Chhattisgarh ‘encounter’ leaves 8 villagers dead, no Maoist link yet
At least eight villagers were killed and several are missing after an “encounter” between a joint team of the CRPF and district police and alleged Maoists in Ehadsameta village of Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh late Friday night. Three of the dead were minors, villagers said. A member of the CoBRA unit of the CRPF, Deva Prakash, was also killed in the firing. While security forces admitted that the dead were villagers, police are not claiming any of them was a Maoist.
The forces, however, said they had destroyed a Naxal hideout. The dead have been identified as Guddu Karam, Pandu Karam, Joga Karam, Chomu Karam, Punem Sonu, Punem Lakham and Karam Masa. Villagers claimed that Guddu and Punem and another deceased who was not immediately identified were minors, aged between 10 and 15 years.
Incidentally, it was in the same district that 17 villagers had been killed in an encounter a year ago. While the forces had called it the “biggest Maoist encounter”, almost all the dead later turned out to be innocent villagers. Friday’s night operation involved 1,000 men from the CRPF and state police, who fanned out in five groups reportedly to bust a training hub of the Maoists. Police sources said that one of these groups came under fire at Ehadsameta village.
Some villagers were killed in retaliatory fire, police said. “There was an encounter, and an exchange of fire from both sides. Some villagers have died. A probe is on,” R K Vij, Additional Director General (Naxal Operations), Chhattisgarh Police, said. “We have also received information that some villagers died,” Bijapur DSP Ashok Singh said. “We have begun a probe and are going to the spot again.” A CRPF officer confirmed the presence of minors among the dead, adding: “I cannot say whether they were killed by our bullets or those of the Maoists, or whether they were being used by Maoists as human shields.”
CRPF sources in Delhi said the operation had led to the discovery of a training barrack. They claimed the men had come under fire several times. “The CoBRA personnel who died took a bullet in his forehead,” an officer said. Villagers, however, denied any links with Maoists and claimed that the forces started firing while they had gathered to celebrate the local Beej Pondum festival. This is the same festival which the villagers had been celebrating last year as well when they were fired upon.
Maoist cadre nabbed in Guwahati
Following a tip-off, Guwahati city police had launched an operation in the Kahilipara Krishnanagar area of the city and nabbed the left wing extremist. The apprehended militant was identified as Prasanna Rabha alias Dibakar Rabha alias Pranab Rabha alias Lambu. The Assam Police IGP of Central-Western Range Dr LR Bisnoi said that, the nabbed CPI-Maoist cadre was the political wing member and a district committee member.
Meanwhile, the left wing extremist revealed that a new militant group have recently formed under the Maoists in Meghalaya. The new militant group, All Meghalaya Liberation Tiger Force (AMLTF) was recently formed in Garo hills of Meghalaya under CPI-M and the outfit continued its recruitment drive in Meghalaya and some parts of Assam. Assam Police arrested six left wing extremists including a woman cadre in the past three weeks.
On May 7, police had arrested a central committee member of CPI-M Anukul Chandra Naskar alias Pareshji from a hotel in Silchar. The Assam Police IGP said that, on April 26, Guwahati city police arrested two hardcore cadres of CPI-M at Jorabat area of Guwahati and apprehended a woman cadre at an Udalbakra area in the city on May 16. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Saturday said that, Maoists had spread up its organizational activities in the state and continuing recruitment drive.
Maoist ambush injures two paramilitary troopers in Raipur
Raipur, May 19 (ANI): Two paramilitary troopers belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were injured after being ambushed by Maoists in a jungle area of Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. The injured troopers were later shifted to a local hospital in the capital Raipur for treatment.
The Superintendent of Police (SP) of Raipur district, Mukesh Khare said that both the troopers along with their party were on their way to Bijapur district of Karnataka for an anti-Maoist operation. The police and the CRPF are conducting a joint investigation and are planning further operations in the jungle areas of Dantewada to flush out Maoists.
