In C’garh, the drone wars begin
An unmanned aerial vehicle, deployed for the first time during an encounter, sent thermal images identifying the exaction location of a Maoist gathering in a dense forest in Chhatt-isgarh’s Narayanpur district on Friday evening. It also helped security forces avoid a Naxal trap, a senior police officer said on Saturday. The deployment of the UAV during the encounter at Kalemath, in insurgency-hit Narayanpur district’s Marona forest, helped the security personnel taking on Left-wing guerrillas at the time gain an upper hand in the battle.
A major tragedy was also averted after UAV inputs alerted the forces about a Maoist trap on their way back to their camps. A senior police officer said on condition of anonymity that the UAV sent thermal images of the area, helping the officers commanding the operation to tip-off the forces. The images sent by the UAV also indicated that other Maoists were laying a trap for the forces who were returning to their camps after the operation.
“Acting on a tip-off about the presence of large number of Naxals at a site in the jungle, a joint search party of CRPF and district force (DF) personnel was dispatched to the area. The UAV deployed in the area to assist the forces in the operation had identified the exact location of the Naxal gathering. Following this, the forces surrounded the area and fought a half-hour gun battle with the Naxals. The rebels fled. The forces recovered the body of a Naxal and some arms from the encounter site,” Narayanpur district sub-divisional officer of police Dev Narayan Patel told this newspaper. Local tribals identified the body as that of the deputy commander of the Daula Dalam active in the area, he added.
Jharkhand rural areas run by Panchayats and Kangaroo courts
Ranchi: People in Jharkhand especially the Maoist affected hinterland rarely report crimes in police stations. They prefer instead to approach Kangaroo courts. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has come out with a report for the year 2011 which reveals that only 35,838 cases were reported under the IPC. This is remarkable, for the state has a population of 3.29 crore. The figures are a stark contrast to states like Assam and Kerala which have lesser population but double the number of cases. Police do not seem to be making much headway despite efforts to reach out to the people .
Urban areas like Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Dhanbad and Bokaro do have the public reporting to the police, but not rural areas like Latehar or Lohardaga. One of the reasons for this as pointed out by senior police officers is that these areas are comparatively peaceful. Social observers, however, say otherwise. According to them, panchayats and kangaroo courts are a part of tribal culture. People in these areas, moreover, are apprehensive about coming to the police. Kangaroo courts, mete out swift justice. There are regular monthly reports of death sentences carried out by lynching, beheading and gunning down. Barbaric, certainly, but as long as law enforcers like local police personnel do not make an effort to reach out, it is these customs that will prevail.
Under a rebel moon
It is half past three in the afternoon in the hamlet of Mandal, encircled within a confounding region of east-central India where war waxes and wanes like a lunatic moon. Lalu’s tea shop and a clothing store run by a Sikh family are the only establishments open on Mandal’s high street of packed earth. A pup snoozes nearby as I sip laal chai—tea without milk—a welcome refreshment after several hours of walking through forest and along the dry-season flow of the North Koel river. This is near the tri-junction of the three north-western districts of Jharkhand—Latehar, Garhwa and Palamu that once freely welcomed tourists to nearby wildlife sanctuaries.
It’s time for patrols of the Golf and Echo companies of the 112 Battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to return to camp at the edge of Mandal, area-domination duties done for the day. They do so as a stream of motorcycle riders followed by a line of walking troopers, both lots festooned with ammunition packs, AK-series assault rifles, some fitted with under-barrel grenade launchers and two-inch mortar barrels slung on the shoulder. A couple of troopers carry Tavor X95 assault rifles, the preferred weapon of CRPF’s special forces called CoBRA, or Combat Battalion for Resolute Action. Created to fight left-wing rebels, CoBRA are often mixed in with regular CRPF.
And so it goes. This area of my childhood vacations is today part of the arms and personnel pipeline of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). It runs through coal-bearing forest, linking Bihar to the north with Orissa to the south; the ragged boundary of Chhattisgarh is to the west. Thing is, in these parts, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out which Maoists, exactly. CPI (Maoist) lives in Jharkhand with deadly splinters. These half dozen or so groups are all quite violently against CPI (Maoist) even as they act violently against one another—caste equations, ego and nudges by the state aiding the slicing and dicing of India’s pre-eminent left-wing rebel conglomerate that preaches equality of class and caste. This chaotic battle is as much for turf as recruits and revenue—levies that grease rebel gears.
