Gadchiroli cops learn rules of engagement

Gadchiroli police are training how to hold their nerve when they get into an encounter with Naxals. The district saw 42 encounters in 2012, its highest for a single year, but the casualties were lopsided: four Naxals to 14 security men (13 of them in a mine blast).

Among the many factors identified as responsible for the poor success of operations is the loss of nerve when bullets start flying all around. Anti-Naxal Operation (ANO) commandos are now undergoing intensive "battle inoculation" training in Gadchiroli and at Nagpur's Unconventional Operations Training Centre (UOTC). The training involves policemen crawling under, and in a direction perpendicular to, continuous crossfire.

"The idea is for the commandos to get accustomed to the sound of heavy fire, which often has a suppressive effect as far as the ability to hold one's nerve is concerned," deputy inspector general of police (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam said.

ANO commandos rarely manage to capture or kill Naxals, and even if they do kill some, Naxals often flee with the dead on their shoulders. The last major security strike was in 2008, when the bodies of four Naxals were recovered from Dobur. The previous day, platoon commander Chaitu was killed in an encounter in Sironcha, with three other Naxals believed to have been killed.

"In the thickly wooded and hilly terrains of Gadchiroli, when our men trace a Naxal hideout or camp, it becomes very difficult to actually get very close to them and then pounce upon them since they have their scouting parties and even sentries, who engage us to facilitate camp inmates' escape," said Kadam. "The same goes for Naxals, who manage to strike at us only when they blast a landmine, not otherwise."

Police engagement of Naxals in encounters has gone up substantially over the past few months, with December registering 10, the highest for any month in the district. The previous two years had seen 16 (2010) and 18 (2011) encounters.

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