The death of 10 District Reserve Group (DRG) personnel and a civilian driver in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on April 26 has put the spotlight on the special force formed a decade ago to carry out anti-Maoist operations.
This was the first incident of DRG suffering heavy casualties in the Maoist-affected Bastar region. According to senior police officers and security personnel, casualties were limited in all major counter-insurgency operations in the past due to the group’s familiarity with jungle warfare and the region’s difficult terrain.
“The DRG has been in existence since 2013. As per the latest information, the force has lost around 40 personnel in the attacks, 3%-4% of the total casualties suffered by the security forces,” Sundarraj P, Inspector General of Police (Bastar range).
Since 2015, Mr Sundarraj says, the force has been making an impact by thwarting attacks and arresting and neutralizing Maoists. Its efforts have allowed the state to go deep into the forests and set up camps.
The DRG was formed on the lines of C-60 and Jharkhand Jaguar in Maharashtra to assist the state’s Special Task Force and the Central Commando Battalion for resolute action in dealing with the Maoists.
The force has been vested with an exclusively operational role which is exempt from law and order and investigative duties. Its personnel have been deployed in all seven districts of the Bastar region, other Maoist-affected areas like Rajnandgaon and along the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border.
Many of the recruits who surrendered are Maoists; former special police officer of the Salwa Judum, an anti-Maoist civilian militia that was disbanded in 2011; and belong to families who have faced Maoist attacks.
“We are better prepared to deal with the Maoists as knowledge of how to navigate the dense jungles gives us a strategic advantage. Intelligence gathering is also easier as we speak the local Gondi language,” says a DRG officer of the rank of Inspector who had joined the force in 2015 after surrendering as a Maoist in 2013.
Mr Sundarraj says recruits and former Maoists from the tribal areas of Bastar get age and height relaxation and are given allowances because they sometimes have to spend days in the jungle. “For example, the minimum height requirement is reduced from 160cm to 158cm,” he says.
IGPs say new recruits are posted as assistant constables and move up the chain of command as inspectors and sub-inspectors, while a sub-superintendent is in charge of the overall unit. There are also ‘gopnia sainiks’ who are tasked with gathering intelligence, he says.
An all-women unit was formed four years ago and deployed in operations along with male counterparts. The IGP says there has been a “significant reduction” in complaints of misbehavior against locals since the induction of women personnel.
‘Tribal vs Tribal’
Arvind Netam, a veteran tribal leader from Chhattisgarh and former Union minister, and Soni Sori, a tribal rights activist, acknowledge the gains made by the state through anti-insurgency operations, but say they too pit tribals against each other and fail to address the root cause of the Maoists. crisis.
“The percentage of tribals in the local population is high. It is natural that there will be more cooperation from them in anti-Maoist efforts. It is unfair to say that we are pitting Adivasis against Adivasis,” counters Mr. Sundarraj.