Government sources, however, highlighted a conditional clause — “as the situation warrants” — in the draft policy to stress that the administration was only trying to arm itself with an option.
The new draft policy for managing “Left Wing Extremism” is yet to be officially accepted or circulated among the affected states.
The UPA government had used the armed forces in rescue, evacuation and transportation in Maoist areas but refused to deploy them in operations. The army itself has been against involvement in anti-Maoist operations, as opposed to anti-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.
The right to use the armed forces option is the fourth of six “general principles” proposed in the new draft policy.
It states: “The State is duty-bound to resolutely deal with the Maoist violence and reserves the right to use any element of its national power against the outfit as the situation warrants.”
It is this principle that marks the new policy’s character and sets it apart from the UPA’s doctrine — the rest of it is essentially an extension of the previous government’s policy of security-cum-development.
Former Chhattisgarh director-general of police Vishwaranjan said the new policy seemed different from the UPA’s.
“But I don’t think the army will be used. They (the army) do not want to get involved, unless absolutely forced,” Vishwaranjan told The Telegraph from Chhattisgarh.
Government sources emphasised that the armed forces option “may be seen as a strategic threat; it does not mean that the army will be pressed in or air strikes ordered”.
The last time the Centre had used air strikes within its territory was in 1966 when the air force used machine guns to destroy Mizo National Front targets.
Anti-Maoist operations are now led by the Central Reserve Police Force. The army, however, has two sub-area commands in Chhattisgarh and undertakes anti-insurgency exercises in parts of the state.
The new policy’s fourth principle underlines the Narendra Modi government’s image as a hard-nosed administration. The tough approach comes at a time the CPI (Maoist) is faced with a crisis of leadership, dwindling recruitment figures and large-scale surrenders.
“Much of it is because of disenchantment within,” Vishwaranjan said.
Under the draft policy, the CRPF will hold the counter-insurgency grid together and operate seamlessly across state borders. Technology, training and new standard operating procedures will be designed to turn it into a “world-class force” within a “reasonable time frame”, sources said.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta