Maoist insurgency and guerrilla warfare and state response - Part-I
“Insurgency is an internal threat that uses subversion and violence to reach political ends. Conversely, counterinsurgents seek to defeat insurgents and address core grievances to prevent insurgency’s expansion or regeneration.”
By Maloy Krishna Dhar
(November 29, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Several readers and visitors ventilated their genuine and perceived anguish about Maoist threat to the country and the alleged poor state of counterinsurgency operations by the Union and State Law & Order and Intelligence agencies. The subject is vast with protracted historical background and hundreds of books and research papers are available on the subject. Detailed researches have been carried out by the US, UK, French, Greek and etc countries’ armies and intelligence apparatuses. The Indian army has also its Counterinsurgency doctrine which was developed in the light of experiences of Pakistan inspired tribal hoards attacking Kashmir in I947, Naga insurgency since 1948, other insurgencies in the Northeastern States, Punjab and Kashmir. The prime intelligence agencies of India and the State intelligence agencies are yet to formulate cohesive counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla policies with symmetric adjustment with the doctrine developed by the armed forces.
Insurgency is organized armed rebellion by non-state players either for overthrowing the legally constituted State, or secede or establish free zones by paralyzing the state machineries and by establishing total ‘Mass Control’ on the populace and destroying legally constituted and mandated “Mass Control” mechanism of the State. This brief definition includes certain factors which are of paramount importance.
“In a Guerrilla warfare affected territory presence of the following basic elements are absolutely necessary:
1. A given territory, normally backward rural, mountainous and topographically not easily accessible.
2. There must be Peoples in that territory who have been neglected by the political administration, denied balanced developments, equal rights with the developed parts of the country, oppressed, depressed and who have been totally alienated from the system.
3. Ideologically inspired party and leadership to exploit the disillusioned Peoples.
4. Erosion of government “Mass Control” and gradual establishment of “mass Control” by the guerrilla forces, through propaganda, armed action against the government forces, penal action against the Peoples who refuse to submit to the guerrillas, and
5. Armed guerrilla groups, who have access to arms supply, People’s patronage, support from sections of intellectuals and human rights activists.”
Of these four important elements the most important one is the concept of “Mass Control.” The kernel of the Mass Control is mutual interrelation between the Peoples, the tools of governance and the responsibility of the State as mandated by the Constitution and empowered by the law to ensure balanced equal growth of economy, equal dispensation of wealth, equal social justice and equal amount of response of the State to the security and lives of the peoples.
Over years due to certain aberration in the mandated principles and actions by the State regional, ethnic, and economic balances have been distorted. Certain areas and peoples grow faster causing serious imbalances in certain sectors of the populace, regions and ethnic groups. Over years the peoples suffering from the impact of imbalances, inequality, social and economic justice tend to lose their FAITH in the capability of the legally constituted governments to protect, preserve and promote them as homogenous parts of the entire State. Imbalanced growth and urban-centric economic growth, neglect of the rural-agrarian sectors and ethnic regions, generate tectonic shift between the State and the peoples who develop doubt on the capability of the State in ensuring equal edification.
Through these gaps gradual erosion of “Mass Control” starts taking shape which is exploited by certain political thinkers and organized groups who believe that by applying sustained campaign, agitation and armed depredation they can develop “Counter Mass Control” on the peoples and congregate a parallel force that can challenge the established State. Certain political ideologies like Leninism, Maoism etc are borrowed to give ideological cover to the “Counter Mass Control” movements. Considered and crafty use of violence on the state governing tools gradually help in destroying state control and establishment of control by the rebellious forces. Systematic erosion of state authority allows FAITH and TRUST on the rebellious groups, who often punish the people by using violence and instill a parallel growth of FAITH and TRUST on the capability of the rebellious groups to deliver to them that State could not. The concept of “Mass Control” and “Counter Mass Control” is the kernel of insurgency and guerrilla warfare. People’s power, desire to challenge the State and their capability in destroying TRUST in the established government and promote their own control on areas and bases decide the course of insurgency and guerrilla warfare and success and failure of counterinsurgency strategies.
Before we enter into other aspects of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare it is better we try to understand the peoples and groups which are marketed as Maoists and Naxals. In an earlier article ‘Maoist Apparatus And Bridging The Old Fault Line’ published on July 2008, I had drawn attention of the readers to various causes that give triggering effect to the growth of Naxalism and Maoist movement. Therefore, I would try to project the various groups which are active (ideologically and militarily) in different states.
