When Chhattisgarh goes to elections next month, a major job carved out for the central armed police forces (CAPFs), besides ensuring peaceful, free and fair elections, would be to safeguard the police personnel from various states who have been asked to come to help them out.
Lacking experience in counter-insurgency operations and unaware of the dangerous game being played on the difficult terrain of Chhattisgarh, especially the south Bastar region, the police forces coming from the rather benign states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Gujarat and Karnataka can be sitting ducks, some CRPF officials say.
Out of a total force deployment of 564 companies (about 22,500 personnel) in Chhattisgarh, 93 companies (about 3,750 personnel) are from state police forces who do not have any experience of counter insurgency operations and have never witnessed the war-like situation that prevails in Chhattisgarh.
The first phase of polls in Chhattisgarh is on November 11 for 18 assembly seats spread out in the vast hinterland of Bastar region that begins south of Raipur and ends up at confluence of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha border.
“Though some of these police companies also come from Maoist-affected states such as Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and West Bengal, they do not have any clue of how to deal with Maoist attacks in jungles. They do not take precautions and follow orders. We fear that Maoists would try to attack these soft targets,” a senior police officer said.
Even the 50 companies (2,000 personnel) of Rapid Action Force (RAF) are not trained in the C-I ops and managing Maoists attacks, they are good at handling only riots and bigger agitations. Here you need a mixture of Army’s prowess and polices’ civility, another CRPF officer on duty in Chhattisgarh said.
Though CRPF director general Dilip Trivedi agreed that Maoist would try to launch targeted attacks on political leaders, candidates, and even security forces, he tried to allay these fears. “We usually take precaution to put such forces on poll duty in urban areas away from the Maoist operational area. We have done their induction and also given them some training,” he said.
However, officers on the ground have a different view. “During the first phase of elections in South Chhattisgarh, we would need a large number of forces to man every booth spread across a vast area. Agreed that in critical polling districts only CRPF, BSF, ITBP will guard the booths, the towns and urban centres in first phase are no less under threat. The Centre should try not to involve state police forces in places like Chhattisgarh. It puts us under a lot of pressure,” he said.