Sunday, June 28, 2009

Push Against Naxalites Continue

West Bengal police and Central Reserve Police Force paramilitaries, including some special force paramilitaries, are continuing their push against the Maoists (Naxalites). According to IBN, the Maoists are active in 21 police stations (thanas) in three districts, West Midnapore, Bankura, and Puruliya (see map).
According to the Telegraph, the Government began moving on Lalgarh last week traversing the Jhitka jungles from Binpur. From Saturday, 27 June, Government forces departed Goaltore and moved on Ramgarh, according to IBN. Allegedly, the Naxalites retreated 5 km. to Kanthapahari village.

This village is part of the plan for the final assault, according to the Telegraph (article 1 and article 2). The plan is for the government to move into the area of Khasjangal (about 8km from Lalgarh and 1.5 km from Ramgarh) and 'trap the Maoists so they can't escape to Bankura using the forest cover.'
(The image above is a notional example of the events preceding and a conceptulization of the final assault. Note the heavily wooded area between Ramgarh and Lalgarh.)
A Central Reserve Police Force officer noted the importance of the topography (probably the forested area) saying that the Naxalites are 'capable of inflicting heavy casualties before beating a tactical retreat.' In order to get a better idea of the terrain the Government has been seeking the aid of Ramgarh residents in drawing up maps of some of the villages in the area, Bankishole, Hathigonsa, Kanthapahari, Chhotopelia, and Barapelia.

Sadly, a resident of another village in the area noted that the Naxalites were preparing to use villagers as human shields.
As the CRPF officer noted the Naxalites 'have a strong base among the tribals and we are also sure to encounter human shieds.' One hopes that the Government will not hold the tribals loyalties against them when they push out the Naxalities.
It has been noted from a variety of sources that the Naxalites were able to gain a foothold and the confidence of the local residents because of the inability of the government (central, provincial or local) to provide the necessary benefits - education, healthcare, economic.
The use of human shields is very troubling. If the CRPF and other government personnel lose sight of the fact that they are there to help the local residents then they will only be breeding more resentment.
The articles mention that the troops will be taking along mortars, these are dangerous indirect fire weapons that discriminate even less than a bullet. They should be used sparingly, if at all, and only when absolutely necessary. The government cannot allow innocent locals who are being used as shields against their will to perish during their "liberation."
If the government is truly attempting to beat the threat that PM Singh has labelled the gravest threat to India's stability then they must minimize local casualties and finally make good on the promise of development and good governance.
Only then will the Naxalties be truly beaten.

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