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An urgent plan to deal with Maoist insurgency

By B Raman
April 08, 2010 12:09 IST
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In the wake of the horrific Dantewada massacre, the State should think of ways of trapping the Maoists and inflicting heavy casualties on them, says B Raman

Start an immediate programme for the development of road and telecommunications infrastructure in the tribal belt of central India. The Chinese government realised that without effective road and rail communications, internal security will remain weak. They poured billions of dollars into infrastructure development programmes in the areas with vulnerable internal security. If one has only one usable road in a district, it will be unfair to blame the police for using the same road for their to and fro movements.

Provide effective security to road construction engineers and workers. They will be targeted by Maoists to disrupt the construction.

It will be futile for the present government to undertake operations to free the so-called 'liberated zones' from the control of Maoists. The State will incur large casualties without making any headway. Prevent the terrorists from expanding the 'liberated zones' which they have already set up by strengthening the State's presence and control in the areas where the Maoists have not yet been able to make inroads.

The programme for the prevention of the expansion of the 'liberated zones' should provide for physical security enhancements and a developmental-cum-humanitarian component to address the grievances and needs of the inhabitants. Maintenance of internal security and prompt identification and redressal of grievances should go hand in hand. Strengthen the grievances redressal machinery in the areas still under State control.

Every district in the tribal belt should have two additional collectors. One should focus exclusively on internal security and the other exclusively on development work and grievances redressal. They should work under the overall supervision of the district collector.

Undertake a programme for the rapid expansion of the police presence and capacity in the tribal areas still under the control of the State. Widely scattered police stations with small personnel strength will be counter-productive. Have a smaller number of well-located and well-connected police stations with substantial strength and a good communications network. Issue mobile phones to all police station staff to facilitate quick communication. Connect all police stations with each other and with the district police headquarters through video-conferencing link-ups.

Prepare an urgent database of the modus operandi used by Maoists in different incidents for setting off landmines, explosive devices and booby-traps. The Maoists are learning their modus operandi and skills not from the Internet, the Al Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist groups. They are learning them by studying the MO used by China's People's Liberation Army, by the Vietcong in Vietnam, by the Pathet Lao in Laos, by  the White Flag Communists in Myanmar, by the Communists in Malaya and by the Maoists in the Philippines and Nepal.

The jihadis' MO is urban-specific, for use in urban conglomerations. The Maoists' MO is jungle-specific. They are making effective use of material available in the jungles for their booby-traps. Update this database after every incident and create widespread awareness of their MO in the police force. Teach the police force appropriate techniques to counter their MO.

The Maoists are building up their holdings of hand-held weapons through successful raids on police stations and armouries. It is a matter of serious concern that they are repeatedly able to do so. Enhance physical security in all police establishments where weapons are kept. Hold officers in charge of armouries responsible and take action against them every time the Maoists launch a successful raid to loot arms and ammunition.

Don't make an unintelligent foray into Maoists' 'liberated zones' or strongholds and get trapped. Think of ways of trapping the Maoists by goading them into attacking the strongholds of the State and be prepared to inflict heavy casualties on them when they do so.

Think of ways of preventing the flow of essential articles like rice etc into the Maoists' 'liberated zones' and strongholds in order to starve them.

Set up an auxiliary intelligence corps like the territorial army or the auxiliary air force. It should consist of part-time volunteers for intelligence collection by people in other professions who want to or are willing to help the intelligence agencies. Their links with the intelligence agencies must be protected by making the training course a short one and on an one-to-one basis, instead of holding it in a class where everyone becomes aware of the identities of others.

After the training, give them mobile telephones and instruct them on how to remain in touch with their controlling officers in guarded SMS messages using domestic codes. Pay them well -- a certain amount unrelated to their production of intelligence plus an additional amount for each piece of useful intelligence collected by them. They should be capable of operating autonomously without the need for frequent briefings by their controllers. This would be the State's answer to the sleeping cells of the insurgents.

Decimation operations inside the 'liberated zones' should be centrally planned and implemented without the local formations taking the initiative for such operations. In this way, operational security could be better maintained.

The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:

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B Raman