Naxal Violence: The Latehar Carnage And The Forgotten Lessons – Analysis
Ten jawans (nine from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one from the state’s commando force ‘Jharkhand Jaguars’) were killed in an ambush carried out by the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist), presumably led by Deo Kumar Singh aka Arvindji, in the Karmatiya forests in Latehar District, Jharkhand in January 2013. Unfortunately, four civilians were also killed in the process, helping the police to recover the bodies of the dead jawans in the ambush.
Earlier, the CRPF and the ‘Jharkhand Jaguars’ had jointly launched ‘Operation Samna’ in December 2012, after learning about Arvindji’s movement in the Karmatiya forests of the state, to try and capture him. In the aftermath of the Latehar operation, it was revealed that the Maoists had put the body of three CRPF jawans over landmines, and had implanted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the abdomens of two other jawans to maximise the police causalities.
This ‘Body trap’ strategy of the Maoists has never been witnessed before in the history of the Naxal Movement that began in 1967. However, if the police personnel were aware of the new tactics of the Maoists, as acknowledged by the Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, “They (Maoists) are employing new tactics…our forces are aware of it and have been very cautious while dealing with Maoists,” then it is high time the Security forces (SFs) should take a serious note of the lapses in their approach, especially when they are in hot pursuit of the rebels in a changing scenario.
Problems in the counter-insurgency
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Time and again, the police personnel have easily ignored and quickly forgotten the loss of lives of their colleagues that have occurred due to the lapses in anti-Naxal operations. Similar kinds of attacks were conducted on the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP), when 13 personnel were killed by Maoists attacking an armoured vehicle in a forest of Garhwa District on 21 January 2012 by triggering a landmine blast.
Again, three policemen, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), were killed when Maoists triggered a landmine blast in Latehar District on 1 February 2012.Silimarly, there was another IED attack by the Maoists on a CRPF transport in Gadchiroli District, Maharashtra, on 27 March 2012, that killed 12 and injured 28. It is high time that the SFs take a serious note of these lapses and reflect on the mistakes often repeated during anti-Naxal operations.
Unfortunately, the jawans during ‘Operation Samna’ ignored the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), for engaging Maoists without anticipating their actual strength. The lack of adequate briefings and poor assessment in leading the anti-Naxal operation helped the Maoists to take on the brutal advantage. The Maoists had real-time information of CRPF troop movement, while the anti-Naxal forces’ real-time information on location of the rebels were received only after they had left the place of halt. This clearly indicates the lapse of human intelligence, technical intelligence and coordination with the Intelligence Bureau.
Further, the mobilisation of such a large contingent (500 jawans, three CRPF companies and two companies of the ‘Jharkhand Jaguars’) in anti-Naxal operations is not according to the SOPs while engaging a guerrilla force. A small, highly trained, disciplined and lightly equipped unit can help in swift mobility and enable them to launch a surprise attack on the guerrillas.
Lastly, the use of civilians to recover the bodies of the dead policemen was against the anti-Naxal operation SOP, especially when the Union Government had asked the central paramilitary and state forces to take adequate measures during anti-Naxal operation in areas inhabited by population. The loss of four civilians could have been averted, had they would not have been engaged in the search operation.
Lessons to be learnt
The Maoists are down but not out, hence “the need for a review of tactics” and adequate briefings and information about the anti-Naxal operation should be conveyed. This is of utmost priority for the SFs fighting an invisible enemy in a hostile environment. The use of night vision equipments, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ranging from small drones to long-range surveillance, should be brought into use in Naxal-affected areas, to help SFs, along with state police units, to detect mines and IEDs planted by the Maoists.
The new tactic of the Maoists implanting IED in the body of the lifeless trooper is a lesson for the SFs from now on, that they will need to administer more caution in handling of bodies of those killed in Naxalite violence or by elephants or for that matter, any unclaimed body. Jharkhand has had a particularly poor record of fighting the Maoists, in a total of 169 fatalities- 133 civilians, 29 SFs and seven Maoists in 2012, as against 198 fatalities- 149 civilians, 33 SFs and 16 Maoists in 2011.
The amplification of capacities, no doubt will have partial impact, but largely the success will largely depend on coherent approach and strategy of the policymakers in their fortitude to fight the Naxal uprising.
Police enter Maoist fiefdom, destroy medical camp
The district police achieved a major success Saturday in its fight against Maoist insurgents when it destroyed a training-cum-medical camp of red rebels at Ghatkal, the last leg of Abujhmar so far unapproachable for the police as ultras virtually run a parallel government there. Police recovered three self loading rifles, Naxal dress, Tiffin bomb, medical surgical kit Naxal literature, attendance register of a school run by rebels besides large quantities of daily use articles from the camp site.
In a five-day operation, the district police succeeded in penetrating to the farthest side of Abujhmar covering almost entire Narayanpur district. In the five-day operation district police force, Special Task Force, DRG, Bijapur STF and Jawans of C-16 Commando team of Maharashtra took part and even after stiff resistance from Naxal cadre reached Ghatkal located on the borders of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and demolished their training cum medical camp.
The arms and kits recovered from the site indicated that naxal cadre were being trained in first hand surgery to remove bullets from the body of injured or in stitching their wounds besides arms training.
Maoists plan to resurrect movement in Andhra Odisha Border
VISAKHAPATAM: CPI (Maoist), the banned Naxalite outfit, is quietly working on a strategy to regain lost ground and resurrect the movement in Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts. Top Maoist leaders are learnt to be seriously chalking out plans to reclaim control over the AOB (Andhra Odisha Border) that acts as a bridge for Maoists moving from Chhattisgarh to Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh.
