The shocking attack at Dantewada resulted in the unfortunate killing of 11 personnel of District Reserve Guard (DRG), a State force fighting against Naxals in Chhattisgarh. It has not only forced the strategic and security community to deep dive into India’s counter insurgency calculus but also refreshed memories of a deadly attack that took place at Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district two years back where 22 CRPF personnels were killed and around 30 were injured.
From time to time, Naxal attacks and growing insurgency and Naxals capabilities in certain areas have called for re-thinking and bridging the gap in India’s responsive mechanism or dimensions towards counter insurgencies.
Understanding Nature of Insurgency
The setting of an offensive posture towards dealing with insurgents in the North East gave good results because they were mostly concentrated in some parts of the North East and contained hardliners having a backing of China and Pakistan. Therefore, offensive setups in the case of North East were successful. However, in the case with Naxalism, specifically to certain North-South regions, is different because first the nature of participation is domestic where mostly tribal people who thrive in deep jungles have now armed themselves. Some of them have become hardliners to overthrow the present political system. Moreover, the sense of discontentment and extremism has wrapped the Naxalite movement. Second, the Naxalite movement is not concentrated to one region and it has multiplied itself to various parts of the country, starting from Bengal in the 70s and navigating through Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and down to Andhra Pradesh. This has posed a major challenge for combating with Naxalites though few regions have registered the decline like Andhra Pradesh but there are few regions which require urgent attention. Third, formation of various insurgent groups opening financial channels via extortion and expanding the local level recruitments, continually targeting local and tribal civilians, and making them as human shields have also become a challenge to avoid collateral damages.
To understand the specifics of COIN (Counter Insurgency), aimed towards combating Naxlism, we need to see the whole setup from two folded dimensions – strategic and offensive.
As discussed, the nature of participation in the Naxal movement is domestic and poor tribals. Local people have resorted to taking up arms and rebeling against the present political system and ultimately overthrowing it. As a result, these Naxals are using political violence and targeting the State apparatus/forces. The surrender-cum rehabilitation scheme of MHA, introduced around 2010, specifically for LWE, was aimed towards welfare of these poor people so that they don’t get brainwashed or misguided by these extremists and a friendly environment in the region is created. However, the number of hardliners still looms. To strategically deal with this, we need to suffocate their violent campaign by using the attrition method (involves eliminating resources and supply chains) and making them strategically paralysed. These strategic measures will have long term effects though it will take its pace with time, a strategic solution and adopting strategic measures in counter-insurgency tactics would surely give good results as in the recent past we have seen some progress in the surrender of hardliners. Most importantly, MHA’s surrender-cum rehabilitation needs to be more effective and incentivised to push more hardliners to surrender.
Offensive measures are also required to deal with Naxalism as in some regions it yielded good results like the formation of greyhound forces in Andhra Pradesh has helped to keep Naxalism at bay. Hardliners of this movement have to be dealt with offensive measures. If we want to weaken the morale of Naxals, which are gripping in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, we need to strike their leaders. One needs to establish an effective offensive set up to deal with these hardliners like our forces dealt with North Eastern insurgents or how CRPF dealt with Naxals in Bihar making it Naxal-free last year.
Naxalite movement has multiplied itself to various parts of the country, starting from Bengal in the 70s and navigating through Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and down to Andhra Pradesh
Effectively deploying the strategy of Clear, Hold and Building (CH&B), which involves clearing the area from Naxalite presence through offensive measures and creating a foothold in the area and initiating rebuilding of the area through welfare programmes and bringing normalcy in the area. Exercising heavy might on these, Naxal hardliners will surely shake their roots. Both dimensions aim to cut their limited resources from expanding, eliminating hardliners to shake their morale and put them under pressure, and forcing them to surrender their campaign. If we closely watch the occurrence of these types of attacks they are not frequent, they attack whenever they get a chance and some of the Naxals have reportedly started to surrender in the past few years. This clears one thing that we need to combat mostly with hardliners.
Bridging The Gap
Both dimensions have to work in sync to get effective results. However, the gap between the two dimensions causes the failure to combat the problem of insurgency in our country. The lack of coordination with the State and the Central Government often leads to the gap. Collectively, developing a mixed model of offensive and strategic measures where both dimensions are given equal importance from devising interaction, welfare, and awareness programmes for tribal people in hot zones to investing in making a strong force to combat with Naxals like more broad training in gurellia warfare, technologies, advance resources and equipment like arms and ammunition. If the gaps in the dimension get bridged and the Government starts to revisit the COIN models and stress more on developing the area of guerilla warfare then it would give more power to India’s counter-insurgency model and silencing the hardline factor in current counter insurgency landscape.