UP police swing in action to foil Maoist regrouping
VARANASI: With the Maoist groups trying to strengthen their cadre by reviving Son-Ganga Vindhyachal Zonal Committee (SGVZC) and by appointing Dilip Baitha of Gadhwa district in Jharkhand, UP police have decided to host an interstate coordination meeting with the police of neighbouring states to finalise a strategy to foil this bid of Maoists. The strategy of state government to add aggression in the operations of police and paramilitary forces and ensuring development in the Maoist affected districts of state including Sonbhadra, Chandauli and Mirzapur helped in putting a check on Maoist menace in the state.
After 2004, the Maoist groups could not execute any major destructive plans in this region. During 2010-2012, Maoist commanders like Munna Vishwakarma, Ajit Kole, Lalvrat Kole, Guddu alias Ramkeval Urao and Samjhawan Chero either surrendered or were arrested by the police. But the fresh inputs received by the police hints that the Maoists have started their bid to revive their network in SGVZC which covers also Rohtas and Kaimur districts of Bihar, Gadhwa of Jharkhand. As per this input, 35-year-old Dilip Baitha has been appointed as the new zonal commander while Rambali Kharwar (55) had been appointed as his lieutenant.
It is considered that the Maoists would try revive their network in Naugarh Chandraprabha Sub-Zonal Committee, Robertsganj Machi SZC and Duddhi Chopan Bhojpur SZC, which operate under SGVZC. When contacted the Range A, DIG Satish Ganesh, who returned from New Delhi after attending the meeting on Maoist affected states convened by ministry of home affairs Government of India, admitted that the police have inputs regarding appointment of Dilip Baitha as SGVZC commander. The police also have inputs that Maoist groups can intensify their mobility and operations in the region and neighbouring states after Holi, when the water level of river Son recedes and mining and civil works starts. Keeping the same possibilities in view, the police do not want to take any risk.
The DIG said that to foil the bid of Maoist in reviving their network and put a check on their mobility, better coordination with the police of neighbouring states would start soon. He hinted that an interstate coordination meeting can be organised before the festival of Holi in this regard. The police have geared up to meet challenges that can be posed by Maoist ultras, but only time will tell whether the Maoist groups would succeed in reviving network under new zonal commander.
Dilip belongs to Baitha caste while the old network of Maoists had been operated with the support of Kole, Khaira, Chero and Khaira. Keeping their past experiences and positive results of social policing the people of these castes had not been extending support to Maoists for past many years due to which getting fresh recruits for their zonal and sub-zonal committees is also becoming impossible.
The DIG said that the SPs in Maoist affected districts have been directed not to relax the on-going anti-Maoist operations at any cost. He also cautioned the police officials to be vigilant towards the hardcore Maoist ultras especially at the time of taking them to court for their trial and also make efforts to ensure their hearing and trials through video conferencing. He also directed to strengthen security of those jails where these Maoist ultras have been lodged.
82 police stations in Maoist-hit dists to have own buildings
The Bihar government has started construction of buildings of 82 police stations in Maoists-hit districts of Bihar at an estimated cost of Rs. 170 crores under a centrally-sponsored police modernization scheme, a minister said today. The buildings of all 82 police stations in the Maoists-affected districts will be completed within the next 16 months, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav informed the legislative assembly in reply to a question by the JD(U) MLA Virendra Singh. Construction of buildings of 74 police stations has started and will be completed over the next 10 to 14 months, while projects of the remaining police stations in the Maoists-infested districts were under different stages of approval, Yadav said. It may be mentioned that the centre has granted Rs. 170 crores to Bihar for construction of the buildings of 85 police stations in the Maoists-affected districts a few years ago.
Hardcore Maoist arrested from Jharkhand’s Latehar district
The Jharkhand Police have arrested a hardcore Maoist from the Kendwahi village of Latehar district of the state. A team of policemen conducted raid on Sunday (March 03) in the Kendwahi village after they came to know that the Maoists were camping in the village and were plotting to create trouble in the area. When the police team arrived, the militants tried to flee but one of them, Prem Oraon, was caught while the two others managed to escape. Three country made guns were recovered from the militants.