CURRENT MAOIST OR MAO-INFLENCED ORGANISATIONS IN INDIA
1. Communist League of India CLI(ML): Founded Feb 20, 1978 as a split off from CPI (ML) COC
2. Communist Party of India (Maoist) People’s War: Formed in Sept.21, 2004 as a merger of CPI (ML) and MCC (I). The largest and important revolutionary party. Engaged in guerrilla warfare.
3. Communist Party of India (M-L): Formed in January 2005 by merger of CPI (ML-Sanyal Group) and CPI (ML) Red Flag. A Right-Centre organisation.
4. CPI ML Bhaijee Group: Active in Bihar.
5. CPI (ML) Central Team: Formed 1977. In 1994 the Punjab section merged with other Groups to form CPRCI (ML).
6. CPI (ML) (Janashakti, Rajanna group, Ranadheer group, Chandra Pulla, Reddy Group, Other factions): Six ML groups merged in 199form this outfit. Takes part Guerrilla warfare.
7. CPI (ML) Samvad
8. CPI (ML) Liberation: Continuation of main CPI (ML). Probably the largest group believes in electoral process. Active in West Bengal, Assam and Bihar.
9. CPI (ML) Mahadev Mukherjee: Split from CPI (ML) 2nd CC. Doctrinaire and believe in Lin Biao line of revolution.
10. CPI (ML) Maharashtra
11. CPI (ML) Nai Pahal
12. CPI (ML) Naxalbari: CPI (ML) Rauf group, CPI (ML) MUC merged with this group. Affiliated to CCOMPOSA and RIM.
13. CPI (ML) New Democracy: Formed in 1988 by Yatendra Kumar. Active in Bihar. Believes in armed struggle.
14. CPI (ML) New Proletarian.
15. CPI (ML) Organizing Committee: Active in Bihar under B. N. Sharma
16. CPI (ML) Praja Pratighatana: Engaged in Armed struggle.
17. CPI (ML) Prajashakti-People’s Power: Engaged in armed struggle.
18. CPI (ML) Pratighatna, Phani Bagchi faction: Engaged in armed struggle.
19. CPI (ML)Provisional Central Committee: Formed in 1977 after merger with CPI (ML) of Satya Narayan Singh group. Follows centrist line.
20. CPI (ML) Shantipal: Formed in 1972. Active in Northern West Bengal and Bihar.
21. Communist Party of United States of India: Split from Janashakti in 1977 and engaged in armed struggle.
22. Communist Party Reorganization Centre Of India (ML): Amalgamation of several groups. Advocates of armed revolution.
23. Communist Biplabi Kendra aka Communist Revolutionary Centre.
24. Communist Revolutionary League of India: Ashim Chatterjee group. Leans towards social democracy.
25.Marxist- Leninist Committee: Eastern Andhra Pradesh, not engaged in armed struggle.
26. Revolutionary Communist Centre (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist): RCCI merged with MCCI in 2003. Logged to CCOMPOSA.
27.Revolutionary Socialist Party Of India (ML): Formed in 1969.
28.Unity Centre Of Communist Revolutionaries of India: Formed in 1975 by T. Nagi Redd and D. V. Rao. Believes in Mass revolutionary line.
Other Regional Revolutionary Organisations having Maoist influence
1. Jharkhand Liberation Tigers: Linked to Jharkhand Liberation Front. Believes in armed struggle.
2. Kangleipak Communist Party Manipur: Split group from PREPAK
3. NSCN (I-M): Nagaland and parts of Manipur and Assam.
4. People’s Liberation Army: Armed force of People’s Liberation Front. Formed in 1978.
5. People’s Revolutionary Army of Kangleipak: Formed in 1977. Believes in armed struggle. Has Maoist link.
6. Revolutionary People’s Front Of Manipur: Formed in 1979, an armed Maoist group.
7. Tamil Nadu Marxist-Leninist Party.
8. Tritiya Prastuti Committee: Counter revolutionary split from PWG in 2002.
9. United Liberation Front of Assam: Separatist group having Maoist tinge.
Besides the above there are about 22 old and non-functional Maoist groups of which the important are: Revolutionary Communist Centre, India (Maoist), Marxist Communist Party of India, Maoist Communist Centre (India), Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), CPI (ML) Second Central Committee, CPI (ML-Sanyal Group), CPI (ML) Red Flag, CPI (ML) People’s War Group, All India Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries etc.
Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia (CCOMPOSA). Formed in June 2001 the main constituents are:
* Bangladesh Samyabadi Dal (M-L)
* Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist), Sri Lanka
* Communist Party of East Bengal (M-L) Bangladesh
* Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
* Communist Party of India (M-L) People’s War
* Communist Party of India (M-L) Naxalbari
* Maobadi Punorgathan Kendro of PBSP Bangladesh
* Maoist Communist Centre (India)
* Purba Bangla Sarbohara Party, PBSP CC Bangladesh
* Revolutionary Communist Centre India (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
* Revolutionary Communist Centre India (Maoist), Merged into MCC (I) in 2003.
* Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM): The RIM was formed in 1984. Signatories of the Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and Participating Organisations in RIM (From A World to Win, #29, (2002), p. 88):
* Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)
* Communist Party of Afghanistan
* Communist Party of Bangladesh (M-L) BSD(ML)
* Communist Party of India (M-L) Naxalbari
* Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
* Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
* Communist Party of Peru
* Communist Party of Turkey Marxist-Leninist
* Maoist Communist Centre (India) [Merged with CPI (ML) People’s War to form the CPI (Maoist) in Sept. 2004.
* Maoist Communist Party Italy
* Marxist-Leninist Communist Organisation of Tunisia
* Proletarian Party of Purba Bangla (PBSP) Bangladesh
* Revolutionary Communist Group of Colombia
* Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
(Materials collated from Massline.info.)
I have highlighted the facts of existence of Maoist groups in the Northeast and Bangladesh as well as Nepal to emphasize the fact that sophisticated weapons are inducted by the Indian Maoists from Chinese arms peddling mafia through the Maoists in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. The Bangladesh based Maoist parties mostly active in the western part of the country are in cahoots with the Indian Maoists. They work as a conduit for supplying Chinese weapons to the Indian Maoists in India. Moreover, the Indian Maoists are suspected to receive financial assistance from the international community of Maoist organisations. International connectivity of the Indian movement is pointer to the rise of second phase of export of Maoist ideology by China. The first wave was generated by USSR inspiration and support. It would not be proper to evaluate the Indian Maoists as a mushroom growth. The seeds were sown in Andhra Pradesh under USSR inspiration, sprouted as Naxal Movement in West Bengal and several revisions and ideological twists have coagulated the Maoist movement to a spearhead with serious threat to the established system.
The Maoists earlier received weapons and explosives from LTTE sources through Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh coastal areas. Other reliable ground sources indicate that arms of Chinese origin are also inducted by the Indian Maoists by sea route for which the areas from Haldia, Kasba Naiaringarh (Midnapore) areas to areas like Khantapara, Baripada, Remuna. Balikuda and Berhanpur areas in Orissa are used by the armed guerrilla groups.
The Maoist movement is highly splintered but there is working coordination between groups active in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra. The CPI (Maoist) is by far the largest of these, incorporating as it does the two largest pre-merger groups engaged in guerrilla warfare. However, the Rajanna group of Janashkti is also apparently quite active. According to an article in the Hindustan Times (May 9, 2002], “Of various radical leftists, People’s War Group and Maoist Communist Centre are most ferociously pursuing the Marx-Lenin and Mao-inspired protracted people’s war in at least seven states of India.” The article went on to say that their connections with the developing revolution in Nepal, and “reports of their bid to carve out a corridor from some areas of MP, AP, Bihar and UP up to Nepal have alarmed Indian government. There are some groups which are in favour of reformist line and participation inn the electoral process.
And in between these two extremes there is a whole large middle ground. Many of the organizations here favor what they call the “mass revolutionary line” or “Mao’s mass line”. I believe that most of these groups favor people’s war (and/or mass insurrection) at some point, but they think the ground is not yet prepared for it, at least in most places in India. Among the “mass revolutionary line” groups are:
* CPI (ML), a new party formed with the merger of CPI(ML) Red Flag and CPI(ML)-Sanyal Group in January 2005.
* Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India (M-L)
* CPI (M-L) New Democracy- but this group seems to be leaning more to the left and toward guerrilla warfare now.
* Communist Party Reorganization Centre of India (M-L)
* Many smaller groups.
Many of the revolutionary groups in India have diverse currents of political opinion within them, and it has been a frequent occurrence for a section of a party in one of these three main groups to split off and join up with a party in one of the other three main groups. It seems that no party or group has yet been able to demonstrate to a majority of the communist revolutionaries of India that it has figured out the best path to revolution.
The above are brief accounts of the Maoist groups which have influenced the course of political history of India since 1966-67 with the Naxalbari movement. Greater details cannot be incorporated due to constraint of space.
Since the armed struggle by several groups have challenged the authority of the legally constituted governments in the name of Maoist ideology, it is necessary to have a brief glimpse into the tenets preached by Mao Zedong. According to him: “The general features of orthodox hostilities, that is, the war of position and the war of movement, differ fundamentally from guerrilla warfare. There are other readily apparent differences such as those in organization, armament, equipment supply, tactics, command; in conception of the terms ‘front’ and ‘rear’; in the matter of military responsibilities.” Mao Zedong on Guerrilla Warfare.”
