Peoples War in India Clippings 18/1/2013

Chhattisgarh: IAF chopper force-lands in Maoist hotbed, one injured

Suspected Naxalites fired at an IAF helicopter injuring a security man in Maoist hotbed of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh on Friday. According to reports, the helicopter was on a mission to airlift a few CRPF troopers when it was fired upon. “Rebels opened fire on the IAF chopper when it tried to land in a conflict zone in Sukma district to rescue a few troopers who had received gunshots in an encounter,” a top police officer said.

“The helicopter has been force landed at Teliwara in Sukma district. One IAF man has been hit and the chopper has been cordoned off,” a senior security official said. Officials at police headquarters in Raipur said that the Mi-17 chopper, which took off from Jagdalpur town to Sukma district to airlift some troopers seriously injured in a gunfight with Maoists, went missing after rebels attacked it.

A policeman was killed and several others were wounded in a lengthy gun battle with Maoists at Pollampalli, some 500 km south from Raipur. The helicopter had flown from the state capital and it had gone off the radar for sometime, security officials said.

Mobile tower project in nine Maoist-hit States stuck over cost issues

The ambitious project of the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide seamless mobile connectivity in nine Maoists-affected States has been caught in a tussle between Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and the Universal Service Obligation Fund , a body under the Department of Telecommunications, over cost estimates of installing mobile towers. Even as Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has urged Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal to expedite the case on an urgent basis in view of growing clashes between Maoists and security forces, BSNL has sought Rs. 5,807 crore for installing and operating 2,199 mobile towers in nine Naxal -affected States .

Only video trials for jailed Maoists

VARANASI: A fresh exercise to take stock of Maoist ultras lodged in different jails of Maoist-affected districts of the region has begun after the union ministry of home affairs issued a letter in this regard in view of the Giridih incident. It is worth mentioning here that in November 2012, a group of Maoist ultras had attacked a prison vehicle in Giridih town of Jharkhand. Three policemen and one prisoner were killed in the incident and the Maoists had succeeded in freeing eight Maoist cadres. In view of the incident, the union home secretary RK Singh had forwarded a letter to all Maoist affected states.

The letter was received at IG Zone Varanasi office recently after which the exercise was launched. In this letter, all the states were asked to ensure that proceedings like producing of Maoist ultras before the court, remand and trial should be conducted through video conferencing only in order to avoid their transportation between jail and court. The letter also contained instructions that if any Maoist prisoner is being taken to court, he/she should be taken in a separate vehicle and not with other prisoners. The ministry of home affairs had also sought review of security arrangements especially of those jails where Maoist ultras are lodged.

It asked the authorities concerned to shift Maoist prisoners to jails other than those in Maoist affected districts. When IG Zone GL Meena was contacted on Thursday, he admitted that after receiving the letter, directives were issued to DIGs of Varanasi and Mirzapur range to ensure compliance as soon as possible. He said the DIGs had been asked to compile a report after completion of their exercise and forward it to his office as well as police headquarters.

Mainly three districts of this region including Sonebhadra, Mirzapur and Chandauli are Maoist-affected while some activities of the ultras had also been noticed in Ballia and Ghazipur districts in past. Among the three Maoist affected districts, Sonebhadra and Chandauli district have no jails of their own. Due to the same reason, their prisoners are lodged in Mirzapur and Varanasi jails respectively.

This compels the men in khaki to travel from one district to another for producing the prisoners before court for trials. The IG said that the facility of video conferencing is already available in this region and trial of some prisoners is also being done through the same process. Therefore, this isn’t a cause of concern. However, the presence of ultras lodged in jails, especially at Mirzapur is worrisome as in the past years, inputs for possibility of attack on Mirzapur jail had already been given by the intelligence agencies. The DIG Range A Satish Ganesh said that keeping all these facts in view, emphasis is being laid on collecting details of each and every Maoist ultra lodged in the jails. After this, a report would be prepared and forwarded to the IG office and police headquarters very soon, he added.

Splinter groups battle Maoists, troops cash in

An enemy’s enemy, as the saying goes, is a friend. The principle seems to hold in the Bihar-Jharkhand border region where the CPI (Maoist) and government forces are locked in battle. The security forces are “soft” on armed outfits engaged in a tussle for territory with the Maoists. As a reciprocal gesture, these groups do not kill policemen. Of the dozen or so anti-Maoist groups, the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) and the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) are known for their firepower and cadre strength.

