By Sujeet Kumar
Raipur, Dec 17 (IANS): Police in the worst Maoist-hit state of Chhattisgarh need to be trained in guerrilla warfare in order to tackle the armed rebels or they will just end up being outsmarted and killed, feels a top counter terrorism expert.
As many as 90 percent casualties of policemen in the state are of cops lacking in guerrilla warfare techniques, said B.K. Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC), Kanker.
"When Maoists attack the untrained cops, they are simply outsmarted by the insurgents and get killed," Ponwar, a retired army brigadier, told IANS in an interview.
Concerned over the increasing attacks by the Maoists and the need to beef up counter-terrorism measures, the state government Friday approved Rs.28.9 million for construction of CTJWC's own building, which is currently housed in a small police line building.
The government plans to pump in more money to create high-class anti-terror training and guerrilla warfare infrastructure facilities at CTJWC, which will be further developed on a 150 acre land.
Ponwar was called by the Chhattisgarh government in August 2005 to head the CTJWC, which is set up in Maoist-hit Kanker district in Bastar region. Bastar has been the epicentre of Maoist violence since June 2005 when a civil militia movement, Salwa Judum, was launched against the banned Maoist outfit Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).
Since June 2005, about 900 people were killed in the state in Maoist violence of which nearly 322 belonged to either police rank or special police officers (SPOs).
"The high casualty rate of policemen will continue till we don't train the policemen and forces in guerrilla warfare. The cops are getting unnecessarily killed by not having the skill to tackle guerrilla attacks," Ponwar said.
Before joining in CTJWC, Ponwar was head of the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Mizoram.
He said that since August 2005, around 5,800 policemen were trained in guerrilla warfare, including 4,700 from home state Chhattisgarh. Policemen from Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra and Kerala also underwent training.
"Policemen who undergo guerrilla warfare training rarely get killed by the Maoists. Once you gain mastery over anti-terrorism combat techniques and guerrilla warfare skills, it becomes virtually impossible for the Maoists to overpower you," Ponwar said.
The CTJWC trains policemen in how to survive flash attacks in hilly terrain where the enemy is strategically perched higher up and can see any movement easily. They are taught how to hide in hilly areas and hit the enemy, how to negotiate their way through difficult hilly and forested terrain and even to handle snakes - such as found in the interiors of Bastar. They are also taught how to defuse bombs.