Mao’s tenets observe that in guerrilla warfare, select the tactic of seeming to come from the east and attacking from the west; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision. When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws. In guerilla strategy, the enemy’s rear, flanks, and other vulnerable spots are his vital points, and there he must be harassed, attacked, dispersed, exhausted and annihilated. Only in this way can guerrillas carry out their mission of independent guerrilla action and coordination with the effort of the regular armies. But, in spite of the most complete preparation, there can be no victory if mistakes are made in the matter of command.
Mao also says: “What is basic guerrilla strategy? Guerrilla strategy must be based primarily on alertness, mobility, and attack. It must be adjusted to the enemy situation, the terrain, the existing lines of communication, the relative strengths, the weather and the situation of the people.” Ibid.
The general features of orthodox hostilities, that is, the war of position and the war of movement, differ fundamentally from guerrilla warfare. There are other differences such as those in organization, armament, equipment supply, tactics, command; in conception of the terms ‘front’ and ‘rear’; in the matter of military responsibilities.
When considered from the point of view of total numbers, guerrilla units are small and many, as individual combat units, they may vary in size from the smallest, of few individuals or several hundred men, to the battalion or the regiment, of several thousand. This is not the case in regularly organized units.
A primary feature of guerrilla operations is their dependence upon the people themselves to organize battalions and other units. As a result of this, organization depends largely upon local circumstances. In the case of initial guerrilla groups, the standard of equipment was of a low order and they depended for their sustenance primarily upon what the locality affords. Later they achieved success in procuring sophisticated weapons. The strategy of guerrilla warfare is manifestly unlike that employed in orthodox operations, as the basic tactic of the former is constant activity and movement. There is in guerrilla warfare no such thing as a decisive battle; there is nothing comparable to the fixed, passive defence that characterizes orthodox war. In guerrilla warfare, the transformation of a moving situation into a positional defensive situation never arises. The general features of reconnaissance, partial deployment, general deployment, and development of the attack that are usual in mobile warfare are not common in guerrilla war. The guerrillas establish preliminary and solid bases and through “Mass Control” mechanism gradually establish free areas and several free areas join together to dominate territories. When we discuss the terms ‘front’ and ‘rear’ it must be remembered, that while guerrillas do have bases, their primary field of activity is in the enemy’s rear areas. They themselves have no rear. As to the matter of military responsibilities, those of the guerrillas are to exterminate small forces of the enemy; to harass and weaken large forces; to attack enemy lines of communications; to establish bases capable of supporting independent operations in the enemy’s rear, to force the enemy to disperse his strength and go for splintered deployment which lead to better ambushing capability for the guerrilla forces
There are several considerations on which the insurgency and guerrilla warfare are evolved. Main points of consideration are: How guerrilla bands are formed, organized how to arm and train them and which elements of the populace should be considered as the hardcore elements of the movement? In the Indian context Charu Mazumdar had initially chosen the landless laborers, deprived tea garden employees who were mostly of tribal stock. Later he moved on to the idea of mass killing and urban guerrilla warfare. Now the pattern is to create bases in deprived rural areas, amongst the depressed classes and castes, forest dwelling tribals. The leadership is measured up by the standards laid down by Mao Zedong: They must be well educated in theories of class struggle, tenets of Lenin and Mao, well versed with the mood of the people and have better understanding of the basics of forming bases, selecting people to initial guerrilla groups, arranging weapons and lead the organized bands to isolated skirmishes with small police and paramilitary forces. From that basic concept the present day Maoist groups have graduated to establishing chains of bases, operating from the rear and flank of the enemy (state forces), procuring sophisticated weapons and explosive devices and even mounting surprise attack on sizeable police and paramilitary forces.
Mao had suggested that all the people in an area should arm themselves and be organized into two groups. One of these groups is a combat group, the other a self-defence unit with limited military quality. Regular combatant guerrillas are organized into one of three general types of units. The first of these is the small unit, the platoon or company. In each given territory, three to six units may be organized. The second type is the battalion of two to four companies. One such unit should be organized in each dominated territory. While the unit fundamentally belongs to the designated area in it was organized for, it may operate in other areas as well. While in areas other than its own, it must operate in conjunction with local units in order to take advantage of their manpower, their knowledge of local terrain and local customs, and their information of the enemy. According to him each of the units has its own peculiarities of organization. A squad, the smallest unit, may have the strength of from nine to eleven men, including the leader and the assistant leader. Its arms may be from two to five rapid firing rifles, with the remaining men armed with rifles, other kinds of weapons and even spears, or big swords. Two to four such squads form a platoon. This too has a leader and an assistant leader, and when acting independently, it is assigned a political officer to carry on political propaganda work. The platoon may have about ten rifles, with the remainder of its four of such units from a company, which, like the platoon, has a leader, an assistant leader, and a political officer. All these units are under the direct supervision of the military commanders of the areas in which they operate.
