Red Terror vs Our Error: The dastardly Maoist attack in Gadchiroli should serve as a strong wake-up call. We must tackle Naxal violence now

Gurmeet Kanwal
Gurmeet KanwalMay 04, 2019 | 11:42

Red Terror vs Our Error: The dastardly Maoist attack in Gadchiroli should serve as a strong wake-up call. We must tackle Naxal violence now

Maoist attacks equal almost 60% of terrorist violence in India over the last two decades. Yet, we seem unprepared in the face of growing danger. However, there can be clear ways to security as well.

In an incident showcasing their ability to strike at will this week, Maoist terrorists killed sixteen members of a CRPF quick reaction team (QRT) in an IED blast in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. Earlier that day, they had destroyed many road construction vehicles in the same area.

Despite two decades of Maoist/Naxalite violence, the Centre and affected state governments have failed to formulate and implement strategies to eliminate the threat. In May 2006, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had described the Maoist/Naxalite insurgency as India’s most serious internal security challenge — Maoist incidents have accounted for almost 60% of terrorism-related violence in India over the last two decades. Their tactics include intimidation, killing of innocent civilians, reprisal killings, abductions and kidnappings, extortion, IED blasts and the destruction of government and private property, and that of grass-roots level political institutions.


In many of the areas of their influence, the Maoists have been collecting taxes and dispensing instant and brutal justice through kangaroo courts.

Through their sheer capacity to cause violence, Naxalites extort huge sums of money from a wide variety of sources — the corporate sector, mine owners, forest and public works contractors, individual businessmen, rich landlords and corrupt government officials.

maoist1-reuters-insi_050319015740.jpgThe Maoists are a very real threat. We need real and effective plans to counter them. (Source: Reuters)

According to a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or CPI (Maoist), the umbrella organisation, reportedly collects Rs 200 crore annually through extortion. However, unofficial sources hold that this could be as high as Rs 500 to 700 crore. A substantial portion of these ill-begotten funds goes towards clandestine arms procurement.

At the peak, Naxalite activities had spread to about 230 districts across 20 states, though some were only moderately affected.

Maoist attacks on the security forces and the symbols of state power are characterised by meticulous planning, systematic preparation, near-surgical execution and a high degree of coordination. On several occasions, the rebels have achieved considerable success in launching synchronised attacks on multiple targets involving large numbers of cadres. For the Maoists, besides waging a protracted people’s war with the ultimate objective of capturing or seizing political power, participating in a peace process and talks is a ‘tactic’, and considered ‘war by other means’.


The Maoists have been expanding to newer areas, gaining ground, consolidating themselves and have steadily been enhancing their military capabilities — the approach of the state governments has often been to ignore the Maoist movement. The response of various state governments and the Centre is in fact mostly reactive. The reasons for this apathetic approach are, firstly that Naxal terrorism is not an emotive issue at the national level like the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K); secondly, there has been some confusion whether the Naxalites are terrorists or not as they have a ‘social justice’ tag attached to them; and, lastly, an impression has gained currency that the Naxal menace is not “as bad as the media makes it out to be.”

Coordination between the police and intelligence agencies of various affected states has been generally unsatisfactory. The acquisition, compilation, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of intelligence are still grey areas. The Naxalites are continuing to spread their tentacles — it is crucial that intelligence about their activities, arms and equipment, training, sources of funding and future operations is shared on a daily basis so that it trickles down in near real-time to the functional level.


A great deal more needs to be done if the states are to coordinate anti-Maoist operations across their borders.

naxals_reuters1-insi_050319015848.jpgThink beyond basic: Police forces need to be much better equipped to deal with Maoists. (Source: Reuters))

State police forces as well as the Central police and paramilitary forces (CPMFs) need to be better equipped and better trained to successfully combat the serious threat posed by the Naxalites. At present, they lack the army’s organisational structure and cohesiveness, the army’s institutionalised operational experience and ethos and its outstanding junior leadership — qualities that are mandatory if the Naxalites have to be defeated on their own turf.

A quick-fix solution suggested is to call in the army to tackle the rising tide of Maoist violence — this will be a grave mistake for a number of reasons.

The army is already managing the border along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and parts of the border on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and is deployed in large numbers for counter-insurgency and internal security duties in J&K and the north-eastern states. These prolonged commitments are hampering the army’s preparedness for conventional conflict, gradually but perceptibly affecting morale and wearing down its equipment and transport fleet.

Calling on the army to commit additional troops for anti-Naxalite operations would be a retrograde step.

What the army can do and has been doing for some time now is to provide advanced training to the state police forces and the CPMFs to enable them to acquire the necessary skills. The army can “train the trainers” of the CPMFs at its training establishments, so that they go back and train their respective forces. The army can also send its instructors on deputation to the training academies of the state police forces and the CPMFs to train their personnel. Some police personnel could be trained by utilising the spare capacity of the regimental Training Centres of the army, such as the Punjab Regiment Centre, Ramgarh, the Bihar Regiment Centre, Danapur and the Grenadiers Regiment Centre, Jabalpur.

maoist-naxal-reuters_050319020035.jpgIt's time to call in the army: But the army should now train state police and paramilitary forces to deal with Maoists. (Source: Reuters)

In addition to the support that it can extend for training, the army — and the air force — can provide some technical equipment for better reconnaissance and surveillance.

One UAV detachment has reportedly been deployed in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The Centre has also consented to provide “air support essentially for transport of security forces, evacuation and air dropping of food and medicines”. Chhattisgarh has started a school of counter-insurgency warfare headed by a former army Brigadier who had earlier headed the army’s Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, Vairangete, Mizoram. The army can help other state governments to establish similar training academies.

The Maoist threat presents a clear and present danger — it can be ignored or neglected only at great peril to India’s national security interests. So far, the national response has been inadequate, both at the policy formulation and execution levels. To cope with this serious threat, India needs a well-deliberated and finely calibrated response strategy with matching operational doctrines and the necessary civil and military resources.

Only a skillfully coordinated response between the Centre and the states, with all concerned pooling in their resources to achieve synergy in execution, will achieve the desired results. Above all, a comprehensive socio-economic strategy must be evolved to treat the root causes of this malaise that is gnawing away at the nation’s innards — along with a skillfully drawn-up plan for perception management.

The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi.


Last updated: May 04, 2019 | 16:15
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy