‘We do not need to fake encounters’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 May 2018 10:19:49

Ankush Shinde, DIG, Gadchiroli and Gondia Range and A glimpse of the activities conducted by Gadchiroli Police to boost team-building spirit among the fighting force


By Kartik Lokhande,

After the country’s biggest encounter in which a record number of Maoist casualties have been reported, Ankush Shinde, DIG (Gadchiroli and Gondia Range), speaks to ‘The Hitavada’

Nine months, 64 casualties of Maoists, excellent team-building right from Superintendents of Police to constable, encouraging leadership, and a revival of C-60 locally raised commando force. This track record is enviable for any leader in any security agency. Ankush Shinde, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Gadchiroli-Gondia Range, is the claimant for this record. He is also the man sharing the credit with Superintendents of Police, for the country’s biggest encounter in which a record 40 Maoist casualties have been reported.

Though proud of the action taken by his team and especially C-60 commandos in the Boriya jungles near Kasnasur in Gadchiroli district last month, Shinde is also aware of the allegations from ‘some quarters’ that ‘the’ encounter was ‘fake’.
In an interview to ‘The Hitavada’, Shinde speaks at the change in C-60 commandos’ morale, situation in Gadchiroli and Gondia Range, how three-and-a-half dalams of Maoists stand eliminated in South Gadchiroli, and the ‘misleading propaganda’ unleashed by Maoists and their urban sympathisers.

Responding to the allegations that ‘the’ encounter was ‘fake’, Shinde says, “We do not need to fake encounters. All the theories in this regard including poisoning (of Maoists) etc are based on hearsay, and there is not a grain of truth in them.” According to him, police stand for protecting tribals, democracy, and the Constitution. “We are there to facilitate the desire of tribals to join the mainstream. We are there to clear the path for development,” he adds. At the same time, he says, it is not the first time that the allegations of ‘fake encounters’ have been hurled at the security agencies. It is part of regular tactics of Maoists and their urban sympathisers, he observes.

As for the policemen, says the DIG, the Boriya encounter was a morale-boosting action. C-60 has exhibited its competence as a locally raised but professionally trained and battle-ready force. “The success is an outcome of team-work and I am an active participant along with Dr Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police, Gadchiroli, and all the men in the force,” he stresses. Ask him about the factors that sowed the seeds of this success, and he lists training, actionable Intelligence collection, reaching out to people as the important ones.

Some of the old commanders and personnel of C-60 were, in fact, in a mood to leave the force.
However, Shinde made it a point to interact with them personally. Along with Dr Deshmukh, he gave importance to Party Commanders, their strategic thinking, their decision-making. They conducted team-building and fun activities for the personnel to increase their camaraderie, asked even the senior police officers to obey the orders of a Party Commander if they were a part of the C-60 team conducting an operation.

Shinde explains, “We restored the dignity of Party Commanders, met the families of the fighters in our force, gave names of brave Party Commanders to various halls, recommended names for medals, extended benefits of accelerated promotion scheme with faster decision-making to deserving officials and personnel. All these put together boosted the morale of the fighting force and results are there for all to see.”

Previously, over 40 promotions were given in an accelerated manner in past few years. And, within nine months of Shinde’s tenure as DIG (Gadchiroli-Gondia Range), 45 promotions have been cleared in an accelerated manner.

A good leader makes all the difference at various levels. Shinde, on whose table lays the book ‘I Am The Mind’, reflects on leadership qualities often. Emphasis on restoring the sense of dignity among C-60 fighters is a product of this thinking. “I have learnt one thing -- all successful leaders have cared for dignity of individuals up to the last man in the team. I tried doing that. Besides, I consider myself as a colleague of Superintendents of Police of Gadchiroli and Gondia districts. Our objective is common -- to get rid of Maoist violence and encourage tribals to breathe free and fulfill their aspiration of joining the mainstream and reap the sweet fruits of development,” he says further.

Apart from encouraging own team, Shinde motivated people to run a well chalked out counter-propaganda campaign against the Maoists. Maoists focus on youths, women, farmers, students, and cultural organisations. Identifying this, Shinde also supervised efforts to plan strategies and reach out to these sections with a positive message. Preparing village profiles, visiting households, recording grievances/problems of people, giving inputs about the same to the civil administration are some more of the efforts. “With these initiatives, we became partners of people in shaping a better future for them. Through these efforts we gained confidence and trust of the people,” he elaborates.

With the recent encounters, the morale of Maoists has got a big dent. “This has created a scope for expediting development in especially South Gadchiroli. For, we have eliminated three-and-a-half dalams of Maoists. Police and civil administration are working in co-ordination and in mission mode to provide a boost to development activities. Surjagad project also is back on track,” he adds with enthusiasm and a hearty smile.

Three-and-a-half dalams eliminated?
Yes, responds, Shinde. Gadchiroli district has two companies, four platoons, and nine Local Organising Squads (LOS) or dalams of Maoists. Of these, Sironcha, Aheri, and Permili dalams have been eliminated and a big chunk of Gatta LOS stands decimated. Gondia district has three platoons, three LOS, and extended Gondia-Rajnandgaon-Balaghat division of Maoists. “The action has begun there, as the action taken by Gadchiroli force has inspired our personnel there to be more active,” he adds.
But, it is usual for Maoists to strike back after any big police encounter. Point this out and Shinde responds with confidence, “We are prepared to thwart any attempts to retaliation.” Besides, many among Maoist rank and files are frustrated and there are factions within CPI (Maoist) that want to shun the path of violence, he says. As far as urban Maoists or their sympathisers are concerned, he stresses, “We are keeping a close watch on them. In fact, we are also keeping a watch on social media posts.”

Talking of Maoists and their urban sympathisers, Shinde adds that these sympathisers masquerade as civil society organisations or activists and often indulge in so-called fact-finding missions to portray police in poor light. “However, people have become aware of their designs. Tribals in Gadchiroli district are burning Maoist banners. Right-thinking individuals in the cities are exposing brotherly relations between Maoist leaders and their sympathisers. Even the well-intentioned social activists have realised that Maoist sympathisers talk of raising voice against displacement but themselves cause displacement of tribals from their villages. So, situation is not the same for Maoist outlaws and their sympathisers,” he concludes.

Obviously, from the recent happenings in cities as well as in forest hideouts of Maoists, one can definitely gauge that the situation is not the same for the outlaws. The real challenge for the Government, however, is in continuing with the two-pronged strategy of security and development.