The war field is a learning university for the guerrilla forces. Leaders emerge from continuous engagement with the enemy (State). They have immaculate information gathering mechanism, identified routes to advance and disperse but to reunite and mount fresh attacks. They create informers in the security forces and clear up the base areas and ‘free territories’ of enemy (State) intelligence personnel and do not hesitate to eliminate such villagers who are suspected as government informers. Normally the guerrillas do not torture the people, but in cases where the populace is not cooperative they establish ‘Mass Control” on them by selected killing and attacking police forces in or around such villages which obviously invite retaliation from the administration.
This cycle of gradual denudation of government authority by burning schools, health centres, demolishing bridges, culverts telephone and telegraph lines and attacking isolated railway stations give impression to the people that they can no more TRUST the State for their protection. They seek protection from the guerrilla forces. This methodology of scorched earth policy helped the guerrillas to establish firm control on public psychology and occupation of vast tracts of areas, like the Lalgarh in West Bengal. The forces have apparently cleared the area but the Maoist guerrillas have the capability to strike at will. Similar situation has been created in areas of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The security forces are present in the affected areas like whales in the sea; the guerrillas are present as fish in water.
Since the subject is very vast it would be necessary to understand the basics of Counter Insurgency and Counter Guerrilla warfare. Counterinsurgency, COIN in US combat lingo, requires joint forces to both fight and build sequentially or simultaneously, depending on the security situation and political will of the rulers of the day. The balance of these operations must be appropriate to accomplish the current phase’s objectives. Offensive and defensive operations in counterinsurgency that are predominantly aimed at insurgent combatants are counter-guerrilla operations. Insurgents, according to Mao’s thesis do not fight frontal warfare till they are able to take the weakened State on in open engagement. Hence, they are dependent on guerrilla warfare.
Stability operations are fundamental to counterinsurgency warfare. Stability operations address the core grievances of insurgency as well as drivers of conflict and are essential to long-term success. In India the emphasis so far has been on better police operations aided by the paramilitary forces. The Union and the State governments hardly underscore the needs for bridging the mind boggling imbalances, economic neglect, lack of developmental activities and exploitation of the rural masses and the forest dwellers by the bourgeoisie political leaders and the bureaucrats. Corruption in the system of administration is as lethal as the Maoist guerrillas. Without positive political, economic and social developments and corruption free administration the present phase of Maoist guerrilla warfare cannot be combated even if the State creates large Commando and operational forces.
To emphasize the Maoist concept of aggregation of factors and forces that go in making guerrilla warfare successful is narrated in bullet form:
* Survey and analysis of the target base, weaknesses of the government machineries and degree of deprivation and state of hostility dominating the populace.
* Arousing and organizing the people and getting them involved in isolated skirmishes, prolonged agitation and defiance of governmental authority.
* Achieving internal political unification of the peoples, indoctrinate them and set up example of viability of violence in achieving what was denied to them by the tools of governance.
* Establishing bases in areas where “Mass Control” of the government is comparatively weak.
* Exploit poor economic conditions of the peoples, and start works to mitigate their grievances as much as possible; play Robin Hood.
* Accrue own strength by training the cadre who mostly belong to proletariat classes.
* Educated, hardworking, enlightened and incorruptible leadership from the top to lowest formation.
* Equipping own forces with lethal weapons, including modern weapons, explosives, training them in making and exploding IEDs.
* Rigorous training to fight in squad, platoon and company formations; teaching the principles of guerrilla warfare-attacking the enemy from rear and flank and frontal attack when own strength accrues to battalion and regiment level.
* Creation of intelligence gathering mechanism and establishment of communication facility.
* Survey of the target of attack and explaining the modus of attack with element of surprise.
* Destroying enemy’s (government’s) strength and imposition of “rule of law” of the guerrilla forces.
* Gain more territory (liberate) and enlarge the bases.
* Create liberated zone and interconnect bases under own forces as well as parallel forces of liberation struggle.
* Collaboration with forces with similar objectives and obtain foreign help towards ideological as well as logistic support.
I do not want to chronicle the global history of Guerrilla warfare reportedly originating with Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of Spain. The USA counts the beginning of counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare from the time of its involvement in Vietnam War; the UK counts the beginning with its counterinsurgency operations in the Malaya peninsula. India has vast history of tackling insurgency and guerrilla warfare in Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Punjab and Kashmir. In addition, the Maoist apparatuses have started developing as a new political challenge, which is not based on ethnicity. This ideology based insurgency is spread over vast areas in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The “Red Dagger”, as the phenomenon is perceived, has posed serious threats to the overall security of the country.