“On seeing the police, the Maoists tried to escape.One of them, Prem Oraon, has been caught. Two others escaped but left their weapons behind. All weapons are country made guns and they have been confiscated. One of the guns, however, exploded due to gunpowder in it, due to which our ASI (Assistant Superintendent of Police) has suffered injury,” said Alok Srivastava, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP). Srivastav also added here that Oraon would be questioned by the police and the other Maoists would soon be arrested after gathering information about them.
‘3 Bihar districts account for 60% Naxal violence’
Raising concern over Bihar’s efforts to tackle Naxalism, the Centre has revealed that three of its districts — Gaya, Jamui and Aurangabad — accounted for more than 60 per cent of Maoist violence in 2012. The home ministry has written to Bihar chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha to take immediate steps to counter the Maoist rebels. Gaya, the ministry noted, was the most affected.
The rebels have put up flags and banners in several villages declaring they have taken over paddy fields and that common people are free to harvest them. It also noted that anti-Naxal operations in the state did not yield significant results in the past year. The contribution of anti-Maoist Special Forces is not visible in Bihar, a senior official said. This could have serious repercussions as the Maoists would attempt to regain areas they have been driven out of over the years. In its letter to Sinha, the ministry also complained that the Revolutionary Democratic Front, alleged to be a Maoist front organisation, enjoyed a free run.
It was allowed to hold a rally at Muzaffarpur in December though the Centre was against it, sources said. The rally, organised under the banner of Janata Par Yudh Virodhi Manch and attended by more than 1,000 people,has not gone down well well with the central forces fighting the Maoists. “The event was meant to showcase organisational capabilities of the north Bihar unit of the CPI (Maoist).It was aimed at conducting mass mobilisation, which needs to be viewed seriously by the state administration,” a top CRPF official claimed.
He said the Bihar Police has all but stopped operations against the Maoists and thus frittered away gains made in past five years. The rebels are exploiting this lull to consolidate, the ministry said and suggested that Bihar immediately re-start the operations and hold SPs accountable for it.
State’s Naxal-hit zones to get 987 mobile towers
A total of 987 villages of Jharkhand will be ‘tele-connected’ under the Centre’s ambitious project setting up mobile towers in remote and inaccessible Maoist strongholds. “These villages need mobile towers, for which requirements will be identified later. For now, we have already demanded 700 mobile towers for the 207 villages on priority,” said IG (Operations) SN Pradhan.
Remote villages have long been raising this demand. The decision was finally taken on Monday at a high-level meeting convened by Union Home Secretary RK Singh and attended by Chief Secretaries and DGPs of Maoist-affected States. Nine Maoist-hit States — including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Bengal and Maharashtra — will get 2,200 mobile towers by the year-end. “I don’t think it will be a problem to establish those towers. It is a public demand. The Maoists have no history of damaging any under-construction mobile tower though it is damaged when police movement increases in the area,” said Pradhan.
Nonetheless, as a safety measure, the towers will be set up in consultation with the State Governments near establishments of security forces, police stations or other secured locations. The Home Ministry and department of telecommunication have roped in BSNL for the project. “Cost of construction of each tower will be Rs 10 lakh to 12 lakh and will be provided from the Universal Service Obligations Fund, a corpus being created by the Government through raising the Universal Access Levy,” said Pradhan.
Of late, several complaints of poor mobile connectivity have been registered from villagers, security forces and people engaged in developmental projects in these States. The Jharkhand Government constituted a core committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, on February 20 to weed out problems faced by BSNL in providing connectivity in Naxal-affected areas. In the past four years, more than 200 mobile towers have been blown up in the nine States by Maoists alleging security forces were being informed about their movements and locations with mobile phones.
India: Biding Time In Chhattisgarh – Analysis
On January 18, 2013, an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter on a rescue mission to evacuate two troopers who were injured in a gunfight near Puswada in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh was hit twice by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) small arms fire. A Chhattisgarh Police radio operator on board took a bullet hit. The chopper turned back without evacuating the injured troopers but crash landed a few kilometers after it reversed course, at a clearing between the Timal Wada and Chintagufa areas, when its hydraulic system and generator failed.
