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“Take on the guerilla like a guerilla”

Special Correspondent

KANKER : With armed cadres of Maoists having inflicted heavy casualties on Central forces as well as State policemen in 2010, the focus appears to be on preparing the policemen of States affected by the Naxal violence to take on the challenge posed by left-wing extremism.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described left-wing extremism as the “single most grave threat to the country's internal security.”

With last April's deadly Maoist strike killing 75 Central Reserve Police Force men in Dantewada district fresh in their memory, police personnel of Chhattisgarh and other States are undergoing a rigorous training programme at the State government's Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) in Kanker, about 150 km from Raipur, to sharpen their skills in taking on Naxals.

“Take on the guerilla like a guerilla,” is the motto of the CTJWC which trains policemen in jungle warfare and guerilla tactics. “The first bullet can be that of the enemy, but you have to return the fire in half-a- second,” is what the policemen are motivated to do by their instructors at the CTJWC. The move followed regular attacks on police forces by Maoists, resulting in heavy casualties of the men in uniform and the State feeling that an ill-equipped and ill-trained police force would not be able to take on the Naxalite groups which were gaining in strength in large parts of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal.

But over the past six years, the training school in Kanker, one of the Naxal-hit areas in Chhattisgarh, is churning out well-trained and motivated policemen, honing their fitness, skills, training and motivation. The school turns an “aam policeman” into a commando in 45 days who can take on Naxalites in a rough terrain.

“We are producing commandos who are gutsy, fearless and who will not be just sitting ducks when confronted by armed gangs of Naxalites,'' says B. K. Ponwar, who set up the school in April 2005 after retiring from the Army. Policemen from other States such as Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Jharkhand, Orissa and Bihar are also trained at the school.

Over the past six years, nearly 15,000 policemen have been trained in counter-terrorism and jungle warfare tactics by the school. “Most of those trained are from the Chhattisgarh police but we admit policemen from other States also. Every 45 days, we are training nearly 600 policemen,” Brigadier Ponwar told visiting journalists.

Brig. Ponwar was asked by the former Chhattisgarh Governor, K. M. Seth, to set up a training school on the lines of the Army's jungle warfare college in Variengte, Mizoram.

Though it is a tough challenge to begin a new school from scratch, Brig. Ponwar knew his task well, having been a commandant at Variengte. The training school at Kanker is spread over nearly 700 acres and consists of forests, rocks and rough terrain providing the ideal terrain for the policemen to take on Naxals.

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