BHUBANESWAR: As Chhattisgarh recovers from the shocking Maoist ambush on security forces that claimed 22 lives, Odisha has raised its guard. Anticipating a strong counter-assault from the neighbouring state against the Red rebels, Odisha Police is watching the borders of five districts carefully so as not to allow any infiltration.
However, it will stick to its gold standard operational strategy which has fetched it huge success over the last one decade. As debate begins over what went wrong in Chhattisgarh once again, the neighbouring state could do well to look no farther.One of the crucial reasons behind Odisha Police success against LWE has been a clear strategy – strong intelligence set-up and ground operations.
Odisha created its anti-Naxal force Special Operations Group (SOG) modelling on Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhounds, besides setting up Special Intelligence Wing (SIW), a dedicated intelligence apparatus, after it suffered some of the worst at the hands of Maoists in the 1990s and 2000s.
In fact, 2008 was the lowest in Odisha’s fight against Naxals. Ambush of 36 members of Greyhounds in Chitrakonda reservoir and massacre of 13 policemen in Nayagarh was followed by murder of Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati which triggered one of the worst communal riots in the State.
Since then, Odisha has counted its losses and turned over the pages. It invested heavily in SIW which remains its bulwark against the Maoists. The wing created a roadmap for the SOG to take the battle to the rebel camp.The State Police has used the Maoist strategy against the Maoists – acting on ground intelligence and used small operational units. “Most of the operational units have only 30 members.
Against the guerillas, we have used their tactics by mobilizing smaller units which help us adapt, attack and escape when required,” said a senior police officer familiar with the strategy. Chhattisgarh, on the other hand, has paid heavily for mobilizing big tactical offensive units. The Bijapur ambush saw over 1,600 security personnel in the operation. Individual units had at least 100 members.
Odisha Police has done exactly opposite. “In Swabhiman Anchal, the erstwhile cut-off area of Malkangiri and a hotbed of Maoist activities, we set up three company operational bases (COBs) and deployed our men across the region after which we swept the area. The results are for everyone to see,” said a senior officer. The area now has five COBs which allows it to go deep into the enemy territories because it has dominance. Recently, it set up one COB in Andrahal, in the Bonda native area.
Another crucial aspect is Odisha Police has taken ownership and accountability of anti-Naxal operations despite having CRPF and BSF for support. “Odisha Police has learnt from the mistakes, taken up ownership and responsibility of the battle against LWE. Because that is the way to go forward,” says DGP Abhay.
All operational intelligence is shared with the State Police first before any plan is put into action. On the other hand, Chhattisgarh banked heavily on Central forces. As on date, there are 16 battalions of Central armed police force deployed in Odisha, compared to 60 in the neighbouring State which includes CRPF, BSF and ITBP too.
The advantage with State Police remaining in charge is its strong connect with local population which is key in the fight against Maoists. Chhattisgarh, analysts say, is losing the battle there since the fight is led primarily by the Central forces.