Column: Let’s Keep The Morale Of Our Forces Fighting Rebels High

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: It was heartening to read about Home Minister’s Special Operation medal being presented to 25 police personnel from Odisha for their role in an operation which led to the killing of five Maoist rebels in Koraput in May this year. Those honoured included a superintendent of police, an additional SP and a sub-inspector.

Union home minister, Rajnath Singh has launched this initiative to decorate members of paramilitary forces, state police, and security agencies taking part in special operations with medals in recognition of their bravery.

The Koraput operation in which the jawans of Special Operations Group (SOG) and District Voluntary Force (DVF) engaged the rebels hiding in a forest in an exchange of fire was special because the district along with neighboring Malkangiri has long been considered to be a Maoist stronghold. Having entrenched themselves in this belt during the last three decades the rebels have unleashed a reign of terror indulging in senseless killings.

The war against left-wing insurgency having entered a crucial phase it is important to keep the morale of the security forces fighting the radicals high. It is not just enough to provide them with good salaries and perks and take care of their families, it is equally important to ensure that their acts of bravery are hailed.

Police personnel engaged in the anti-Maoist operation have been making supreme sacrifices. Many of them have laid down their lives in the line of duty. Both policemen and paramilitary forces deployed in the Maoist belt have been victims of ambushes and landmine blasts. In 2017 at least seven Odisha police personnel were killed in Koraput’s Sunki valley when the rebels triggered a blast using a remote control device.

The incident took place on National Highway 26 at Mungabhumi village under Pottangi police station on the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border when the policemen were travelling in a van to Cuttack for training. The blast preceded the three-tier panchayat polls in the state which the Maoists wanted the people to boycott.

In a similar incident in the Sunki valley, a few years before that four BSF jawans had been killed. Landmines, by far, remain the most weapon in the hands of the Maoists against the security forces which cannot use the same tactics against the rebels. From that point of view, it has been an unequal war with rebels free to target the security forces using all kinds of weapons.

Ambushes are common in the Malakangiri-Koraput belt dominated by the rebels. Perhaps the most fatal of these took place in 2008 when the Maoists opened fire on a boat carrying 60 greyhound commandos of Andhra Pradesh policed and four anti-Naxalite jawans of Odisha police in the Balimela reservoir. With the rebels sniping at the boat from the nearby Alampekka hill the vessel sunk killing 38 troops.

Considering that security forces fighting the rebels are always at a disadvantage given the limitations under which they have to operate it is important to keep their morale high. That is the least we can do for them.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)