‘Unarmed wings’ help Naxals’ urban spread

The Friday Naxal attack on an SSB convoy, by planting landmines on NH-16 in Bastar, confirmed the extremists’ spread beyond the forest interior which has been aided by panchayat-like ‘Jantana Sarkars’ they have formed in the region.

That they planted landmines on the national highway shows their access to areas falling along the road, say investigators.

In fact, the recent arrest and interrogation of wanted Naxalite Ghassu alias Rajberia from Mardapal, Bastar, had revealed the organisational structure of Naxals, which is unarmed, does not indulge in violence and operates as grassroots political, administrative, justice-delivery and supportive wing of the insurgents.

Among the 12 Naxals arrested last month by the Bastar police, Ghassu, president of Jantana Sarkar of Hareli village, was the biggest catch. In his statement to the police, he is alleged to have said that parallel governance wings of Naxals have been formed in villages of Bastar which undertake regular meetings to address general problems of villagers, resolve their disputes, act as courts dispensing justice, gather and provide intelligence and other material support for ‘Jan Militia’ (armed wing) living in nearby forests.

“Their military structure is well-known, we had some insider knowledge about their Jantana Sarkars also, what we now have for the first time is detail information from a Naxal himself about their unarmed political wing that has made inroads into villages,” Bastar SP Ratan Lal Dangi told The Indian Express.

The revelations detail the hierarchical set-up of parallel governance and intelligence wings of Naxals in village and tehsil areas divided into units like ‘Raksha Dalam’, ‘Jantana Sarkar’ and ‘Area Sarkar’.

“If they have an elaborate political-administrative network in Bastar, one can easily assume their presence in major affected areas like Bijapur and Dantewada,” said Dangi, adding that such unarmed wings are difficult to detect and this explains their rapid spread and strikes in plains beyond Bastar.

Ghassu, 50, joined the insurgents 10 years ago after being persuaded by Naxals of nearby villages.

According to his statement, a Jantana Sarkar covers four-five villages and works on the directions of Area Sarkar. While a Jantana Sarkar can be compared with gram panchayat, Area Sarkar is similar to a Block Panchayat in its functioning, says a police officer. Area Sarkars coordinate with Zonal Committees to spread their network in urban areas and cities.

To meet any emergency situation, a Raksha Dalam operates at village level to provide safety to members of Jantana Sarkar and works under its directions.

Dalam members also do not carry weapons but keep bows, arrows, catapults, firecrackers to avoid being detected — their primary task to crack firecrackers, beat drums to spread information about any police patrol, reveals Ghassu’s statement.

Jantana Sarkar also collects Rs 5 per month from each village household to provide material and information support for Jan Militia.

“Since members of Jantana Sarkar and Area Sarkar do not carry weapon and work as village elders trying to solve local problems, it is difficult to locate their Naxal connections,” said an officer.

To mobilise women, Krantikari Mahila Sangathans have been formed under a Jantana Sarkar.

“It’s a part of their political agenda. They have realised that armed conflict alone would not lead to their goal — overthrow the system. They needed unarmed political wings to secure presence in cities. It’s an alarming trend,” said an officer in Raipur.

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