Once a safe haven for Naxals, AOB has in the past three years become hostile terrain due to heavy combing by security forces that has resulted in their hideouts, arms dumps and medical centres being unearthed and shut down. With hundreds of surrenders and arrests of cadres, mostly from the militia network (the backbone of the banned outfit), posing a threat to their survival, Maoist leaders are trying to revive old squads to counter the growing police clout in the region.
Sources said, initially they plan to revive old squads with five to six members and beef them up gradually with cadres from the other side of AOB to show their presence in every nook and corner of the East Division and counter government claims that the movement is flagging. “Instead of carrying big weapons, the squads will be equipped with small arms and will try to divert the attention of security forces with small strikes to aid hassle-free movement of rebels,” said a source from the Agency area.
These revived squads would also take up a ‘war campaign’ against security forces and their ‘atrocities’ against tribals. Maoists are also planning to revive bauxite area committees by giving active militia commanders charge of educating tribals and sparking off agitations against the proposed bauxite mining and for rights of tribals on coffee plantations, which are under the control of State Forest Development Corporation (APFDC).
According to reliable sources, though they have not been too visible in Visakhapatnam district for the past six months, the Reds have already started sending out messages to active members of the Revolutionary Peoples Committees (RPCs) in villages, militia network and sympathizers in the area to join their rank and file and have been quietly conducting meetings in several villages for the past three weeks.
They also held a meeting at Rachakota in the Visakha agency about five days ago to utilize their militia network to gather information about the present conditions in the tribal belt. In the early 80’s, Maoists, then the People’s War Group, had entered East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts with small squads of five members led by the present Central Military Commission (CMC) chief Namballa Kesava Rao alias Ganganna alias Basava Raju and went on to build strong squads like Yallavaram, Tandava, Nagulakonda, Sabari, Maredmilli, and Gurtedu, before area committees were set up in early 2000.
But, after 2005, these squads vanished due to strong action by security forces, lack of proper recruitment from among the educated classes and a change in the mindset of the younger generation. However, police authorities said though they had heard about the move, nothing concrete had happened so far. “We have no information about the revival of squads. They have drastically lost ground in Visakhapatnam and are operating with only one area committee in Korukonda. With surrenders and arrests of hundreds of militia members, they have almost lost ground in Galikonda. People are now coming to police stations without fear. Even if they try to revive old squads, they will not get the expected results because of the lack of cadres and leaders,” said Visakha Rural SP and anti-insurgency expert G Srinivas.
Cops have lately intensified efforts to penetrate Maoist strongholds and establish their intelligence network in interiors like Gunukurai, Budaralla, Gorrelametta, Annavaram and Kannavaram and have also embarked on a ‘Sadhbavana Yatra’ to reach out to people in the interiors and coax the families of underground cadres to give up arms even as the government has enhanced cash rewards for underground (UG) cadres.
Maoist hideout busted, explosives seized in Odisha
Koraput: A Maoist hideout was busted and a huge cache of explosives recovered by BSF personnel on Sunday from Kamipadar forest in Odisha’s Koraput district during an anti-Maoist operation. “There has been no injury or casualty. The Maosits had dumped the explosives to retrieve it at some future date for use,” SDPO Laxmipur Y Jagannath Rao said.
The recovered items include four landmines weighing 25 kg each, at least two county-made guns, one spare barrel, 25 metres of flexible wire, one plastic container, chemicals used for making landmines and one radio flash. “The landmines were very powerful and it was not safe to bring the explosives to the headquarters. All four landmines were blasted at the site,” the SDPO said. In the past few weeks, the security personnel have raided scores of Maoist hideouts and recovered huge cache of dumped explosives. PTI
Kolkata police arrest three on suspicion of peddling arms
Kolkata, Feb 10 (IANS): Three men from Howrah involved in providing arms and ammunition to Maoists were arrested from Central Kolkata by the Special Task Force of city police. Two firearms with cartridges and assembled parts to make Improvised Explosive Devices have been seized from them, the STF said.
“The three – Billu, Bala and Ali Baba – were nabbed Saturday evening in the Chandni Chowk area; they were involved in illegal dealing of arms, ammunition and explosives and supplying these to Maoist activists in Jharkhand,” an STF statement said.
Cases have been lodged against the trio at the Bowbazar police station under various sections, including the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act. The three would be produced at the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court later Sunday.
2 Red supporters jailed
Gumla: Two Maoists supporters, postmaster Sukhram Gop of Kedeng village and Rajesh Sahu of Prem Nagar in Chainpur police station of the district, were forwarded to judicial custody on Saturday. The duo was nabbed by Gumla police Anil Kumar Karn following a tip-off. Karn said two mobile sets and a Maoist poster were seized from them. “They both confessed to police that they used to support Maoist sub-zonal commander Prasad Lakra’s squad. Both used to provide SUV vehicle for movement of Lakra and his men,” a police officer said.
Maoist mediator charged with sedition
Bhubaneswar, Feb 10 (IANS) Human rights activist Dandapani Mohanty, who was arrested Friday in Odisha for his alleged links with the Maoists, has been charged with sedition, a police officer said Sunday. “Mohanty has been charged with sedition and waging war against the state,” police officer C.S. Meena told IANS. Mohanty had negotiated with the Maoists and helped the Odisha government to resolve two abduction crises – one of a district collector in Malkangiri in 2011 and another of two Italians in Kandhamal district last year. Meena said Mohanty was also charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Police arrested Mohanty from his home in Berhampur town, about 180 km from here, saying that at least six non-bailable warrants were pending against him. He was found to be involved in more than a dozen criminal cases mostly related to Left-wing violence, including murder, blast, abduction and rioting, police said. Mohanty, who is an elderly communist leader known for his fight on human rights related issues, has been critical of the government’s functioning.