Prasenjit Mund & Caesar Mandal, TNN 19 June 2009, 03:13am IST
KOLKATA/LALGARH: For all their bluster, Maoists in Lalgarh cannot but be wary of the strike of the Cobra. Apart from the army, this specialized CRPF unit is the only one in the country that can fight the guerrilla like a guerrilla. Raised last year as Commando Battalion for Resolute Action', the men of these elite fighting units have the doggedness, courage and cunning to match Naxalite action squads in the forests of Jangalmahal.
If the Naxalites feel they are warriors of the jungle, so do the Cobras. And 166 of them have already been deployed in Lalgarh, say sources.
It is perhaps the deployment of these commandos that led Maoist leader Kishanji, who is in Lalgarh, to call up a reporter around midnight on Wednesday with a message for Mamata Banerjee: "Trinamool Congress claims to be against CPM musclemen but its own government is sending central forces to fight against us. Mamata Banerjee has to decide if she is for the people or against them."
The Maoists, it seems, are jittery and want the Cobras off their back. With the insurgent leaders openly announcing that they would use women and children as human shields to delay security forces, only a force adept in unconventional warfare like the Cobra can tilt the scales against the Maoists. Blocked roads are hardly a deterrent for the jungle warriors.
Cobra commandos are likely to infiltrate Maoist territory in small groups of four to six men. First in would be surveillance teams, who will avoid engaging the enemy even if they spot them. Each team would have a communications expert, a combat medic (one adept both with the syringe and the rifle), and two to three spotters'. Their first task would be to relay information on the movement of the guerrilla forces, deployment of action squads, the kind of weapons the carry and assess the fighting capability of the locally trained cadres, said a CRPF officer.
Cobra is perhaps the best-equipped paramilitary unit in the country, set up with a grant of Rs 1300 crore from the central government. They have an enviable arsenal, almost matching a regular infantry unit light mortars, machine guns, rocket launchers, INSAS rifles, FN35 and Glock pistols, rapid-fire Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns, and even Carl Gustav 84 mm recoilless rifles, which can bring down walls and houses. But what really set the Cobras apart are two things hi-tech electronic surveillance equipment and a well trained sniper team, armed with Dragunov, Mauser SP66 and Heckler & Koch MSG-90 sniper rifles.
The CRPF shadow warriors have been trained in the army's elite Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School in Mizoram and CRPF's anti-terrorist school in Silchar. They are adept in the art of camouflage and jungle movement. Small strike teams can infiltrate Lalgarh forests (maybe they already have), collect information and help plot a battle plan. It is information from spotters on high ground (or camouflaged on trees) that will help Cobra mortar teams bring down accurate fire on Maoist positions.
Besides, the information collected by Cobra spotters will help cut off escape routes and, in fact, give an idea of whether the Maoists really have the stomach for a fight or are looking to escape by leaving some local scapegoats in a rearguard action. Such information would be vital for the beleaguered Bengal government, say sources. It can claim a much-needed victory with minimum bloodshed.
"And if the Maoists do stand and fight which would go against the guerrilla manual of retreating when outgunned and outnumbered the commandos will be the potent strike force. Sniper teams can stay hidden in the jungle and gun down Maoist squad leaders to spread panic and confusion in their ranks. Remember, commandos fight dirty," said an army paratrooper.