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Ittender Bagha asked: Why doesn’t the government deploy army in the Maoist-infested areas?

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  • Vivek Chadha replies: There has been a long-standing debate on the deployment of Army in the Maoist-infested areas. One of the first instances, when this debate came into the public domain, was in 2010, when the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. V.K. Singh, ruled out the deployment of the Army. The debate has repeatedly come to the fore since after major incidents of Maoist violence.

    The primary role of the Indian Army is to protect the country against external threats. However, it is also its constitutional mandate to come to the aid of civil authorities in times of need. It is as part of this mandate that the Army has often been deployed in counter-terrorism responsibilities.

    Having said this, it should ideally be ensured that the challenges related to terrorism are dealt with in a graduated way. As part of this, the police become the first responder. Thereafter, if the police need further assistance, central police forces like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has counter-terrorism as one of its primary responsibilities must be employed. It is only after state constituents fail to deal with a challenge that the Army should be deployed in such areas.

    It must also be appreciated that the Army is already deployed in countering terrorism and hybrid war in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also deployed in Northeast India. This stretches the resources of the Army often at the cost of preparedness for conventional threats. Therefore, any decision to deploy the Army should be taken with this reality in mind.

    Finally, over the years, a number of additional CRPF battalions have been raised. It is, therefore, better to train and deploy them for counter-Maoist operations. With the exception of a few major incidents, the CRPF has done well in such operations and has proved its effectiveness.

    The deployment of the Army must therefore only be considered under the most serious circumstances.

    Posted on April 16, 2021

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.