One such group is the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), which in the first week of February had a surprise run-in with the convoy of Latehar’s superintendent of police along a hilly stretch of National Highway 75 that winds south-east to the state capital of Ranchi, just over a 100km from Latehar town. This encounter, during which bullets were fired to no harm on either side, was unusual. TPC, a largely low-caste grouping, has for long been suspected of being leveraged by state security against CPI (Maoist). The police convoy and TPC movement simply happened to chance upon the other.
Then there’s People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a Maoist breakaway largely comprising those of the Yadav caste. PLFI is believed to be in a waxing phase. A shutdown call by them, apparently triggered by police arresting family members of some PLFI cadres, slowed commerce and passenger traffic in this area for three days ending 25 February. The muscle-flexing, riding on the release of some PLFI leaders this past year-end, is away from the usual PLFI geography in south-central Jharkhand and comes at the cost of CPI (Maoist). It’s tricky for CPI (Maoist), squeezed as they are into a few pockets of Jharkhand, from having a run of the state till 2007. They have evidently decided to brazen it out to counter dwindling numbers—pressure from the state and splinter groups—and protect the pipeline.
CPI (Maoist)’s Bihar, Jharkhand and northern Chhattisgarh special area military commission has offered no apology for booby-trapping some security personnel killed in an ambush on 7 January in the Katiya forests of Latehar. “We have no difficulty in saying that PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) fighters placed time bombs in the stomach of dead government troopers,” declared the commission’s spokesman, who goes by the name of Toofan, in a mid-January statement handwritten in Hindi and faxed to the media. “If this is a matter of indignity then every doctor performing autopsies commits similar indignities.” The statement also asserted that Maoists would attack government forces “whenever we get the opportunity”.
Dantewada Maoist attack case: CRPF to appeal against acquittal
The CRPF has decided to contest the acquittal of 10 arrested accused in the 2010 Tadmetla Maoist attack case in which 76 security personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Three years after the central paramilitary lost 75 of its men, the force has written to the Chhattisgarh government with a request to appeal against the January 7 verdict of a local court.
A Chhattisgarh policeman was also killed in the attack. “We have written to the state government. We certainly want the verdict to be challenged and see that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” CRPF chief Pranay Sahay told PTI here. Senior officials in Raipur said the CRPF has also approached local police, probing the case, and offered them help in gathering evidence and bringing on record witnesses for the incident that occurred in the wee hours of April 6. Ten accused were recently acquitted by the court of Additional District Judge Anita Dahariya at Dantewada citing lack of evidence against these people.
The CRPF, the mainstay for anti-Naxal operations in the country with more than 80,000 personnel deployed for the task, suffered a huge setback in the deadly Maoist ambush. The court acquitted the suspects, arrested from nearby areas of Chintalnar in Dantewada within a month of the Naxal attack, as there was no evidence against them.
The force has decided to fight the case and help police in preparing a better and water-tight case, a senior official in Raipur said. During the case hearing, 43 witnesses of the Chhattisgarh government turned hostile and no witness was presented by the defence side. Some CRPF jawans, who had sustained bullet injuries in the ambush, were not of much help to the prosecution as they could not re-count much about the incident.
The War’s Old-New Theatre A State Of Unrest
Of 409 Maoist killings in 2012 (296 civilians, 113 securitymen),Jharkhand accounted for 160 This was way above 107 in Chhattisgarh, 45 in Orissa, 43 in Bihar, 41 in Maharashtra or 13 in AP…
Not just mainline CPI (Maoist) but splinter groups are in overdrive Proximity to other Maoist-affected states, tribal exploitation, political instability make the state fertile ground for Maoist recruitment and activity. No sooner had the Union home ministry identified Jharkhand as the state worst affected by left-wing extremism in 2012 than Maoists gunned down 11 policemen in the Katiya forest of Latehar district.
