Battling Left-Wing extremism is a protracted, difficult campaign of attrition. Indeed, one so arduous that only the Union home minister would be bold enough to declare that the tide has turned, or that the back of the insurgents has been broken ~ after all no politician can ever be held accountable for resorting to such bombast. Still, sometimes stray positive signs can be discerned. While details of their precise role have yet to be disclosed, it is worth noting that the recently formed Danteshwari Ladake ~ a unit of women commandos of the Chhattisgarh police ~ took part in a relatively successful operation in Dantewada a couple of days back. They were said to have been in the forefront of the firefight, not just mere hangers-on as is of often the case.
This was not the first operation of the “short action team”, but its activities have seldom been publicised before. The 30-member squad, headed by a deputy superintendent of police has been given special training in jungle combat, 10 of the platoon are “surrendered naxals” (itself something of an achievement) while some others are drawn from the erstwhile “Salwa Judum” movement.
Others are locally recruited personnel. Does the local involvement suggest that people living in the insurgency-afflicted areas are having second thoughts about a revolution that has made little progress beyond a spate of violence and killings? The authorities would certainly hope so.
The deployment of women commandos would alter a strategic imbalance. A large number of women participate in insurgent activities and often create conditions which male policemen find difficult to deal with. In a sense the Chhattisgarh Police have “stolen a march” over the Army.
Several months ago when women, and even schoolgirls, were in the forefront of stone-throwing against the security forces in the Kashmir Valley the troops faced a dilemma: summoning the assistance of women police brought no immediate response, soldiers using force against local women had its own problems. The separatists’ supporters had made a fine art of impeding the military’s anti-terror missions.
The Chief of the Army Staff had announced the induction of women into the Corps of Military Police to specifically counter the threat in the Valley ~ the first combat role for women in the PBOR (personnel below officer ranks), but the wheels of the defence ministry move slowly (despite a supposedly “dynamic minister”) and the project has only recently received all necessary clearances.
The women will have to be recruited, imparted basic military training, then taught the nuances of operating in the Kashmir Valley. Whether a number of local women will opt for olive-green is another issue ~ the Army is so isolated from the people in the Valley that it will not be easy to attract local skills, and outsiders carry an extra-heavy burden. In some ways the Army’s stress on muscle might run the risk of misfiring.