The IAF crew abandoned the chopper and the injured radio operator at the crash site and walked back to a Central Reserve police Force (CRPF) camp in the Chintagufa area, roughly three kilometers away. The incident generated heated controversy over the decision of the IAF personnel to abandon the injured radio operator. The policeman was rescued four hours later, in critical condition, when reinforcements arrived. Though it was reported to be ‘first incident of its kind’, Maoist firing on helicopters is not new. Some earlier incidents include:
April 5, 2012: A Border Security Force (BSF) Helicopter, which was flying from Latehar to Ranchi in Jharkhand with two injured personnel, was fired at by Maoists. It was subsequently grounded, on April 11 because of the damages it received in the firing.
December 19, 2011: An IAF helicopter which had been sent to help the Police-CRPF operation in Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh came under Maoist fire and was hit by nine rounds, including two shots in the rotor of the helicopter. However, the pilot managed to fly back safely with five troopers onboard.
May 15, 2009: A Police constable, identified as Laxmi Narayan Dhurv, was killed and another injured when Maoists opened fire at a helicopter and at the Security Forces who were guarding the helipad at Kistaram village in Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. However, the pilot managed to take off and evacuate the helicopter from the incident site.
November 14, 2008: A non-commissioned officer of the IAF, identified as Sergeant Mustafa Ali, was killed and a Squadron Leader identified as, T.K. Chaudhury, was injured in a CPI-Maoist attack on their helicopter as soon as it took off from Bijapur in Chhattisgarh.
August 30, 2007: Maoists opened fire at the helicopter carrying the Director-General of Police, Viswa Ranjan and Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range), R. K. Vij, in the Chintalnar village area of Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. But the helicopter was not hit. Anticipating the deployment of ‘air power’ against them, the Maoists have, in fact, been preparing to counter this new dimension of war.
Documents seized from Maoists demonstrate that the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), the military wing of the CPI-Maoist, has been training cadres to counter aerial attacks. The Special Intelligence Branch of Andhra Pradesh Police recovered key documents and sketches with details of how Maoists intended to defend against air attacks and to capture airports. A revamped manual for military training of Maoist cadres, titled Guerrilla Air Defence and written by the ‘central military commissioner’ and senior Maoist, Tipparthi Tirupati alias ‘Devji’ of Andhra Pradesh, was, consequently, introduced into the Maoist syllabus.
The use of choppers for injury evacuation has been necessitated not only to cut down the time for medical aid, but also to avoid ambush and Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, which are frequent. Chhattisgarh Director General of Police (DGP) Ramniwas believes, “the Naxalite problem was very much under control” in the State. Maoist violence has certainly decreased in Chhattisgarh, in conformity with the all-India trend, but the degree of ‘control’ presently exercised by state agencies remains debatable. According to MHA data, the state recorded fewer fatalities in Maoist-related violence, at 147 – including 63 civilians, 46 SFs and 38 Maoists – in 2012; as against a total of 238 fatalities – 124 civilians, 80 SFs and 34 Maoists in 2011.
The marginal increase in Maoists fatalities, especially in the face of a significant decline in SF fatalities, may be deceptive, as many Maoist ‘kills’ are not matched by the recovery of bodies, and many so-called ‘Maoists’ are, in fact, mis-categorized civilians. In the June 28-29, 2012, Sarkeguda encounter, for instance, it was initially claimed that at least 19 Maoists had been killed; a judicial commission is now enquiring into the matter after widespread allegation that innocent civilians had been killed in the encounter. Partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) indicates that the State recorded seven major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) in 2012, as against 13 in 2011. In 2013, up to March, the Maoists had killed nine civilians and one SF trooper, while five Maoists had been killed in encounters with the SFs.
A range of other parameters also indicate a slowdown in Maoist activity in Chhattisgarh. Nevertheless, three significant indicators – number of attacks on Police, arms training camps held and Jan Adalats (‘People’s Courts’, kangaroo courts organized by the Maoists) organized – report no decline. In fact, the number of Jan Adalats held increased from 13 to 16 between 2011 and 2012, indicating greater control over areas in which such kangaroo courts were organized. Moreover, while the number of attacks on the Police rose marginally, the number of encounters with the Police declined, even as did the total number of incidents, suggesting a decline in offensive operations by the SFs. Indeed, the high profile abduction of Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon, exposed the security vulnerabilities of the State.