It was almost as if the January 7 massacre of 10 CRPF and one Jharkhand Jaguar jawan was expressly meant to underscore the government’s admission of the sharp ascendancy in the trajectory of Maoist violence in the mineral-rich state. The clouds of war—civil war to be precise—indeed hang low over Jhar–khand. One needn’t venture deep into the countryside; the siege within is evident virtually at the doorsteps of urban zones like Ranchi, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Daltonganj, Chaibasa, Gomoh and Giridih.
On a road journey through these areas, Outlook witnessed surreal scenes straight out of a war movie: searchlights revolving menacingly atop fortified CRPF camps; monstrously ugly mine-protected vehicles or MPVs, designed to coolly withstand a 21-kilo (TNT) blast; sniffer dogs straining at the leash; helicopters ready for takeoff at the bark of a command, and boots pounding the ground like there’s no tomorrow. Indeed, Jharkhand witnessed more killings by Maoists last year than even Chhattisgarh, whose forested Bastar region is regarded as the epicentre of left-wing extremism in India.
Out of 409 Maoist killings in 2012 (296 civilian and 113 security personnel), Jharkhand accounted for as many as 160; ahead of Chhattisgarh (107), Orissa (45), Bihar (43), Maharashtra (41) and Andhra Pradesh (13) by a huge margin. The unacceptably high death toll in Jharkhand’s killing fields last year was capped, as 2013 dawned, by the Katiya bloodbath—unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry after Maoists confessed to planting explosives in the belly of a slain jawan to maximise casualties. And on its heels came a landmine blast in Bokaro’s Jhumra Hills, which left a dozen CRPF jawans severely wounded during combing operations. All this is igniting fears in the security establishment that Jharkhand, along with Bihar’s contiguous Gaya and Aurangabad districts, will upstage the iconic Abujmarh as the bloodiest and biggest theatre of red revolt against New Delhi.
But why is left-wing extremism in full bloom in this tribal state? Telesphore Toppo, the 73-year-old Archbishop of Ranchi and obviously a man of peace, has a blunt explanation: “Jharkhand was created to protect the interests of tribals. But political parties from the word go started exploiting the very tribals whose cause they were supposed to espouse. When Maoists first sneaked into Jharkhand, conditions were ideal for sowing the seeds of rebellion. The seeds they scattered flowered in no time because the ground was fertile. Even today there is no justice in Jharkhand although the state’s coffers are overflowing. And there can’t be peace without justice. Tribal men go to Punjab or Haryana in droves to toil in brick kilns, while the women slog as domestic help in Delhi. Those who are left behind join the Maoists.”
According to Fr Toppo, the tribals—comprising 28 per cent of Jharkhand’s population—are easy pickings for Maoist recruiters not only because of their poverty and backwardness but also due to the excesses committed by security forces. He recalled the killing of a tribal girl by CRPF during Operation Green Hunt in 2010. The victim’s legs and hands were tied to a bamboo pole as though she was not a human being but an animal that had been hunted down. Such barbarism and savagery fuel tribal rage, intensifying the armed conflict between the Maoists and the state.
“Out of 24 districts,” says Jharkhand director-general of police Gouri Shankar Rath, “21 are Maoist-affected today; earlier Maoists were active only in 18 districts.” He is packing his bags for a retired life, but could well be re-employed because he is perceived as a battle-hardened warrior against left-wing extremism. “I have been battling Maoists for 12 years,” he goes on to say. “Forty per cent of my police force is deployed against them. But Maoism hasn’t lost its appeal; in fact, it’s growing dangerously. Now, statistically, we are the worst-affected state.” This is a pity, because, “barring Maoism, on other fronts—caste, communal, agrarian and educational—we are more peaceful than other states.”
Leafing through a classified report, Rath reels off the names of Maoist groups—besides the mainline Communist Party of India (Maoist)—that are on the rampage across Jharkhand: the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), Tritya Sammelan Prastuti Committee (TSPC), Shashtra People’s Morcha (SPM), Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (SJMM) and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). “In 2011, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was responsible for 59 per cent of the violence. Last year, it dipped to 44 per cent. But splinter groups, particularly PLFI and TSPC, went into overdrive in 2012, making Jharkhand the worst-affected state in the whole country.” Rath is not finished yet.