This requires some comments on the counterinsurgency warfare and Guerrilla warfare by the legally constituted governments in India. Having had the opportunity of serving in various insurgency and guerrilla warfare theaters of the country nearly for one and half decade I would like to explain the Indian modus operandi in counterinsurgency operations. The evolution of the Nagaland and Manipur models were different from the Assam and Punjab models. In Nagaland and parts of Naga inhabited areas of Manipur the influence of the legally constituted government exercised minimum “Mass Control” mechanism. The well organised underground political and armed movement had established ‘population control’ significantly. This was possible because of minimum or negative presence of civil administration in the modern concept of State presence. Indian and local officers ruled like colonial masters and they paid very little or no attention to the economic, social, developmental and other aspects of state control activities. Because of sparse spread of civil and police administration in adverse topographical regions the dictates of the rebels ran without hindrance. The rebels occupied the higher peaks, gullies in between rough and tough routes and forest hideouts. Often they operated from within well fortified stockade with observation posts. Almost the entire populace in bases created by the underground acted as informers for the rebels.
Police forces were not trained in operations in mountainous terrain and they possessed Second World War firearms and prehistoric wireless communications system. The insurgents had in possession sophisticated weapons and communication system supplied by Pakistan and China. Later the paramilitary and regular army established minimum company strength posts in viable locations, and the Village Volunteer Force raised from among the locals and trained by Indian governmental authorities established stockade fortifications in high peak locations and near about the villages known to be loyal to the guerrillas. With betterment of troop deployment and induction of better weapons and communication system the VVF, paramilitary and army contingents gradually dislodged the insurgents from their established bases, reestablished governmental “Mass Control” mechanism and writ of the legal authorities.
The local police forces were better trained and supplied with modern weapons. But the role played by the VVF and Central Intelligence agencies helped the operating forces with auxiliary people’s army and intelligence support. By 1973 the Guerrilla warfare movement in Manipur and Nagaland were brought under considerable control. Creation of Bangladesh, decimation of the Manipur valley movement and signing of the Shillong Accord between the Government of India and the Naga rebels in 1975 marked the end of the first phase of anti-guerrilla movement. The present phase resurfaced after 1980 for various combinations which is not the subject of discussion in this treatise. The core elements of the operations consisted of Peoples’ support like the VVF and Village Guards, better human intelligence, squad and company strength operations against the rebel hideouts and targeted elimination of high profile leaders. Route columns, jungle patrols with support of helicopter borne sighting and fighting support had tilted the balance in favour of Indian forces.
In Assam the experience was different. Starting with the All Assam Student’s Union movements against illegal immigrants from East Bengal/Pakistan and Bangladesh and better economic deal had vitiated general mood of the people. The prolonged movement itself established some kind of “Mass Control” in urban and rural areas in favour of the protagonists of the AASU movement. The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) had readymade grounds to influence the alienated mass psyche to support to the insurgents. In a way, barring certain areas in the Barrack Valley and Brahmaputra Valley the entire Assam could be treated as “bases” for the ULFA. The insurgents received weapons and training from China and Bangladesh/Pakistan sources. Over short period they grouped the volunteers to battalion and brigade formations with strop training centres and command positions. Assam police was not trained and equipped to tackle the ULFA offensive and gain of more territories. Operation Bajrang and Rhino were conceived by the Indian intelligence agency and the armed forces of the Eastern Command. Having had the opportunity of being a shadow partner in these operations, I realized that initial battalion and brigade level thrust of the Indian army on the basis of appreciable HUMINT had dispersed the ULFA from their bases and territories. The dispersed groups went over to Myanmar areas and obtained help from the Chinese, some leadership elements took refuge in Bangladesh and the operational forces were forced to operate as isolated guerrilla units. It was a stupendous job to militarily dislodge the ULFA from its bases clearing grounds for the political decision makers to implement “Mass Control” measures. Over time the Assam police and intelligence also graduated to combat readiness to fight the ULFA guerrilla forces.
The Union government and the state governments in Assam and Nagaland have been able to provide some developmental opportunities and political, economic and industrial impetus. However, in Manipur the political masters have miserably failed to dislodge the guerrilla forces from the valley and hill hideouts and the insurgents still control the peoples’ psyche and the governments continue to buy somewhat uneasy peace by closing eyes to ‘tax collection’ by the insurgents from all segments of the people. They run parallel governments. Presence of Army and invigorated police action provide some façade of constitutional governance in doomed Manipur. The Union government and the governing political parties have failed miserably the people of Manipur.
