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'This monsoon Maoists will fight for survival'

July 20, 2010 11:04 IST
Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar was in the news for his aggressive stand immediately after Maoists ambushed 27 security personnel in Narayanpur, June 29. 'Ab marenge nahi, maarenge (Now we won't die, we will kill)', he said, emphasising that the state government should now assert its authority.

In this interview with Rediff.com's Krishnakumar Padmanabhan, he speaks about the repeated massacre of the security forces -- mostly the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force -- in Maoist ambushes, how the state government is planning to wrest the initiative from the rebels, and the lack of co-ordination between the state police force and the Central Reserve Police Force.

What will the state do about the redeployment that the CRPF has asked for?

Within 6 months, in important places, where there is one company of the CRPF, we will deploy two, after taking them from some other place where their presence would not be required much.

We will do it in select places. We will beef up the deployment wherever the CRPF feels it is weak.

But this will not happen overnight. We will do it in a staggered manner. Wherever the force needs to be increased, the officers of the state police and CRPF will sit down and discuss the formalities.

But only the CRPF is getting hit repeatedly. Why is it so?

It is not like that. Even our forces suffer losses.

Actually, these incidents are not happening in direct fights with the Maoists. They have been ambushed while moving here and there.

The CRPF has to formulate a clear strategy of how they will go about their own work. Their officers have to understand how they are getting ambushed.

And these incidents are also due to their negligence. They should not take vehicles in regions where that will call attention to their presence. They have to be careful. And they shouldn't walk bunched up together. Their file should be stretched in a way that it covers a good distance.

Had they done that, one or two would have been killed. They should stretch their file in such a way that there is at least a 10 metre gap between each person. That way they would have covered at least a kilometre and the enemy would think twice before launching an attack.

Another thing is that they flout procedure. They halt in clearings and near villages.

In the Chintalnar incident (on April 6, in which 75 CRPF troopers were killed), they had gone to a village and eaten there. Their own camp was seven kilometres away from the spot. What is their problem in reaching the camp first?

There was a state police camp too in the vicinity.

The previous night too, they ate outside. What is their problem in eating in the camp? They would have thought they could eat and drink to their satisfaction. Isn't this wrong?

In the same place, there was another bunch of CRPF men that stayed away from this lead bunch. They survived.

Both incidents, why all three incidents (the April 6 Chintalnar massacre, the May 18 Sukma bus attack, and the June 29 Narayanpur ambush) were so similar. The forces had gone from one place to another and were coming back in the same route.

In both the incidents where the CRPF personnel were ambushed, there was just one person from the state police, that too a special police officer.

Actually, in both the incidents, they hadn't gone on operations. Chintalnar was for area domination, where they were merely supposed to clear out and cover a particular area.

And Narayanpur was when they had gone to see off their colleagues going on leave.

When it comes to operations, both the forces go together. Our (state police) officer commands and leads the party. In both these incidents, we did not lead.

So there is no state police component unless it is a planned operation?

See, they (the CRPF) don't see the need. Their ration comes via helicopters. They take care of their business on their own.

But the CRPF command has clearly said there are no administrative activity in an operations area and all movement in such an area is operational...

Why should we (the state police) be with them always?

We have no idea what their movement and activities are. But when we launch an operation, both sides sit down and plan it.

There is no point in the CRPF asking us in matters like sending off their personnel or in movement between one place to another. They do it on their own.

What has been the progress in the last 18-odd months after the Centre intensified efforts against the Maoists?

From when (Home Minister Palaniappan) Chidambaram sir has come, he has said we must intensify efforts against them. We appreciate it.

But if the people on the ground don't follow up on it, then they will face losses. Things must be followed up. Strategy has to be made.

And what has the state government done in this period?

We have done a lot in the technical aspects. Only if we take the fight to these people (the Maoists), the public will get the right message. Otherwise you look weak in front of the people.

We have reached a stage where we can correct it.

On the security side, we see a greater need for joint action. The state police's role is big because these are areas they know. Some of them have 20 years, 30 years experience in these areas.

The CRPF is new to the place. Now the central government also has the same view. They agree that we need more SPOs.

We are increasing the hiring of the locals in the force. We will give them training for six months and induct them into the forces.

At this place, I must mention that they have been the most successful people in operations so far. They are an invaluable asset.

How good is the intelligence gathering mechanism of the state police?

It is not a matter of good or weak intelligence.

In Maoist strongholds, our intelligence is as good as having no intelligence at all. Earlier, we used to have the support of the villagers inside the forests. These days they are all so scared of the Maoists, they will not tell us anything.

Even if we try to persuade them, they tell us, 'You'll put us in jail if we defy you. They will slit our throats.' Whatever we do, we have to do it with only our men.

How do you manage to overcome this problem?

We do collect intelligence despite all the shortcomings. We employ outsiders in some places. It would not be appropriate to go into further details.

Finally, what did you mean when you said 'Ab marenge nahi, maarenge'?

See, if I approach the enemy thinking whether he would kill me, of course, he is going to kill me. But if I go in thinking I am going to kill him, then there is every chance that I will kill him.

Confidence matters a lot in these issues. I wanted to convey to our forces that we must not lose confidence.

But the CRPF says there is no will on the part of the state government to finish off Maoism...

Then why don't they guide us and lead from the front? Blaming is easy.

There is also a serious criticism of your government that it is so corrupt in almost all other areas you are using the Maoism issue as a diversion.

The government is ours, but the administration is non-partisan, right?

When were these officials appointed? And did the Maoist problem happen in the last two years?

A good example is when (former Chhattisgarh chief minister) Ajit Jogi's son says he roams around without security in Maoist areas, people very well know that Maoism hasn't grown as much it did in those three years under Ajit Jogi.

When I was the forest minister, I could take a jeep and go alone into Konta (an interior village in Bastar) Now I am the home minister, but I cant go there even with ample protection.

All this is not the say that the problem has been festering and we haven't done anything.

From October till the Chintalnar episode, we had the upper hand. They were on the backfoot. After the incident our forces's morale is down. We had freed places like Ambikapur, Balrampur, Bilaspur, Jashpur and Korea from their clutches.

Last monsoon, we had them totally on the run. Their bodies were flowing down the streams.

This monsoon will be a fight for survival for them. We will formulate a strategy that will inflict the maximum loss on them.

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