The TPC had broken away from the Maoist Communist Centre before the latter merged with the CPI(ML) Peoples’ War to form the CPI (Maoist) in 2004. Originally led by one “Bharatji”, a front-ranking MCC leader in Jharkhand, the group is now said to be headed by Brajesh Kunju and is active in Gaya and Aurangabad in Bihar, and Palamau, Latehar and some other districts in Jharkhand.

The PLFI, formed in 2007, is said to be another Maoist splinter group. Led by Dinesh Gope, it has been wreaking havoc in Jharkhand’s Khunti, Ranchi, Gumla and Simdega. The governments in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have banned these outfits. Before their merger, the MCC and the People’s War and some other Maoist factions had fought over area domination and what they called “collection of levy or tax” from government contractors and businessmen.

Class struggle may have been their shared credo, but mutual mistrust over caste domination — mainly by Yadavs over Dalits and tribals — often played a crucial role in these internecine feuds. Outfits such as the TPC, PLFI, Jharkhand Jana Mukti Parishad (JJMP) and the Jharkhand Liberation Tigers now accuse the Maoists of disruptive politics and have vowed to finish them off. “Government forces have propped up a number of counter-revolutionary groups, including the TPC, PLFI and the JJMP, against us in Jharkhand to divide the people and confuse them,” CPI (Maoist) spokesman Prasant alias Manas said. The rebel spokesperson admitted that one reason for the rivalry between his outfit and these groups was clashes over extortion rights. “It’s true that we too collect levies,” he said. “But what have the TPC and the others done in the people’s interest?”

Enemy’s enemy

Police officers denied harbouring the TPC or any other “purely criminal” group but admitted that security forces had used them against the Maoists. “There is no question of treating other groups preferentially. We have arrested TPC and PLFI cadres and seized arms from them in Latehar. But what’s wrong in getting information and support from one group against another?” said IG (law and order), Jharkhand, S.N. Pradhan. “

And, unlike the Maoists, they don’t target security forces.” Pradhan said that none of the 23 jawans who died in encounters last year till October had been killed by non-Maoist groups. Of the 33 extremists killed during this period in Jharkhand, 22 were reportedly eliminated by these rival groups. Six died in encounters with the government forces, while five were lynched by the “public”. In 2011, these groups reportedly killed 40 Maoists.

But they also killed 80 of the 96 civilians who lost their lives in extremist violence till October last year, said N.H. Khan, the DIG, Magadh range, Bihar police. Maoist involvement in violent incidents came down from 65-70 per cent in 2008-09 to 44 per cent in 2012, he said. In contrast, the PLFI’s “share” has gone up to 30 per cent from 14 per cent. “Where the Maoists are retreating, their rival groups are moving in to occupy the space.

All of them are purely criminal groups fighting over extortion and killing people if their demands are not met,” Pradhan said. Cycle of violence The cycle of competitive violence has sucked into it the villagers, who have to submit to the demands of both the Maoists and their rivals. “We have to give food to armed squads of Maoists or the TPC whenever they visit our area,” said Lalindar Yadav, a resident of Palamau, whose brother Madan died in police custody in Aurangabad.

“Now that our family has filed a case against four police officers for my brother’s death, the TPC has started threatening us to withdraw the case.” He said TPC leader Sikandar Yadav was putting pressure on the family. Sikandar’s name also figures in other complaints of TPC highhandedness in the border villages. Most of the complainants are either close to the CPI (Maoist) or are relatives of rebel cadres. In Palamau’s Pichulia village, a concrete structure that was once a house lies crushed. Owner Binod Yadav said an armed TPC squad came with payloaders to demolish his home to teach his fugitive brother Promode, a Maoist, a lesson.

“The TPC men took four hours to bring down the structure. The police refused to help despite frantic calls. They asked me why I had not informed them about Maoist visits earlier,” Binod said, recounting the incident on June 28 last year. The Maoists are not always the victims. The CPI (Maoist) spokesman admitted the outfit had demolished the homes of TPC leaders Brajesh Kunju and Sikandar. He justified the demolitions as the “expression of people’s wrath against their misdeeds”. In Baburamdi village, Gaya, suspected Maoists killed Harihar Yadav, a physically challenged person. Harihar’s widow said her husband was killed as their son was with the TPC.

