Maharashtra Police had undergone training at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare (CTJW) College at Kanker in Chhattisgarh between 2008 and 2011, after which they established their own training establishment near Nagpur employing a veteran army officer for initial few years
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
In a fierce gun battle between the police and Maoists in Paidi forest area under Kotmi Police Post in Etapalli Taluka on the morning of May 21, 2021, 13 Maoists were killed. The police recovered all the 13 bodies of the killed Maoists, seven of which were women, and identified them. All the Maoists killed carried a reward on their heads, highest being Satish alias Andve Debu Mohanta of 4 Compay, Maoists carrying a reward of 16 lakh on his head. A large number of arms and ammunition were also recovered from the encounter site. About four to five Maoists were also wounded in the gun battle who managed to get away.
The police had received specific inputs that a group of Maoists were to assemble in the forest area. Gadchiroli District is known for collection of Tendu leaves which are used in beedi production and Maoists extract extortion money from the contractors in this trade. The meeting between the Tendu leaf contractors and Maoists had been planned, which was part of the tip off received by the police. Based on this information, a team of C60 Commando Force, the anti-Maoists squad of the District Police was launched on May 20 itself, according to SP Gadchiroli.
The operation went off well with the C60 Commando Force not suffering any casualties since the force moved out well in time and moving stealthily were able to maintain surprise
The C60 Commando Force commenced counter-Maoists operations at about 0600 hours on the morning of May 21. The Maoists who were hiding in the forest began firing indiscriminately towards the police. The police called out to them to lay down their arms and surrender but they did not because all of them were armed and did not think they were surrounded. The exchange of fire continued for an hour and a half after which fire from the Maoists side died down. When the police searched the area, 13 dead bodies were found. One AK-47 assault rifle, four 7.62 SLR rifles, three .303 rifle, one carbine, four 12 bore guns and some ammunition and explosives were recovered from the encounter site.
Maharashtra Police had killed two Maoists in an encounter three days earlier. May 21 was also the day when the Maharashtra Police had lost 15 colleagues in 2009 in an ambush by the Maoists. To this end, the police were able to avenge their comrades through the above operation. The operation went off well with the C60 Commando Force not suffering any casualties since the force moved out well in time and moving stealthily were able to maintain surprise till the very last minute when the Maoists opened fire in panic.
The Maoists-effected districts of Gadchiroli and Gondi in Maharashtra are well under the control of the police. Maharashtra Police had undergone training at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare (CTJW) College at Kanker in Chhattisgarh between 2008 and 2011, after which they established their own training establishment near Nagpur employing a veteran army officer for initial few years. Prior to doing so, ADGs of Maharashtra Police visited the CTJW College at Kanker and Director of the CTJW College was invited to speak at a seminar in Mumbai. Presently, the Gadchiroli Police says they select tough recruits from the Maoists area and are given training at their training centre close to Nagpur and with Greyhounds in Hyderabad.
With police from other states too suffering casualties in counter-Maoists operations, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh too started sending their police personnel for training at the CJTW College
Some years back the Chhattisgarh State Government invited Brigadier Basant Kumar Ponwar for a special security related assignment which turned out to be for establishing the CTJW College at Kanker with special emphasis on counter-Maoists operations. This was specifically to prepare the Chhattisgarh Police for undertaking operations against the Maoists.
After reconnaissance, work commenced under directions of Brigadier Ponwar on April 1, 2005, with a JCB tipper and dozers to carve out the training area simulating the counter-Maoist battlefield; 17 firing ranges, endurance track, unarmed combat (UAC) area, rock climbing area, rock garden facility for running the classes. A hill was leveled off for a helidrome, open gymnasium, obstacle training (OT) course, survival area, and cobra area for training in handling snakes. The College started in 2005 with 65 acres land and is now spread over 800 acres. Area around the College has 64 Villages and 74 Hillocks between Keshkal and Kanker – 20 x 20 km or 400 sq km.
Ponwar set out door exercises in patrolling, raids, ambushes, seek and destroy operations (SADO) and cordon and search operations (CASO) and civic actions. The first training course (YC-1) commenced on August 22, 2005. After the course, within ten days personnel trained at the College killed two Maoists in an open encounter, which was a first for Chhattisgarh Police. With police from other states too suffering casualties in counter-Maoists operations, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh too started sending their police personnel for training at the CJTW College.
Teams from the NSG have also been undergoing training at CTJW College for jungle warfare and counter-Maoists tasks
Looking at the performance of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in counter-Maoists operations, Ponwar told DGP Chhattisgarh that they need to be given an ‘orientation training’ course. Hence, BSF, CISF, SSB and ITBP commenced sending their battalions to the CTJW College for training. But the CRPF was adamant they do not require any orientation training. However, when 76 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists who took away all their weapons and equipment on April 6, 2010, Union Home Secretary GK Pillai visited the CTJW College following which the Union Home Minister ordered entire 62 CRPF Battalion to undergo training at CTJW College at Kanker. At the end of the 45-day course the feedback said had we come here before, our 76 colleagues would not have been killed. Teams from the NSG have also been undergoing training at CTJW College for jungle warfare and counter-Maoists tasks. They stayed on for another 45-days at the College of their own will. CTJW College at Kanker has trained over 36,000 personnel from across the country so far. The college has no buildings, only tents and bivouacs.
The only visit to the CTJW College by an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was in 2010. The MHA needs to seriously look into the problem of leadership in the CRPF. Ground reports of the recent incident in Silger village in Sukma region of Chhattisgarh where CRPF opened fire on villagers opposed to setting up of a CRPF camp, killing three and injuring 41 on May 17, 2021, is a serious incident which must not be taken lightly. Going by the police theory that the CRPF was attacked by a group of 3,000 armed agitators including Maoists, how come CRPF suffered no casualties? Lackadaisical attitude towards such incidents will add fuel to the Maoists insurgency.