The Indian Army could soon be playing big brother to the CRPF, with its officers leading the paramilitary force against the Naxalite menace.
After the Sukma attack killing 25 CRPF jawans on April 24, the Modi government is looking to revive a 2008 Army blueprint to fight Maoists, which had been shoved under the carpet by the Congress-led UPA government.
In Kashmir, the division in conflict management between the Army and the CRPF is clearly demarcated. The paramilitary handle conflict situations and the Army steps in only when the situation spins out of control. While training at a secret location earlier, Army officers realised paramilitary counter-insurgency capability was almost ‘nil’.
The proposal for joint anti-Naxal ops had come from Allahabad-based Central Command of the Indian Army, under whose jurisdiction the majority of Naxal-infested states falls.
The detailed presentation by Central Army Commander Lt. Gen HS Panag exposed serious flaws in the anti-Naxal training manual of the central paramilitary forces, making them ‘sitting ducks’ for trigger-happy killers. He also recommended that an Army officer-lead training exercises with CRPF. Creating a specialised unit on the lines of Rashtriya Rifles to operate in Maoists areas was also part of the plan.
After PM Manmohan Singh labelled Maoists the main threat to internal security in 2006, the Army did give covert training and logistics in counter-insurgency operations to the CRPF and BSF at 15 secret locations in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
Initially 13 companies and four core groups of CRPF deployed in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were trained at a counter-insurgency school in Kanker, Chhattisgarh, run by retired brigadier B Ponwar, specialist in jungle warfare. Incidentally, the school is the main training ground for personnel of state and central police forces. “During training, we found the paramilitary forces sent to us lacked motivation. Most of them were over forty,” Panag said.