Naxal Violence: Expanding Into India’s Northeast? – Analysis

Ever since contact between the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and an insurgent group operating in India’s northeast was first established in 2006, the Naxalites have pursued twin objectives in the region. Firstly, the Northeast has been used as a transit route to ferry arms and other ammunition from China. Secondly, the region has also figured in the geographical expansion strategy of the extremists. What has been their success in these two objectives?

Are they relatively more successful in their first objective than the second? Why? For the CPI-Maoist, 2008 was a landmark year. In October that year, they issued a joint statement with the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Both reiterated their commitment to “consolidate the mutual understanding and friendship” and to “stand hand in hand to overthrow the common enemy”. Intelligence agencies, however, maintain that the links between the two had been firmed up in 2006. Since then, and till 2011, the PLA assisted the Maoists in procuring Chinese arms and communication equipment via Myanmar.

The PLA also provided training to the Maoists. A PLA leader, who had led a team of instructors to train Maoists in Jharkhand, was arrested in April 2012. India India While the PLA fulfilled the crucial logistic requirements of the Maoists, it was Assam, bordering West Bengal, which figured prominently in the expansion plan of the CPI-Maoist. Interestingly, the operational weakness of the most prominent insurgent group in the state – the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), served the Maoists’ interests well. According to intelligence sources, the Maoists first attempted to court fringe Adivasi groups in Assam.

However, they had to settle for the ULFA since most of the Adivasi groups were, and still are, in the process of negotiations with the state. Assam’s Police database on 150 Maoist cadres in the state includes many former ULFA cadres. The willingness of the ULFA to play facilitator to Maoist strategies for the Northeast had become apparent in 2010. That year, ULFA Chief Paresh Baruah congratulated the Maoists for carrying out successful strikes on the security forces in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada. Again, in 2011, the ULFA extended its sympathy after senior Maoist leader Kishenji was killed in West Bengal. In May 2012, Baruah criticising the killing of four Maoist cadres in Assam, reiterated “We (the Maoists and the ULFA) may have different ideologies but we share a common quest. Our enemy is common and the Maoists have our complete moral support.”

Interestingly, however, official assessments carried out by New Delhi and Assam till mid-2012, differed significantly on the issue of ULFA and Maoist linkages. In June 2012, the then Home Minister P Chidambaram, responding to increasing talks about a nexus between the Maoists and the ULFA, reiterated that the central agencies have no proof of such a linkage. The Assam government, on the other hand, underlined the existence of such a nexus. In May 2012, the Assam Police declared to have created a database of 150 active Maoist cadres in Assam.

A month later, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi asserted, “Be it ULFA, be it NSCN-IM or be it (Manipur’s) PLA, every one has close links with the Maoists. We have no doubt about that.” Contradicting the then Union Home Minister’s statement, the Chief Minister went on to assert, “He (Chidambaram) may have his own sources, but I have my own.” Subsequently, New Delhi fell in line and started supporting the Assam government’s view point on the Maoists.

In December 2012, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh went to the extent of suggesting that the upper Assam districts- Dibrugarh and Tinsukia should be included in the list of Left Wing Extremism-affected districts. While the debate over the attempts of the Maoists to find a foothold in Assam and the rest of the Northeast is more or less settled, the extent of their actual presence continues to be a matter of speculation. It is apparent that the Assam government is inclined to portray an alarmist description woven around Maoist fundraising, recruitment and plans for violence.

However, the fact remains that the expansionist quest of the CPI-Maoist in Assam is also a narrative of repeated setbacks and failures. In May 2012, for example, the four Maoists killed in Tinsukia district included the outfit’s area commander Siddhartha Bargohain. Prior to that incident, over 60 Maoist cadres and over-ground workers had been arrested from several upper Assam districts. Recent media reports on 16 January 2013 indicated the arrest of Maoist central committee member Alok Bakshi in Visakhapatnam.

Bakshi was in charge of the expansion plan of the Maoists in Assam. Therefore it can be reasonably concluded that, so far, the attempts by the Maoists to gain a foothold in the Northeast have been successfully dealt with. This reality on the ground, as well as the sufficient awareness generated so far on the Maoist activities provides added advantage to the security establishment in Assam and other Northeast states to checkmate future LWE endeavours in the region. The Northeast has a substantial central force presence. The police in these states too, have sufficient counter-insurgency experience. The dip in insurgency-related violence in the region in recent years, further allows the police to concentrate its efforts on Maoist activities in the future.

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