A Maoist attack in Gadchiroli in Maharashtra left 15 police commandos dead on Wednesday. The slain fighters were members of the elite C-60 wing, which was specifically set up in 1990 to tackle Naxal violence.
Like the Greyhound forces in Telangana and the SOG special units in Andhra Pradesh, the C-60 has been tasked with countering Maoist violence in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, and their contribution has been recently praised by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. They have been alternatively referred to as ‘crack commandos’.
Naxalite activity first expanded into Maharashtra from then-Andhra Pradesh in the 1980’s. The Gadchiroli district, carved out of Chandrapur district in 1982, was the most affected, with waves of violence wreaking havoc.
Veteran police officer KP Raghuvanshi, who later went on to head the Maharashtra ATS after the death of Hemant Karkare during the 26/11 attacks, was given the charge of creating an elite commando force of the state police in 1990.
The C-60 was thus created for Gadchiroli as a batch of 60 commandos recruited from the same regions where the Naxals enlisted their own fighters. Having the same roots, the C-60 had operational advantages compared to other units of the state police, such as faster maneuvering, and greater ability to converse with the local population.
As Naxal activities heightened in the coming years, a second branch was also created in 1994. The unit has the motto ‘Veerbhogya Vasundhara’, or ‘The Brave Win the Earth’.
Training and operations
The C-60 is qualified for combat in difficult battlegrounds, such as dense forests and over hilly terrain. The commandos are trained in the country’s elite institutions, including the National Security Guard campus, Manesar, the Police Training Centre, Hazaribagh, the Jungle Warfare College, Kanker, and the Unconventional Operation Training Center, Nagpur.
Apart from actual combat, the C-60’s task also includes facilitating Maoists to surrender and join the mainstream. For this, members of the unit meet the families of Maoists to apprise them of government schemes made for ex-Maoists.