Punjab experienced another format of counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla warfare. Punjab police was well trained and motivated than the police forces in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam. Police as well as central intelligence agencies had accessed better HUMINT to support police and paramilitary operations. Known as traditional fighters the elements of Sikh terrorists were trained by some ex-army personnel, Pakistan and were equipped by Pakistan mainly. The Pakistani military intelligence, the ISI provided international connectivity with the Sikh Diaspora who also funded the movement. For about three years the insurgents were able to establish “Mass Control” through armed terror and also through religious preaching by the pro-separatist religious leaders, granthis, pathis and dhaddi and kirtani jathas. Police and paramilitary forces operated from new bases established in the heart areas of the bases of the guerrilla forces. Their task was facilitated as most the groups were disjointed and operated in defined areas in central (majha) and southern (malwa) and northern (doaba) areas of Punjab. Pakistan tried to bring some cohesion by assisting the Panthik Committees formed by some leading ideologues and commanders of the armed groups. But the writ of the PC was more ignored than abided by the guerilla forces. The religious fountainheads of the insurgency movement were also splintered.
Indian forces operated in squad, platoon and company detachments with able assistance from intelligence agencies and even from the peoples who were not loyal to the “Mass Control” measures of the insurgents. Their main mistake was to pull all their force in and around the Golden Temple. If Operation Blue Star (1984) had provided impetus to the disorganized terror groups to graduate to insurgent guerrilla detachments, the 1987 efforts of the militants to run the movement from within the Golden Temple invited doom for themselves. Operation Black Thunder was better conceived and supported by intelligence and the splintered groups gradually were either eliminated or succumbed to pressure to surrender and negotiate. Some core elements escaped to Pakistan. The Khalistan movement was based on religious bigotry that was exploited by Pakistan and some elements of the Diaspora. Of all the anti-guerrilla operations the Punjab experience was most successful.
The contemporary anti Maoist operations are deficient when contrasted with other global operations and even operations in Punjab, Assam and Nagaland. In the entire “Red Corridor” area the conventional police forces and the supporting paramilitary forces operate under commands of district police authorities and supervision of Director General of Police and other hierarchical formations. Police Stations are the main hubs of operations with basic structures like police outposts and detachments specially deployed for fighting the Maoists. Regular and special police patrol parties try to dominate certain areas mostly traversing along frequented roads and tracks. Police Stations in most of the affected areas are located in substandard, unfortified building, dilapidated rented accommodations. Some of the outposts are awfully understaffed and unsecured. Often such police stations are understaffed and are exposed to sudden attack and overrunning by the Maoist guerrillas. The police force mostly carries antiquated weapons against modern weaponry of the guerrillas. While the guerrillas set up ambushes on the basis of inside information, the police forces set up anticipatory ambushes without specific intelligence. The guerrillas have the capacity to take the police by surprise, hit and retreat only to attack again. The police forces are yet to graduate to the level of trained commando guerrillas. Only trained guerrillas can fight the outlawed guerrillas.
The paramilitary forces assisting the police and the recently introduced Cobra Commando Force are generally encamped near about police stations, special encampments. Being outside forces and not acclimatized with the terrain and the populace they try to operate by developing own intelligence or intelligence generated by State police. Chattisgarh has experimented with Salwa Judum (a peoples’ volunteer force) not yet trained by professional anti-guerrilla experts and not well armed to face the Maoist forces. There were furors from civil and human rights organisation against Salwa Judum and even the courts intervened. They all forget the in case the Maoists have the assumed right to impose “Mass Control” by force the peoples’ have also rights to organize themselves and form resistance groups to protect their constitutional and individual rights. The activists who oppose the Salwa Judum should not forget that peoples’ participation in the form of the VVF, Village Guards, Home Guards and Special Police Officers etc had contributed significantly in combating the insurgents and guerrillas in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam and Punjab. This pattern of peoples’ resistance forces is an integral part of anti-guerrilla warfare. It is a pity that the States in the “Red Corridor” have not yet learnt lessons from global efforts in combating insurgents and guerrilla forces and suffer from misplaced political perceptions of keeping the peoples’ power unused thus exposing the Maoists to impose their “Mass Control” on the people.