“It’s our misfortune,” he says, “that we’re surrounded by Maoist-affected states—Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and beyond, Andhra—giving Maoists strategic depth. Another major handicap is our dense forests. Of course, Maoism is no ordinary law and order problem. It’s tied to governance and development—or rather the lack of it! We are saddled with widespread displacement due to mining activities and industrialisation, creating favourable conditions for left-wing extremism to flourish. And to top it all, Jharkhand is politically so unstable; no government here has lasted for five years; there have been eight CMs in 12 years and President’s rule has been clamped on it thrice. So there we are.”
As Jharkhand entered its third bout of President’s rule in January, New Delhi appointed two bureaucrats to advise Governor Syed Ahmed. The choice of advisors—former home secretary Madhukar Gupta and ex-CRPF DG K. Vijay Kumar clearly show that fighting Maoists is a top priority. Kumar has been given charge of the home department; he is now virtually the home minister of Jharkhand. He has at his command 78 companies of CRPF and 100 companies of state police to take the battle into the “enemy” camp. The “enemy” is the Communist Party of India (Maoist)’s Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh regional committee which is believed to deploy no less than 1,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) in dalams, or armed squad formations, in Jharkhand.
The subtext, though, is more intriguing. There are divisions in both camps, to put it mildly. The Maoists are split into several groups because of two primary reasons—caste and cash. They fight pitched battles over extortion rights, collection of levies and area domination; the conflict leaves many ultras dead. S.N. Pradhan, the crafty IG (operations), admits taking full advantage of Maoist disunity at every step. Significantly, this finds an echo on the other side: there is a lot of bad blood between the central security forces and the state police.
A senior CRPF officer told Outlook: “Instead of leading us, the state police expects us to do everything, from planning to execution. But after we plan an operation and tell the state police to accompany us, they promptly report sick. They expect us to literally carry them on our shoulders. Are they babes in the woods? No. They are a bunch of shirkers who shed crocodile tears when our boys die in encounters.” Central forces also grudge the huge budgets state police have for modernisation; they criticise the “insurgency industry” Maoism has spawned, hinting at a nexus between the police top brass and suppliers. It’s a case of sour grapes, insist Jharkhand police officers, shrugging off accusations.
Of course, while Maoists truly are in an advantageous position in today’s Jharkhand for a variety of reasons, they are no angels either. No doubt there are dedicated ideologues at the top fighting for the oppressed and the downtrodden with all their might. But at the middle and lower levels there are criminals galore masquerading as Maoists. They have no regard for the human rights of either villagers or security personnel. Senior leaders do try to rectify recalcitrant cadres. Classes are held to inculcate comradely values. But very few undergo a change of heart.
There are desertions when discipline is enforced. There are plenty of rotten apples even in the Communist Party of India (Maoist) basket but the splinter groups Rath lists are, by all accounts—including confessions of arrested goons—nothing but extortion rackets run by brandishing weapons snatched from police armouries or dead law-enforcers. Highly-placed officials admit that Jharkhand is witnessing triangular and even quadrangular contests for supremacy. In the fray are state forces, mainline Maoists, breakaway Maoists and outright criminal groups. Sometimes it’s difficult to fathom who is fighting whom. Security forces have an advantage in any multi-cornered contest while villagers are usually at the receiving end. There is large-scale displacement of the poor because of mining and hydroelectric projects.
Displacement is accompanied by police repression. State oppression is an open invitation to Maoists to feather their own nest. New projects anyway entail new roads and infrastructure. Pitched battles are fought for bagging contracts. Maoist and non-Maoist forces extort money from contractors; it’s an increasingly violent free-for-all under the shadow of industrialisation, urbanisation and criminalisation. Alex Ekka, director of Ranchi’s Xavier Institute of Social Service (XISS), told Outlook that fanning Maoism are the MoUs being signed by the government with MNCs. “The state is so servile to big business houses in the era of globalisation that it’s giving MNCs land belonging to tribals. When tribals resist land-grabbing, paramilitary forces are sent to silence protesters. The security forces invariably behave like an occupation army which gives Maoists a golden opportunity to come forward as saviours of the oppressed. In reality, the much-touted Saranda Action Plan (SAP) is a ploy to remove hurdles in the path of foreign and Indian companies eyeing the iron ore-rich region. Maoism is bound to flourish when the state tramples upon the interests of indigenous tribespeople.”