The Government was forced to reach out to the Maoists through a mediator who eventually negotiated Menon’s release. Though the agreement signed did not concede much, it appears, there was an informal understanding not to oppose the bail applications of some Maoists under detention. Pressure to perform has, of course, forced the SFs to engage in some offensive operations, and at least one of these went terribly wrong.
In the intervening night of June 28 and 29, 2012, at least 19 ‘Maoists’ were declared to have been killed. During the operation, three encounters were reported – at Silger, Sarkeguda and Chimlipenta – in Sukma and Bijapur Districts. The overwhelming proportion of fatalities occurred in the Sakeguda encounter, where 17 ‘Maoists’ were killed. However, there were widespread allegations that most of those killed were innocent villagers. Even the CRPF eventually claimed that only seven of the dead were ‘known Maoists’. Following public outrage, Chhattisgarh, on July 5, 2012, ordered a judicial enquiry into the episode, by Justice (Retd.) V.K. Agarwal. The enquiry could start only in December, as the office for the enquiry commission was not made available till early November.
The initial deadline for filing of complaints was January 14, 2013, but was extended to February 12, 2013 on the basis of applications and affidavits filed by the villagers under the Basaguda Police Station area. The inquiries of the commission are still ongoing. Earlier, between March 5 and 20, 2012, an anti-Maoist operation, variously codenamed “Maad”, “Kilam” and “Podku,” was carried out in the Abujhmaad Forest, considered to be the CPI-Maoist ‘central guerilla zone’ and headquarters. IG (Operations), Chhattisgarh, Pankaj Singh, disclosed that 33 Maoist cadres were arrested during the operation.
Further, after the lid over the Maoists’ weapons manufacture programme was blown off with the arrest of Sadanala Ramakrishna alias RK in Kolkata, SFs raided the premises of two transporters in Raipur and seized a huge quantity of materials reportedly meant for manufacturing rocket launchers and grenades. According to SATP, incidents of killings were reported from at least 11 Districts (out of a total of 27 in the State) – Bijapur, Kanker, Sukma, Rajnandgaon, Dantewada, Kondagaon, Gariabandh, Raipur, Narayanpur, Raigarh and Dhamtari. Most of the incidents of arson, abduction and blasts triggered by Maoists were reported from these Districts. In 2011, 14 out of a total of 19 Districts were Maoist-affected (existing Districts were subdivided to add eight new Districts in 2012).
Worryingly, after a gap of three years, there was a visible rise in Maoist attacks on persons associated with Salwa Judum (a state-backed anti-Maoist vigilante group) in 2012. At least seven civilians associated with Salwa Judum were killed in 2012, as against one in 2011. Among those killed were Lachhuram Kashyap, a prominent Salwa Judum leader of Mirtur; Chika Mazi, who actively participated in Salwa Judum in Bastar; and Chhinnaram Gota of Bijapur District. Further, Mahendra Karma, who led the Salwa Judum in the State, had a miraculous escape when his convoy hit a landmine on November 8, 2012.
The renewed targeting of Salwa Judum leaders suggests that the Maoists are ‘comfortable’ with the present level of engagement with the SFs, as they would be unlikely to renew old enmities if they were under extraordinary pressure from the SFs. Further, on February 11, 2012, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) recovered two IEDs (one weighing 40 kilograms and the other 20 kilograms) hidden three feet below the surface on the busy Kohka-Manpur Road (a black-top road) in Rajnandgaon District. The Maoists also blew up a Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) killing a CRPF trooper and injuring five in Dantewada District on August 6, 2012.
State authorities may assert that ‘Naxal situation is very much under control’, but Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh warned, on July 1, 2012, “Abujhmaad is a liberated zone where Governments have not been able to reach. It is not possible for our Ministry to carry out any development programme there.” While the Minister’s definition of ‘liberated zones’ may not coincide with the classical Maoist notion – even the Maoists do not consider Abujhmaad a liberated area – the difficulties of carrying out developmental activities in Abujhmaad are manifest. [For the Maoists, the concept of a liberated area is much broader than mere disruptive dominance in an area]. It is, of course, the case that Maoist disruptive dominance remains widespread across Chhattishgar.
