Established in 2008 and fully functional by 2009 , the CRPF’s COBRA (Commando Battalion For Resolute Action) were termed as the ELITE commandos who would annihilate naxals and left wing extremists of the Chota Nagpur plateau infamously known as the RED CORRIDOR. All the 10 battalions of this unit had only one task to complete and that is to finish the growing left wing extremism from its roots.
The COBRA has nearly 10,000 men trained in jungle warfare.
As mentioned above the 10 battalions are evenly deployed all across the red corridor except for one battalion that has been deployed in the North East to assist the police and the regular jawans of the CRPF who are deployed to check the militancy movement. The deployment of those 10 battalions are as follows –
202 battalion – Odisha
201 & 204 battalions – Chattisgargh
209 & 203 battalions – Jharkhand
205 battalion – Bihar
206 battalion – Maharashtra
207 battalion – West Bengal
208 battalion – Madhya Pradesh
210 battalion – Assam (for assisting state police in counter insurgency operations)
Talking only of the COBRA battalions then it is commanded by an Inspector General Rank (IG COBRA) officer who is usually from the IPS cadres and is equivalent to a Major General of the Indian Army. Under the IG COBRA are 5 Deputy Inspector Generals (equivalent to Brigadiers) who head different divisions of the unit. The different wings are as follows –
1.DIG Administration and Prov.
2.DIG Training , Accounts , Works
3.DIG COBRA School For Jungle Warfare And Tactics (CSJWT). This post is commonly referred as COMMANDANT CSJWT.
4.DIG Khunti (JH) Division who has the responsibility of commanding 203 , 205 , 207 , 209 & 210 bn
5. DIG Jagdalpur (CG) Division who has 201 , 202 , 204 , 206 & 208 bn.
Now coming at the battalion level , every battalion is headed by a Commandant who is equivalent to a Colonel Rank Officer.
Each battalion has 18 teams which are headed by an Assistant Commandant (equivalent to Captain). And an Deputy Commandant (equivalent to Major) heads a Company and a battalion has 3 companies.
To sum the above paragraph , each COBRA battalions has (officers) –
1. 1 Commandant (Commanding Officer)
2. 1 Second In Command (2IC)
3. 3 Deputy Commandants (DC)
4. 18 Assistant Commandant (AC)
The total duration of the training is roughly 36 weeks which can be divided into 3 modules where every module has 12 weeks of training of different levels.
COBRA’s training caters to the needs and has been specially made or tailored for the Central Indian terrain. The training largely consists of Jungle warfare and bomb disposal techniques , IEDs and Landmines to be specific. Situated in Belgaum , the COBRA School For Jungle Warfare And Tactics (CSJWT) is responsible for imparting specialised training to the force.
Apart from jungle warfare , COBRA has also set its foot in Counter Terrorism Training when CRPF established three Counter Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism (CIAT) schools all across India (Silchar , Shivpuri and Chittoor) in 2013 and deicated the CIAT Chittoor for COBRA. Apart from CSJWT , COBRA soldiers and officers are often sent to the country’s premier Jungle Warfare School which is the Counter Insurgency And Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) which is under the command of the army and soldiers across the various Central Armed Police Forces and State Police Forces come to be trained in advanced jungle warfare techniques.
Adding a small bit of inside information for the reader , this July I had visited the Army Airborne Training School (AATS) Agra and in a brief chat with the an officer of AATS , i learnt that COBRA officers and jawans had visited the facility recently to learn heli drop techniques as they were finding it difficult in moving logistics deep inside the jungles and to replenish a COBRA company if it runs out of supplies during a mission.
Some extra training is also provided to the jawans at thier battalions , this final training is very essential as it is customised for the terrain in which the COBRAs have to operate. Here i would like to tell you that the 10 naxal infested states have different terrain with different problems that surface while operating inside the jungles , so a custom tailored local training is also very essential for soldiers.
HAS COBRA FAILED TO ERADICATE NAXAL AND MAOIST PROBLEM FROM CENTRAL INDIA ?
Now coming on to the main part of the article which is to determine whether the force has failed or not. This part to be honest will sound very harsh but that is the reality. Until and unless we dont accept our failures , we can never be able to rectify them and improve our standards.