Jharkhand Special Police Officers in a spiral of violence of retribution
On the night of April 30, worshippers in the Raja Rani temple in Naurhi village in Adki block near Ranchi were singing, chanting and celebrating the new temple in their village when a group of CPI (Maoists) entered the temple and shot Dilip Acharya, the oldest of the three brothers who built the temple, dead as he lay asleep on the floor. The men then addressed the now panic-stricken crowd on the prayer-microphone.
Even as people tried to flee, a few of the Maoists chased and shot Laxmikant Manjhi, Naurhi’s postmaster and Dilip Acharya’s childhood friend. “It will be the rest of us who will be targeted next,” said Dilip’s younger brother Randeep Acharya, a tall man in his early 40s, anxiously pacing the room in his two-storey house on the outskirts of Khunti. “For years, we helped the police fight the Maoists but now things seem difficult because the police have abandoned us,” said Randeep who, like Dilip, worked as a Special Police Officer (SPO) for the Jharkhand Police till 2012.
Besides helping the police gather intelligence in operations against Maoists, Randeep says the three brothers helped the police recruit SPOs from Tamar, Bundu in Ranchi and Torpa and Murhu in Khunti — both districts with the highest levels of Maoist-related violence in Jharkhand. Randeep, who now keeps two Rottweiler dogs and a band of 40 men from his village around for protection, got out from jail on bail this March after having served eight months over murder charges.
His brother Dilip too spent eight months in jail since September 2012 on charges of carrying arms illegally. He had got out of jail a week before he was shot dead by the Maoists. Randeep claimed he and his two brothers enjoyed police support and patronage in exchange for help in recruiting SPOs.
“Four years back, when we started work as SPOs, the police gave us guns and bullets. They took 80-85 youth from here to Hazaribagh to the police training camp. We killed Maoists. Once, at the police’s behest, we even killed a Home Guard because the police suspected him to be a Maoist informer. We would accompany Deputy SP-rank officers on operations carrying sattu [gram-flour] rations for the officers, carrying Maoists bodies back,” recounted Randeep.
He shared with The Hindu a copy of a State Bank of India cheque dated March 22, 2012, for Rs. 9,000, in his brother Dilip’s name signed by Khunti Superintendent of Police M. Tamilvanan. Since 2010, Maoists have killed at least 15 persons in Adki and Tamar in Khunti and Bundu, an adjoining area in Ranchi, for acting as SPOs for the police.
In November 2010, two Maoists entered SPO Pradeep Singh Munda’s house in Baruhatu in Bundu and opened fire, killing Pradeep Munda, SPOs Sanjay Mahto and Sonaram Munda, and Pradeep Munda’s six-year-old daughter, Manisha. Pradeep Munda’s wife Lakhimuni Devi said her husband had been given a country-made gun by the police, which he sometimes brought home. During the protests, SPOs publicly demanded that they be given better arms for their protection.
As in the response to the villagers’ protests after the Baruhatu killings in 2010, Khunti and Ranchi police officials deny arming SPOs. “We will pay money to anyone who provides us information under Home Ministry’s allocation to us for security-related expenditure. SPOs’ role is limited to being informants,” said Khunti SP Tamilvanan. In its December 2012 affidavit filed in the Jharkhand High Court in response to a public interest litigation petition by Ranchi activist Gopinath Ghosh,Deputy Secretary Home Department said the State was appointing SPOs as per the Home Ministry’s directions for “intelligence purpose”, paying them Rs.3,000 per month.
In response to the PIL petition, in July 2011, the Supreme Court, while asking the State to disband the Salwa Judum, ordered the Chhattisgarh government not to deploy SPOs for countering Maoist activities. Following the July order, the recruitment of SPOs in Jharkhand too was briefly paused but resumed after a Bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and S.S. Nijjar in November said the July order applied only to Chhattisgarh and not to other States.
Jharkhand has a sanctioned strength of 6,400 SPOs, though senior police officials put the current number employed at 3,000. While one senior police official said that out of Jharkhand’s 24 districts Ranchi and Khunti witnessed the highest levels of retribution killings owing to the presence of breakaway Maoist factions such as the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and the Village Republican Guard of India in the area.