According to the July 2012 report of the Chhattisgarh Public Works Department (PWD), in the preceding three years, only two of 30 roads sanctioned, have been completed under the MHA’s development programme. While 15 of the 30 projects approved in 2010 or earlier are stuck at various stages of bidding or awarding of tenders, in the remaining 13 projects contractors have stopped execution of works, allegedly due to Maoist threat.
According to an unnamed senior Union Home Ministry official cited by The Hindu, however, “The contractors themselves burn their machineries in some cases or fund renegade Maoist groups to do that, after taking an advance. If an interest free work advance of 20 crore is returned after three years, without even a scratch on the road, imagine how much [money] the contractor is making by investing it in the market in the name of Maoists.” Meanwhile, the Centre was worried that the Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh would have to be closed down over the next three years, as it runs out of iron ore supplies. Such a situation has arisen due to bitter Maoist opposition to mining in a new area called Rowghat, as well as to the construction of a railway line to transport the iron ore from Rowghat to the plant.
The new mining project involves deforestation in an area of over 2,030 hectares in Kanker and Narayanpur Districts. Further, the proposed 235-km railway line would have to run through the Abujhmaad area. All of these areas are Maoist strong-holds. The decline in violence notwithstanding, the Maoist threat in Chhattisgarh remains vibrant, and the State’s capacities to counter it, limited.
The dangers of escalation, by either side, are ever-present, and state adventurism, without adequate preparation and capacity-building, may well lead to disasters comparable to the many debacles of the past. The essentials of a coherent strategy – a reality based assessment of threat, of capacities and resources for condign response, and a deployment of these within a calculated framework of response – remain conspicuous in their absence.
Reds face leadership crisis
KORAPUT: The Srikakulam-Koraput joint divisional committee (SKJDC) of the banned CPI (Maoist) that operates in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas is grappling with leadership crisis following intensified counter insurgency operations and mass desertion of Maoist-backed Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) by tribals. Most Maoist leaders of SKJDC have been either arrested, killed in police action or have surrendered thus creating a vacuum in the Red organization.
Maoist leader Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi is in jail since April 2011 and 87 Red rebels have been arrested from Narayanpatna in the past 14 months. Sitru Koma Reddy, who was leading the Jhanjabati Area Committee (JAC) of SKJDC and his wife Cheleru Indumati alias Janaki were killed in an encounter on January 26, 2012. Teli Kadraka alias Rajendra who had succeeded Sitru was killed in a gunbattle with police on August 19, 2012.
“With senior Maoist leaders fleeing the area for safer zones and most cadres behind bars, the Red organization is battling with leadership crisis to carry out its activities in Narayanpatna. The JAC is defunct as the extremists have failed to conduct camps and meetings to recruit new cadres,” a source said. Jilakara Susila and Reena, who was the head of the rebels’ cultural wing, Jana Natya Mandali, Tarai Mandangi and bodyguard of CMAS supremo Nachika Linga identified as Nachika Samara have surrendered in the past few months.
Security personnel have also seized a large cache of arms and explosives from Narayanpatna in past few months during raids on Maoist hideouts. Even as Akki Raju Hargopal alias Rama Krishna, a central committee member of the CPI (Maoist) is in overall charge of AOBSZC, Red leader Shyamala Krishnayya alias Daya leads the SKJDC. Till few months back, the block was out of bounds of the administration because of Maoist dominance. Even Rama Krishna was camping in Narayanpatna and personally monitoring the developments of Maoist organization.
Given the geographical location of the area, the Maoists had planned to convert it into their “liberated zone”. However, amidst all the developments the deadly blow came for the Maoist organization in the past two months as at least 944 tribals from 22 villages have dissociated themselves from CMAS, which was used by the Maoists as a shield in carrying out their offensives.
Acknowledging that the Maoist are facing leadership crisis in Narayanpatna, a senior officer engaged in anti-Naxalite operations in the district said, “It’s true that the Maoists are struggling with leadership problem in Narayanpatna but their power can’t be underestimated. At any time they can bounce back and a slightest complacency on our part may cost us dear.” The rebels have not engaged in much violence in the area in past few months except killing BSF jawan Xavier Kindo in 2012.