Talking about the force , it has FAILED to evict naxals and stop the left wing extremism. Now let us see the reasons why im terming it as a failure.
There clould be thousands of reasons but after my long assessment and research i have been able to identify two of the most important reasons for its failure and they are –
1. ABSENCE OF A DEFINED ROLE
The main problem of Indian Central Armed Police Force which is to have the force operate where it shouldn’t be.
When the initial planning was going on at the highest command , top brass officers like
(K Vijay Kumar , NC Asthana & K Durga Prasad) decided that the COBRA would operate just like the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) operates in Kashmir.
Now giving you a small insight to the PARA SF’s operation , the elite commando unit comes into action once it has got sure shot , concrete information regarding the presence of militants and after confirming the same with their local sources they come out of their camps , carry out thr ops and return to their barracks within 24-36 hours.
Now its important to tell you that PARA SF is only and only used to target top commanders of the Islamic Militancy Organisations of Kashmir or an attack which has to be contained at the earliest , seldom one will find PARA SF in regular CI/CT ops. These units which work on tip offs or intelligence and are only used to take down high value targets are known as INT BASED UNITS. Coming back to COBRA it was also “SUPPOSED” to be an INT BASED UNIT , and the force would act as a tool to take down politburo members or zonal commanders of the left wing groups , but things didn’t go as they were expected to and COBRA’s main role got diluted in the plethora of other duties that were given to COBRA , though all these duties are related to the anti-naxal ops but this dismantled the exclusivity of COBRA as the other duties can easily be performed by regular CRPF soldiers or the State Police , now one can easily spot COBRA commandos PATROLLING roads of naxal infested areas , participating in road opening parties and giving protection to construction workers to name a few.
The COBRAS have a long history of operation for long durations inside the jungles , as long as 10 days but still coming back with empty hands because of the lack of a strong local human intelligence (HUMINT) as well as electronic intelligence (ELINT).
The only solution to this problem is to remove them from normal duties and put them back to barracks and use them only when they have strong information and restore it exclusivity.
2.ABSENCE OF LOCALS IN THE FORCE
Having the support of the locals and having locals in the force is a battle winning factor in any battle. For example the International Coalition which is led by United States in Iraq to annihilate ISIS has been unsuccessful , the world’s most powerful country was not able to take out jihadi group. But it was the Special Forces of Iraq , the Golden Division which flushed out tje extremists from their strong hold city of Mosul.
Not going to far to present the second example thats is the Salva Judum of Chattisgarh , which literally translates into PURIFICATION HUNT. This was a armed tribal movement where local tribals were armed and were divided into 2 parties , village defence party and second was the guerrilla party. As the name suggests the village defence party had sentires all around the village in order to foil any naxal attack on the village and the guerrilla party would hunt down maoists deep inside the jungles.
The groups of the state had an impressive track record and a low casualty rate.
They were great when left backed activists appealed to the Supreme Court of India to ban these organisation due to human rights and gun law violation. And in 2011 the supreme court terming it illegal banned the organisation and dismantled all the ranks from it.
I had given these examples to just give you a fair idea of how the face of a battle changes when there are locals in our force. This is because the locals have a fair idea of the terrain and are largely acclimatized to the weather. COBRA here has done a big blunder by not taking in local tribal men and women from the regular cadres of the CRPF , instead they have put Sikhs and Jats of the Northern Plains to fight in the Sal Jungles of Jharkhand and the Deciduous forests of south Chattisgarh. Due to this , many outsiders as i would call them fall ill due to the humidity and the soaring temperatures.
The solution to this problem is not more than a child’s play and involves 2 parts.
I) CRPF should transfer the tribals of the naxal infested states into from the regimar cadres of CRPF to CORBA and not people who haven’t seen jungles in their whole lifetime.
II) And if any shortage arises in COBRA , the DG CRPF can give the commando unit the autonomy to recruit directly from the villages of naxal infested states , people who are directly affected by this menace.
At the end i would pray that COBRA wins the war against naxals and Maoists without losing any precious lives from our side.