become a big success?

According to counter-terrorism experts, the success in the case of Gadchiroli police operation has been due to its offensive stand against the Maoists, while acting fast on intelligence inputs. In this particular case, the intelligence inputs were passed on to the police by locals.

"The anti-Maoist operation by Gadchiroli police and its C-60 commando force succeeded because they took an offensive stand rather than just reacting to Maoist ambush as it happens in many cases. The forces can have an upper hand only if they have a strong connectivity at local-level, act swiftly on intelligence inputs and follow standard operating procedures," remarked counter-terrorism analyst, Anil Kamboj.

Recalling the last Maoist attack on a bus carrying policemen at Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh on 9 April, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit that killed two policemen, Kamboj said, "In that case, SOPs were not followed, intelligence inputs were ignored and as a result the Maoists succeeded in blowing up the bus using IED."

Kamboj, who had led forces in various insurgency-hit zones, including Bastar, added, "To take Maoists head-on, we need to have specially trained forces like C-60, who should take the lead, rather than police officials on routine duties. That's why Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh has been a success."

C-60, comprising 60 police personnel, is an elite police commando force created in 1992 to counter Naxal menace in Gadchiroli district. The innovative concept was introduced by then superintendent of police of Gadchiroli, KP Raghuvanshi and since then the commandos of the force are being trained on various types of guerrilla warfare.

Decline in Maoist incidents

According to the government, over the last five years there has been a decline in Maoist incidents and casualties of security force personnel and civilians. After a review by the government, the number of Maoist-affected districts in the country has come down to 90 from 126.

The Home Ministry recently said that the multi-pronged strategy of Narendra Modi government including security and development measures has led to the decline in Naxal influence.

"There's a distinct declining trend in incidents and casualties, but that doesn't indicate termination of the problem. It won't go right now because the root cause to the problem wasn't addressed for a long time - almost five decades. It has lately begun," said defence and strategic analyst, Major General (retd) Dhruv Katoch.

According to Katoch, unless Maoist ideology is killed, the menace can't be fully uprooted.

"Maoists have gone weak in several pockets. It's a 'strategic pause', till they emerge stronger after a period. The need is to kill the Maoist ideology and we're far away from defeating their ideology, which is a bigger challenge. An alternative ideology needs to be given to counter the Maoist one," he emphasised.

What's needed?

The experts believe that multiple measures need to be adopted to counter Maoists-from inter-state coordination to perception management.

  • Improve inter-state coordination to stop the movement of Maoist cadre from one state to other, after getting a push.
  • High-level of intelligence sharing and policing through better coordination between the states and between the state police and central para-military forces.
  • Holistic and long-term administrative planning.
  • Lower-level functionaries in police and forest department - from beat constable to forest guard need to be sensitized in dealing with the local public, such as tribals and other villagers. This will help in strengthening intelligence system at grass-roots. "To win this battle, we require strong support of the local public and their inputs," said Katoch, a former director, Centre for Land Warfare.
  • There can't be a single policy being dictated from Delhi for all the Maoist-affected districts. There should be different policy for different districts depending on the requirements of the locals and based on their priorities," he remarked.
  • State governments have to ensure proper implementation of Forest Act and Tribal Rights Act.
  • Maoists sympathisers in think tanks, NGOs, academia and even in the government working out of metropolis need to be identified. Their agenda works on foreign funds. Moreover, state police have to gear up as law and order is a state subject. Blaming Modi government won't help. The Centre has released funds for the districts affected by Maoist insurgency. The states have to ensure honest implementation of Central schemes, so that the funds reach out to the beneficiaries," added Katoch.

Updated Date: Apr 24, 2018 11:05:32 IST