Biggest-ever explosives haul in Koraput forest
In a major catch, a joint team of Border Security Force (BSF) and Koraput police lay its hands on a huge haul of explosives from a remote forest pocket of Pindamal in Narayanpatna block of the district on Wednesday. The over 200 kg cache of explosives, including those reported to be China-made ones, is one of the biggest recoveries of explosives and ammunition in the recent times.
The forces recovered the explosives from Pindamal forests, 11 km from Padapadar village under Naryanpatna police limits. The catch included 117 gelatin sticks each weighing 125 grams, 22 ore gels each weighing 6.25 kg, six gel explosives each weighing 2.09 kg, 10 kg anti-vehicle mine, three hand grenades, 10 kg claymore mines, 5 kg IED in a steel container, 20 kg of iron scraps and two rolls of flexible wires.
The iron scraps were meant to be used as splinters. The huge dump was detected following an intensive search after the forces started a six-hour trek in the wee hours and followed the intel inputs. Sources said the CPI(Maoist)’s Srikakulam Koraput Divisional Committee may have hidden those explosives in a cave. What caught the attention of the security forces was the three grenades which are suspected to be China- made since the Indian Ordnance Factory does not manufacture such kits, sources said. Not long ago, the Intelligence Bureau had come out with a report about China extending support to the Maoist groups. Sources said there are two routes through which the Maoists could procure the Chinese explosives and arms.
“We have evidence that there is a route from China through Nepal and Bihar which works as a supply line for the Maoists. The manufacturing units are reported to be in Chinese territory,” police sources added. Another link could be the parleys that the Central Committee of the CPI(Maoist) had held with certain tribal groups of North-Eastern regions which are armed by the Chinese. These groups, flush with sophisticated arms and ammunition from markets in neighbouring countries, sell the surplus and sometimes, obsolete ones. However, a senior officer in Odisha Police said the three grenades were low in technology which is why the colloquial use of “China make” came in. “Those are not imported or smuggled from China,” the officer added.
Odisha asks for more forces to combat Maoist menace
BHUBANESWAR: The Odisha government on Monday asked the Centre to give more paramilitary personnel to strengthen its battle against the Maoists at a meeting of extremism-affected states in New Delhi, official sources said. “We have sought deployment of two more battalions of CRPF (central reserve police force) in the state,” director general of police Prakash Mishra, who attended the meeting, told TOI.
“Odisha’s efforts in containing the Maoists were appreciated at the meeting,” the top cop added. The state government has been highlighting the improvement in Left-wing extremism problem in the state during 2012 with the death of 10 Maoists, arrest of 167 and surrender of 35 cadres. It also found mention in Governor M C Bhandare’s customary address to the state Assembly on the inaugural day of the Budget session on February 14.
Official sources said the state government, which was also represented by home secretary U N Behera, further demanded that the Union government ask the state-run BSNL to set up towers in extremism-hit pockets where telephone connectivity was poor. Around 250 such locations have been identified in the state, sources added. Police sources said additional central force, if sanctioned, could be used to ward off the Red challenge in Sunabeda forests in Nuapada and also in Malkangiri and Rayagada.
Currently, six battalions of Border Security Force (BSF), eight battalions of CRPF and one Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) are deployed in the state. The Centre has agreed to deploy two more battalions of BSF in the state, police sources said. At the meeting, which was chaired by Union home secretary R K Singh, it was decided to improve police presence in the inter-state borders of Odisha with Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattigarh, sources said.
Representatives from states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra participated in the discussions to improve coordination, intelligence sharing and combined operations, sources added. Maoist violence has been reported in areas falling under 270 police stations in 64 districts of these states. A total of 170 people were killed in extremism-related incidents in the last six months, sources said.
Maoists regrouping on Odisha-Jharkhand border
Rourkela (Odisha): After being evicted from Saranda forest bordering Odisha and Jharkhand, Maoists appear to be planning to regroup in Sundargarh district, as a large group of cadres was apparently spotted in the area. Residents of villages on the border between Odisha and Jharkhand have reported movement of the extremists in the region, a police officer, engaged in anti-Maoist operation, said.
