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Founding Editor's View on Maoism and Terrorism

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On 16 April an important encounter took place in Chhattisgarh. A joint operation involving the CRPF and the state police was successful in eliminating nine Naxals in the Dandakaranya region of Sukma district. This is the area of Chhattisgarh where the Maoist Naxals are extremely active and have caused many casualties amongst policemen and other security forces. So in that sense it was an extremely important encounter and a successful one at that. What, however, is as important and maybe even more so in the long run, is how a UAV was used during the operation.
Due to the nature of the counter-Naxal campaign there is a serious requirement for the use of UAVs. In a surveillance mode they are extremely useful for tracking Naxal groups on the move and in camps. Despite limitations imposed by the forested terrain UAVs have been known to provide excellent surveillance imagery of the area. The successful campaign of the Sri Lankan armed forces against the LTTE in 2009 is a case in point, where the limitations imposed by the forest cover were overcome with great success.

In the latest case the UAVs were extremely successful in keeping track of the Naxals, during the operation and after. Which makes it a rare happenstance. Naxals and their sympathisers, are prone to making the wildest allegations against police and the security forces. Brutality and violation of the human rights are of course the most prominent amongst them. So when UAV footage is available on a real time basis and which shows the Naxals using women and children as human shields while on the run from security forces, it is an invaluable asset. That footage should be made public at the earliest opportunity to blow apart the image of the Naxals as saviours of the poor peasants. Naxal sympathisers and overground workers are the first to blow their own trumpet on this matter and would be the first to be quietened by deft use of such UAV footage.

Technology is a game changer in every field of life now. But in the realms of defence and security technology is also a life saver. Enhancements in technological prowess is essential for military and security forces to increase potential and save lives of innocents and soldiers. Besides the use of UAVs, security forces also need to look at other technologies that can augment their combat capabilities. In a Naxal scenario where most of the combat is likely to be in jungles the ability to see, hear and accurately target Naxals is the most important aspect of the conflict.

So it is vital, therefore, that besides UAVs the security forces also have Hand-held Thermal Imaging devices which will allow them to accurately see the Naxals on the move. These have been a tremendous success on the Line of Control. It is also important for the security forces to be able to listen in on the conversations of the Naxals operating there. Man portable interception technology exists that allows for this critical capability. And last of all, troops operating in the jungles must be given weaponry that is as agile as the task, as accurate as the best can be and as powerful as is required. Government of India and the affected states must raise the stakes in order to win an unequal campaign. And raising the technological stakes makes most sense.


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