Chhattisgarh attack: Odisha police step up vigil on border areas

Strengthening of intelligence apparatus yields results against LWEs, says Odisha DGP

As the loss of 22 security personnel in an attack by Naxals in Chhattisgarh rocked the country, Odisha police on Monday reiterated their resolve to strengthen the network for seamless flow of intelligence inputs to fight the rebels.

The Odisha police in close coordination with paramilitary forces have stepped up their vigil on border areas to prevent extremists slipping into State in the wake of Chhattisgarh attack.

Odisha’s vulnerability to Left Wing Extremism (LWE) continues to be a cause of concern because of its proximity to Chhattisgarh’s LWE-affected districts such as Sukma, Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada and Narayanpur. The region comprising of Chhattisgarh’s five districts and Odisha’s Malkangiri district is known as the country’s LWE hotspot.

The strategy of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in fighting Naxalism is almost the same. Collection of intelligence inputs and intelligence-based operations are central to the strategy. Undivided Andhra Pradesh was first to give emphasis on intelligence gathering which was followed in Odisha and Telangana.

“The biggest development in our fight against outlawed CPI (Maoist) is creation, development and strengthening of intelligence set-up after 2005. Right from top officials to constables, hands-on training on intelligence gathering has been made mandatory,” Odisha Director General of Police Abhay told The Hindu on Monday.

“Gradual harnessing of intelligence wing began to yield results from 2012-13. One can know when casualty on the side of security forces began to come down,” said Mr. Abhay.

A series of attacks by the rebels beginning from 2006 to 2012 had unnerved Odisha’s security establishment, with 2008 being the worst year. As many as 38 elite Greyhound police of Andhra Pradesh were killed in an ambush in Odisha’s Balimela reservoir, 14 Odisha police personnel were gunned down in audacious attack by CPI (Maoist) on Nayagarh district headquarter town and 17 men of Special Operation Group (SOG), anti-Naxal force, lost their lives in a landline blast. In the same year, Swami Laxmanananda was killed by Naxals leading to largescale communal violence in Kandhamal district.

Before launching any operation on intelligence input, the Odisha police assessed and cross-checked it. The intelligence wing in Odisha is headed by a full-time senior IPS officer while he is kept away from other administrative burdens.

“Personnel from Special Intelligence Wing and Special Operation Group, anti-Naxal forces have been the ones who have won most medals for excellence in service,” said the Odisha DGP.

“The mountain range known as Tulsi Pahad, the northernmost point on the western side of Malkangiri, Odisha’s worst-affected district is critical for us. We have not let LWEs to carry out any violence in Odisha after crossing Chhattisgarh in last two years,” said Mr. Abhay, who frequently visited Naxal-affected districts in the past one year.

There has been perceptible improvement in the situation in Odisha recently. Since 2016, a total 267 Naxal incidents have taken place in the State. Security forces were involved in 124 exchanges of fires. While 71 civilians have been killed, 16 security personnel lost their lives in the six-year period. The CPI (Maoist) suffered heavy casualty by losing 197 cadre and at the same time 119 laid down arms.

For Odisha, 2020 was a successful year. Sixteen hardcore CPI (Maoist) cadres including one State committee member, one divisional committee member and eight area committee members were neutralised in separate incidents of exchanges of fire with police. One cadre died in confrontation with the villagers.

Besides, 60 guns — including 26 quality weapons — 63 improvised explosive devices and large quantity of ammunition, explosive materials and other articles were recovered during anti-Maoist operations.

The biggest achievement of the Odisha police and Border Security Force has been recapturing of cut-off area (now Swabhiman Anchal) which was once a fiefdom of LWEs. The coordinated operation by Odisha and Andhra Pradesh had exerted pressure on several hardcore cadres to surrender in past couple of years.

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