The Maoists have raised a mini-army in the heart of the country. Armed to the teeth with AK-47s, INSAS rifles and landmines, they are ready to strike terror. And, they seem to be winning the ‘war’.
On Tuesday, the government officially put a figure to the number of armed Naxal cadre as huge as 46,600. To fight them, nearly 94,000 paramilitary personnel have been posted in nine Naxal-hit states.
On top of that, nearly 1 lakh policemen are battling the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand – two of the worst hit states.
But the numerical supremacy is no guarantee for success; the government seems to be still losing the ‘war’ against the Naxals.
In the past two years, the Maoists killed 483 security men while losing only 286 of their cadre. Home minister P. Chidambaram recently said there were 78 battalions – each comprising 1,200 men – of the CRPF, BSF, SSB and ITBP posted in various states to fight the Naxals.
This strength rose from just 37 battalions posted when he took over the ministry in 2009. ‘According to current estimates, the strength of the hardcore Naxals in the country is around 8,600.
In addition, there are around 38,000 ‘jan militia’, who carry rudimentary arms and also provide logistic support to the core group of the People Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) of the CPI (Maoist),’ minister of state in the home ministry, Jitendra Singh, said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
A senior home ministry official claimed that this figure is based on inputs of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), interrogation reports of certain top Naxal leaders arrested over the past two years and seized Maoist literature.
‘Currently, neither the Maoists nor the security forces are in a position to overwhelm each other. The Maoists, however, have an edge because of the topography of the hideouts in deep forests,’ the official added.
The Maoist ‘army’ is reportedly made up of three components: the main force, a secondary force and a base force.
The main force has companies, platoons and special action teams besides an intelligence unit. The secondary force comprises special guerilla squads, while the base force is made up of the ‘jan militia’.
The main force is armed with AK-47s and INSAS rifles, mostly looted from the security forces. The lowerlevel Maoist cadre use double-barrel and single-barrel guns apart from countrymade weapons.
Their arms of choice, however, are claymore landmines to blow up vehicles. Former UP DGP and ex-BSF chief Prakash Singh said: ‘Though we are fighting a mini-army, its strength is not so daunting that it cannot be overwhelmed. It is possible to disintegrate it if there is the political will to do so.’