Such misplaced political maneuvers offer opportunity to the Maoists to spread their tentacles, enlarging their bases and occupying more territories. The present political approach is contradictory to established theories and practices of effective anti-counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla operations. Not the police alone but the combined powers of the police and the peoples can alone isolate the guerrilla forces. There is no law in the country to prevent the governments in recruiting Special Police Constables and Officers, Home Guards and Village Volunteer Force. The Courts and the human rights groups have a role to monitor HR abuses. It may also be remembered that counterinsurgency and anti-Guerrilla warfare have always been at cross-roads with the rights groups. In a war situation the State has an obligatory duty under the constitution to protect lives and properties and rule of law by waging war against the insurgents.
Lack of Human Intelligence, penetration inside the Guerrilla formations, lack of facilities to usefully apply Technical and Electronic intelligence and even Image Intelligence impede the ongoing operations. Helicopter borne surveillance, gathering aerial data by using micro aerial vehicles (MAV) are yet to be conceived and implemented by the respective State police forces. Without such Technical Intelligence aids to the ground forces the State is forced to operate like blind scapegoats to be sacrificed by the guerrillas armed to the teeth. Their intelligence network is superior to the state intelligence apparatuses.
Insurgency and guerrilla warfare are complex, dynamic, and adaptive. They can rapidly shift, split, combine, and reorganize. They can take the state forces by surprise, lay ambush, mine tracks and even fire mortar shells and rocket propelled grenades.
The present global ambience is typified by a volatile international environment, persistent conflict, and increasing state fragility. Long-standing external and internal tensions tend to exacerbate or create core grievances within some states, resulting in political strife, instability, or even insurgency. Moreover, some transnational terrorists/extremists with radical political and religious ideologies may intrude in weak or poorly governed states to form a wider, more networked threat. India is not a failed stets like Afghanistan and a collapsing state like Pakistan. However, India has several festering insurgencies and guerrilla groups inspired by Maoist ideology and certain ethnic demands.
Insurgents seek to gain power to overthrow or force change of a governing authority.
Insurgency is an internal threat that uses subversion and violence to reach political ends. Conversely, counterinsurgents seek to defeat insurgents and address core grievances to prevent insurgency’s expansion or regeneration. Typically the insurgents will solicit or be offered some type of support from state or non-state actors, which can include transnational terrorists who take advantage of the situation for their own benefit.
Counterinsurgency is comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address the core grievances of the people. Counterinsurgency is primarily political and incorporates a wide range of activities, of which security is only one. Unified action by the political rulers, bureaucrats, industrial and business houses is required to successfully conduct wholesome operations and should include simultaneous police (military) action and developmental activities. Civilian agencies should redress grievances of the people. The State police and polices forces of the Union may jointly and simultaneously attack the armed groups, weaken them and force them to come to the negotiation tables. In multi-party political democracy different political parties should not work at cross purposes. For example, the CPM government in West Bengal has woken up late to the Maoist menace. Whereas the Trinamool Congress is opposed to joint state and central police action. Political differences and vote bank compulsions should not create additional space for the Maoist guerrillas. The intellectuals suffering from misplaced human rights concerns may also like to consider that war against the state compels the State to live by the constitutional mandate and maintain law and order and protect lives and properties of the people by waging war against the Maoists, who use war to grab state power through violent means.
Successful counterinsurgency operations require comprehensive knowledge of the operational environment including an understanding of the insurgents, the scope of the insurgency, any external supporting elements, and possible support from outside players, which may benefit from a protracted conflict and especially the relevant population. Insurgency typically succeeds or fails based on the support of the population. These basic understandings are primary requirements before launching anti-guerrilla operations. The political masters must understand that police action is not the only answer to insurgency.
There are some prerequisites for an insurgency to be successful in an area—i. a vulnerable population, ii. leadership available for direction, and iii. lack of government control. When all three prerequisites exist in an area, insurgency can operate with some freedom of movement, gain the support of the people, and become entrenched over time. A population is vulnerable if the people have real or perceived grievances that insurgents can exploit. If insurgents can recruit, co-opt, or coerce local leaders or the local leaders are part of the insurgency, these leaders can direct the frustrations of the populace. Real or perceived lack of governmental control can allow insurgents to operate with little or no interference from security forces or other agencies. Unfortunately, in India the peoples in the Maoist affected areas have been historically neglected in pre and post independence years. Mere invocation of police action cannot help regaining of “Mass Control”. The political governments must implements people oriented developmental and economic policies and provide all facilities as provided to the urban areas.
The counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla warfare is a multifaceted subject dealt with differentiated strategy and tactics by different countries. As far as real life counterinsurgency and anti-guerrilla warfare tactics and strategies in India and application of superior military program to demoralize and disperse the guerrilla forces are concerned, I propose to share the global thoughts, Indian experiences and my personal understanding of the ground situation in the next part of this essay. Till than the readers may like to enjoy this rather longish treatise.-Sri Lanka Guardian