Hyderabad, Nov. 30: The CPI (Maoist) has around 20,000 firearms and nearly 10,000 cadres, enough to withstand a state-backed onslaught for six months, but it faces a problem of ammunition mismatch, a study by intelligence agencies has found.
The estimate is the first of its kind on the Maoists done by central and state intellegince. Twelve states — Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — were included in the study.
It said the rebels’ weapon stocks include AK-47s, AK-52s, .303 rifles, assault pistols, Israeli-make sniper rifles and light machine guns.
The gun-manpower ratio stands at 1:2 with the number of personnel in the rebel ranks estimated at 10,000.
The study said the Maoists acquired weapons in four ways:
By snatching them from police stations and dead security forces after blasts and ambushes
Snatching from security guards of industries in Maoist-infested zones
Manufacturing weapons such as pistols, country-made mines and explosives in collusion with local mafia and gangs
Procuring foreign weapons, ammunition and explosives from militant and criminal groups operating within and outside India.
The police say the rebels’ stock of arms is varied. This is also corroborated in photographs of Maoist units during training or on patrols. They are seen wielding a variety of rifles of different calibres, indicating a lack of uniformity across units.
The lack of weapons uniformity has also led to a problem of standardised arsenal being unavailable.
“Often, the Maoists are unable to return fire during ambushes as their sophisticated weapons lack ammunition or the ammunition of other guns cannot be used in them,” said a senior intelligence officer.
Sources said such an ammunition crisis had led to the death of top Maoist leader Azad in a forest in Adilabad in July this year.
Maoist top leaders, the sources said, were now busy buying ammunition so that the weapons are battle-ready.
Sources said the central committee of the CPI (Maoist) earmarked over Rs 300 crore in January this year for procurement of weapons, clothes, shoes, belts, medicines and sleeping bags.
Andhra Pradesh police had broken an arms cartel of the Maoists in early 2005 when they tracked down mortar and rocket launchers in a safe den in the Nallamala forests after arresting a Maoist leader who monitored the manufacturing of such weapons at an ancillary unit in Chennai.
Andhra intelligence officials have said the CPI (Maoist) has direct and indirect links with several militant groups throughout South Asia. They interact with Maoists from Nepal, rebels in the Northeast, ISI-backed terrorists in Bangladesh, criminals from Myanmar and Sri Lanka’s LTTE.
US-based intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc., commonly known as Stratfor, that has endorsed the intelligence findings also says that Pakistani intelligence agencies have established relations with the CPI (Maoist) to sell arms and ammunition and lately have also utilised their contacts and bases for anti-India activities in exchange for money or other services. They transact mostly through third parties such as the Ulfa in Assam.