The villagers informed the police that over 150 fully-armed Maoists had been spotted in the border areas of the two states, he said. While one group had proceeded towards Digha range, another batch was staying in the dense jungles of Saranda, just opposite Biramitrapur, locals claimed. The police further said that the ultras were probably keen to make their presence felt in the area after suffering continuous set backs in recent times.
The police stations on the border areas of each state, like Ramjori, Hurda and Haribari on the Odisha side and Bansjore on the Jharkhand side, are their targets, according to the police. It was on the night of January 25, 2008, that over 100 ultras attacked the Bansjore PS in Jharkhand. However, their attack was thwarted by a small band of only 12 policemen, which included an injured inspector in charge of the station.
One policeman was killed in the incident, but the Maoists failed to make any dent and the police station was protected valiantly by the security people, he said. In the last couple of days, the Maoists have suffered another major setback as four of their hardcore cadres were arrested. Besides, a big land mine was unearthed by the security forces inside Jharkhand, just two kilometres from Bisra police station of Odisha.
Police preparing ground for encounter killings: Ravunni
M.N. Ravunni, chairman of the State committee of the Porattam, has alleged that the police and security forces are preparing the ground for ‘stage-managed encounter killings’ in Kerala by creating a ‘Maoist scare.’ “Kerala’s Chief Minister and Home Minister have said that there is no Maoist threat to Kerala and even the Karnataka government has said there is no Maoist presence in Kerala’s forests,” Mr. Ravunni told The Hindu.
“But, the Central intelligence, police, and paramilitary forces are trying to falsely establish that there are Maoists hiding in the forests, like in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, by planting stories in certain media outlets.” These forces wanted to extend their so-called ‘anti-terrorist, anti-Maoist attacks’ to Kerala, Mr. Ravunni alleged. “In the near future, they will kill some innocent individuals in false encounters to ‘prove’ their false contention.” He said that four Porattam activists and an artist were now charged with provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for just holding posters and putting up wall posters.
The UAPA, he said, was the most draconian law enacted by the Indian government. It was ‘more draconian than the Rowlett Act’ enforced by the British colonial rulers. “The five could be sent to jail for ten years each for simply holding or putting up the posters,” he said. The posters tried to express their protest against the police who had cancelled the permission for a February 18 public meeting at Mananthavady in Wayanad district to observe the death anniversary of the Naxalite leader Varghese who was shot dead by the police in 1970.
“Expressing protests and differences of opinion in a peaceful way is the essence of democracy and freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. How can the police brand a simple act of protest by putting up wall posters as terrorist activity?” “In a shrewd move to prevent the arrested from getting out on bail, the police have registered cases for the same offence at three different police stations so that even if one magistrate lets them out for a case registered at one station, they could still be held behind bars for the cases in the other two stations,” Mr. Ravunni rued.
The four Porattam activists arrested are Vinod, Shanto Lal, Usman, and C.K. Gopalan. The young artist Swapnesh Babu had nothing to do with the Porattam, Mr. Ravunni said. Swapnesh Babu, who had a few weeks before been arrested for protesting against the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, had gone on a fortnight-long fast in the Viyyur jail. Mr. Ravunni wanted the Chief Minister to clearly state his government’s stand on the so-called anti-terrorism actions in the State. Though the anti-Maoist combing had been frozen, camps of the security forces were still active in the forests, he alleged. He regretted that certain media outlets were being misled by the security forces into becoming ‘collaborators’ in their false anti-terrorism hunt. By creating a ‘terrorist scare,’ people’s silence was being bought too.
Maoists hack man to death in Odisha’s Malkangiri
Malkangiri (Odisha): Suspected Maoists killed a man with sharp weapons in Odisha’s Malkangiri district early on Monday suspecting him to be a police informer, police said. The body of the unidentified man, aged around 30 years, was found with his throat slit at Kianga village in Mathili area, Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh said. A poster left near the body by the killers stated that the man had to pay the price for being an informer of the police, he said.
Written in Hindi, the poster carried the name of Kanker division of CPI (Maoist), police said adding efforts were on to ascertain the identity of the victim, who was believed to be an outsider. It is suspected that the man was either killed elsewhere and his body thrown at the spot or he was brought from some other place and killed there, they said adding investigation was on.