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CRPF Director General K Vijay Kumar has served as BSF head in Kashmir during the tumultuous years of 1998-2001. In 2001, he headed the STF that nabbed forest brigand Veerappan. In this Idea Exchange moderated by Associate Editor Muzamil Jaleel, Kumar speaks about the CRPF's counter-insurgency strategies and the force's versatility as it operates in multiple theatres—Kashmir, Northeast and the Maoist-affected areas
K Vijay Kumar: I owe my last major success (the Veerappan operation) mainly to the provocative press and to none other than The Indian Express Editor, Shekhar Gupta. In 2000, the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments were at their wits' end because of Veerappan. He was setting terms and they had to negotiate with him. They agreed to release 56 people under TADA. The Supreme Court castigated both governments. For nearly 100 days, Veerappan had held the iconic filmstar of Karnataka, actor Raj Kumar, hostage. Shekhar Gupta wrote an article saying Punjab had an officer like KPS Gill, but Tamil Nadu didn't have anyone. I was provoked. I wrote to him and mentioned the names of many sterling men—Sanjay Arora, Shankar Bidari, etc. He had the decency to publish the letter on the front page. It seemed that I had offered myself up for a suicidal mission. Within a few months, Tamil Nadu had elections and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa made me an offer to be the chief of the STF. I accepted and within 24 hours, the orders were issued. The rest of the story is well known.
I am going to mainly talk about counter-insurgency, which is the CRPF's primary role now. Lawrence of Arabia said, "To make war upon rebellion is messy and slow like eating soup with a knife''. What are the models we can mimic or imitate? Malaya, Vietnam and Philippines. They have handled insurgency in their own ways. The methods differ. Saturating the area with force, that is called the ink-spot theory, where you pepper the place with a lot of troops and expect good results, this is one assumption that has not proven to be right in most places.
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