Will the Cabinet send in the Army to tackle Naxals?

June 10
A crucial meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by the Prime Minister, will decide on an updated anti-Naxal policy today. It is expected to deliberate upon whether the Army should be brought in.

While this will be a political call, the Army has reservations and is wary of getting embroiled in Naxal areas. But it is willing to help through training and in advisory roles.

Sources say the Army has offered to advice and train personnel of state and Central Police Organisations in larger numbers. It has suggested that young Assistant Commandants of Central Police Organisations can be attached to counter-insurgency battalions for six-month stints to raise a Greyhound-type specialized force in each state.

It has also suggested that Brigadier-level officers can be assigned as advisers in Naxal-affected states of the Unified Command  – Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra are the states where such postings can be done, the sources say.

It has offered to deploy more helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Sources say the Army is reluctant to get involved because it is already overstretched. If it has to deploy in Naxal areas, it would be at the cost of lowering guard on the Pakistan and China borders.

Already, the ratio of field-to-peace tenures of combat battalions has been upset because of heavy counter-insurgency operations. And although the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved substantially, it is still not conducive to thinning out the Army from there, the sources say.

Also, it is not possible for the Army to operate without the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. All the state governments would have to agree to impose the Act.

This year has seen some of the most lethal Maoist attacks ever, and the Central Government, on the back foot each time, has promised an effective anti-Naxal plan. The Opposition has slammed it for what it calls an “irresponsible policy in dealing with Naxalism.” Bringing in the Armed Forces to tackle the menace is a demand that has been repeatedly made.

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