Many states that have successfully tackled Maoist insurgencies have done so by using specialised defence forces, raised and recruited to take on the challenge posed by extremists. The understanding that state forces have to take the lead in the war against Maoism—with Central paramilitary forces playing a supportive role—is a long-held belief among security experts.
In Andhra Pradesh, it is the Greyhounds who are largely credited with neutralising the Maoist threat; in Maharashtra, it is the C-60 that is said to be responsible for taking on the challenge from Maoism in areas bordering Chhattisgarh. Yet Chhattisgarh, where 22 security personnel were killed on April 3, does not have a specialised force on the lines of these forces or the SOG in Odisha or the Hawk Force in Madhya Pradesh.
However, presenting a contrarian view, Brigadier (retired) B.K. Ponwar, director of the Kanker-based Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College who is in charge of training the DRG and STG in Chhattisgarh, says, “I don’t think having specialised units with fancy names is going to help. In Chhattisgarh we have the DRG and STF deployed in anti-Maoist operations. They have neutralised 300 Maoists in a short span of time.” He adds that for Central paramilitary forces to be more effective, they should have their battalion HQs along with the companies that are being deployed.
So, what has Chhattisgarh been fighting the Maoists with? Essentially, the state has been responding to Maoist through the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) drawn from the state’s armed constabulary. Besides this, Chhattisgarh also has a Bastar Battalion that is also pressed into service.
It is however the Chhattisgarh police’s DRG that has been the ‘tip of the spear’ so to speak, in the engagements with Maoists in the last few years.