Special Operations: Tribal Commandos


January 6, 2009: India has problems with communist rebels, and one of the solutions is tribal hunters trained to be special operations quality rebel trackers. The communist Maoists are mainly active in rural areas, and there they often have to deal with some of the many tribes that still exist in the countryside. The Maharashtra state government took advantage of local tribal hostility to the Maoists and recruited a force of tribal hunters and woodsmen, and created a force that could track down the Maoist camps. The police could then bring in a larger force to attack and destroy the camps. Thus deprived of a home, Maoist morale plummets, recruiting becomes more difficult, and the communist rebels are less of a problem for a while.

There are, however, many areas of eastern India, where large tribal populations live, where smart, well organized and dedicated Maoists have built armed rebel groups via recruiting or kidnapping teenagers, and extorting enough money to keep the kids fed and busy. There are currently about 800 deaths a year from Maoist violence in India.

To survive, the Maoists have to work the media, and leftist politicians, to gain sympathy, and to diminish any police or military operations. This has worked in India, although leftist politicians and the press are becoming less helpful. After all, the ultimate goal of the Maoists is to establish a communist dictatorship. Although Maoists have expressed an interest in negotiating and settling for less, no Indian Maoists have actually done this.


India, with a population of over a billion people, and several dozen terrorist, separatist and rebel organizations to worry about, has long depended on a special national police force to deal with the violence and unrest generated by these armed, and angry, groups. One of the principal national police organizations dealing with terrorists and rebels is the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Founded in 1939, and retained when India became independent in 1947, the CRPF now has 165,000 personnel. It deploys 70 battalions of paramilitary police. These include seven "rapid action" battalions that can be quickly sent to any part of the country, to deal with outbreaks of violence. It's the CRPF that often comes in once the tribal scouts have located a Maoist camp.

The tribal special operators can also be used to keep tabs on Maoist activity in an area, and give warning when it appears the rebels are planning a large operation. The success of these tribal commandos depends on how well local police commanders handle them. Some commander misuse the tribal special operators, trying to employ them as a SWAT team or for VIP security (when some big shot comes to visit the hinterland.) There are several of these "tribal scouts" units out there, some of them with over 300 trained men. The Indian Army will often provide their own special operations troops as instructors, and keep an eye on what new tactics or techniques the tribal units come up with.



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