NAGPUR: Naxal-hit Gadchiroli district will be getting one more unit of paramilitary forces, with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), having started the process to dispatch another battalion to fight against the leftist extremists. This will be the fifth CRPF battalion in the troubled area. A battalion is equivalent to 1,000 men, however outlaws against whom the forces are being pitched seem to be heavily outnumbered, or that their numbers are under-estimated.
The state’s home minister RR Patil had recently said that the Naxals here had become too weak to take on the forces directly and are now only targeting the civilians. As the Naxal menace continues, the district will now be having 15,000 paramilitary personnel. These include five CRPF regiments including the new one to join and 10 battalions of the state reserve police force (SRPF). These are over and above the regular police which includes the C-60 commandos.
Naxal combatants, on the other hand, are not estimated to be more than 600. There are various estimates by different security agencies but the upper limit does not exceed 600 in any case, say sources in the very agencies. According to the police in the district, Naxals regulars are not more than 350-400. Another estimate puts the number of Naxalites to be not more than 500 even if the cadre in Gondia is taken into account.
However, there is the other cadre called the Jan Militia. These are villagers who double up as solders during raids. A senior police officer said that they must be more than a thousand. “Can’t say may be in a few thousands or so,” said the officer. The CRPF has its own estimates which are in the same range, while another agency estimates the Jan Militia upto a little over 1,000. In fact, counting the Jan Militia is a tricky affair as there are several villagers and you cannot make an exact count as to who is a Naxalite or not, said a source involved in anti-Naxal operations. “Even the tally of the regular combatants is too vague which is derived from interrogations and number of surrendered Naxalites. Much is groping in the dark. It is rather impossible to count the Jan Militia which easily mingle with the villagers,” added the source.
Even the estimate about the arms varies from that put up by the top brass and admissions by the troops on the ground. On record, it is just that the leader who has an AK-47 with his close lieutenants holding self-loading rifles (SLRs), and rest with only archaic 12-bore guns. However, troops often during informal conversations admit of Naxals having as sophisticated weapons as them. There have been reports of the rebels having rocket launchers too. But there are conflicting versions with one report saying that it is a indigenously prepared weapon and not so effective.
Brigadier (retd) BM Ponwar, who heads the college of jungle warfare and counter terrosism (CJWCT) in Chattisgargh, training the state’s police, said, “Whatever be the number, the Naxals have learnt to strike effectively at the weakest spot. This has also led to the forces realize the importance of training, which has now gone a long way combating the rebels.”
The new CRPF unit is expected to boost the forces dominance in the area. This will lead to more area domination patrols as the CRPF, which is a professional force, will assist the police in its operations. There are CRPF formations in the interiors, which has gone a long way in controlling the situation in Gadchiroli.
Deputy inspector general of police (DIGP) Akhilesh Prasad Singh, who confirmed the development, stated that the preparations were in full swing to accommodate families of these additional forces and also make their arrangements.