The bomb Maoists planted in the belly of the dead CRPF jawan—which they admitted to doing in a four-page Hindi press release—was not debated as vociferously in the electronic or print media as it should have been because both time and space were hijacked by the LoC beheadings. But a civil rights campaigner who for some strange reason prefers anonymity offered a very original argument in favour of the belly bomb. He said it’s as innovative as ramming planes into the World Trade Center. Just as the wtc attacks were necessitated by America’s crimes against innocents abroad, the belly bomb, he argued, was retribution for the reign of terror unleashed by security forces on Indian soil. http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?284092
New outfit behind torching of 4 trucks
GUMLA: A new outfit called ‘Green Party’ set ablaze four trucks parked at Kujjampat bauxite mine in Maoist-hit Netarhat plateau, about 105 km from Gumla on Saturday. Kujjampat is a rich bauxite mine of Hindalco, but it has been subleased to a private party for excavation of the mineral and its transportation. Gumla SP Jatin Narwal said, “Four bauxite trucks were torched at midnight by a hitherto unheard group at Kujjampat bauxite mine.”
Sources suspect that some big Maoist outfit may have carried out the incident to trap security forces. “Whatever be the group or organization, it first places its demand and when it is not met, it resorts to such acts,” said a a police source. The private party, which is engaged in mining operation at Kujjampat, called on the SP requesting for security for mining operation. The SP added, “Some posters bearing demand of levy were recovered from the spot.”
BSF jawans recover two live landmines in Odisha
Koraput (Odisha), Mar 3 (PTI) Two live landmines were recovered by Border Security Force jawans during anti-Maoist operation in Odisha’s Koraput district, police said today. Besides two landmines weighing 24 and 15 kg, six pressure mines were also recovered from the Murlaput forests under Narayanpatna police limits yesterday, they said. “All the mines have been recovered safely and there has been no report of any injury to anybody,” Sub-divisional police officer (Laxmipur) Y Jagannath Rao said.
Dandapani son cell searched
BERHAMPUR: Many items were seized from the cell of SangramMohanty, son of convener of Jana AdhikarManchDandapaniMohanty, inside the sub-jail at Paralakhemundi on Friday evening. The seized items include a cellphone, charger, three SIM cards, shaving kit, toiletries, fruits, cashewnuts, snacks and chuda, said SP (Gajapati) C S Meena. “We suspect that these items were brought into the jail with the knowledge of the prison staff,” said a police officer.
The jail officers, however, refused to comment. Sangram, a software engineer was arrested on charges of Maoist activities on December 6 along with Kailash Mandal in Gajapati district. Arms, ammunition and Maoist literatures were seized from them. He was initially lodged in the R Udayagiri jail. His father was also arrested from Berhampur on charges of Maoist activities from his Shanti Nagar house on February 8.
2 held for supplying mobile to ‘Maoist’ prisoner
Two persons were arrested in Odisha’s Ganjam district on charge of supplying mobile phones and other accessories to a prisoner, suspected to be a Maoist. The duo, arrested yesterday and identified as Santosh Sahu and Nilanchal Mallick, are contractors and close associates of Sangram Mohanty, the suspected Maoist who is currently lodged in a jail at Paralakhemundi in Gajapati district.
“During investigation, we came to know that the duo had supplied a mobile phone to Sangram in the jail,” said Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Paralakhemundi, Gagarin Mohanty. He, however, did not elaborate how the mobile handset was sneaked into the high-security jail. “The prison authorities are looking into the matter,” he said. Police had recovered three SIM cards, charger and some other items, including dry-foods from the cell of sub jail where Sangram was lodged on Friday evening.
Police also seized a shaving kit including blades, perfume, powder and some fruits from the cell during the raids. Under provisions of jail manual, supply of these items inside the prison is prohibited, police said. Sangram, a software engineer and son of Dandapani Mohanty, convener of the Jana Adhikar Manch (JAM), was arrested on charge of Maoist activities on December 6 last year from Kamalapur square in Mohana. Several arms, ammunition and Maoist literature were seized from them.