“There are more problems in these areas because some SPOs begin to play one group against the other,” said the official. Another police official admitted that recruiting village youth as SPOs was linked to other law and order problems in districts. “How SPOs are handled varies a lot based on the District SP. There are instances where SPs turn a blind eye to SPOs being used by the thana police as conduits for their extortion from local mafia. In some instances, the SPOs have starting acting like a law unto themselves to settle personal rivalries,” said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.
While Randeep Acharya says he and his brothers started working for the police after the Maoists killed one of their relatives in Bundu over a dispute over levy, in most cases the police encourages former Maoists to become police informers, pushing the youth to stay entrenched in a cycle of retribution and violence. “My younger brother Maliya was 16. He was in jail [for] a year on charges of being a Maoist. When he got out, the police made him a SPO. I used to see him with Dhananjay Munda’s [an SPO in Khunti] men. One day, Maoists came home and took him with them. We found his body four days later in Parsi Bazar. The Maoists had beheaded him and two other boys his age. They left a parcha [pamphlet] saying they were punished for helping the police,” says Luhan Pahan* (name changed on request) in Uparpalong village in Adki, Khunti.
While SPOs are clearly at greater risk of being attacked for siding with the police, according to the norms, Jharkhand’s SPOs are eligible for the same compensation as any other civilian killed in Maoist violence — Rs.3 lakh from the Central government as per a 2009 norm, and Rs.1 lakh and a class-IV government job from Jharkhand government.
Maoists yet to win adivasis’ trust in Assam
GUWAHATI: Relatively better off than their brethren in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, the adivasis of Assam, who constitute the tea labourer community, have so far remained out of the influence of Maoists. The Maoists, instead, have recruited youths, who have been either members of some militant outfits in the past or belong to indigenous tribal communities of the state.
Assam Police additional director general of police (special branch) Khagen Sarmah said although there are a few adivasi Maoist cadres in the state, the situation here is quite different from other states where adivasis form the backbone of the Maoists. “The adivasis here are definitely on their (Maoist) radar but the tea labourers here are much better off and not exploited. The conditions are very different here,” Sarmah told TOI.
The recent arrests of several Maoist cadres have shown that those from the state are mainly from the Rabha community or an Ahom, Moran or Motok. All these communities have been fighting for the identities and the Maoists possibly could be cashing in on this. Sarmah, however, does not agree with this theory saying that the growth of Maoists in the state is mainly due to the vacuum created by the weakening of several militant outfits, including Ulfa.
“If members of a community fighting for its identity join the Maoists, then they stand to lose their identity and hence this theory does not hold good. When a militant group becomes extinct, another comes in to fill up the vacuum and those who refuse to give up arms despite their outfit becoming defunct or in peace talks, they join the new group. We have found that most Maoist cadres arrested so far were either members of a militant outfit in the past or had some links,” said Sarmah.
On April 26, police arrested two top Maoist leaders – Aklanta Rabha alias Maheshji and Siraj Rabha alias Bijoy Rabha and later Aklanta’s wife Rekah Rani. All of them belong to the Rabha community and had links with Rabha Security Force, a militant group. Similarly, some others arrested in the past from upper Assam areas have also been found to be ex-Ulfa men. The Maoists have not just built base in the state, but also expanded it as well and that too right under the nose of the security forces.
The Rabhas concentrated in Goalpara district are demanding functioning of the Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council and an armed group called Rabha Vipers and Rabha Security Force are aiding the Ulfa. “The Maoists so far have youths from the state and a few Khamti boys from Arunachal Pradesh. However, unlike Jharkhand, there is just a sprinkling of Adivasi youths.
There are a couple of youths from Goalpara and Kamrup district but the majority is from Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Golaghat districts and many from Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts,” a security source said. The Maoists, at present, have about 180 listed cadres but they have just handful of weapons, which include three carbines, a couple of .315 rifles and pistols, grenades and one M16 rifle.
Dreaded Naxal gets zonal charge
Ramanna, alias Ravulu Srinivas, who had allegedly led the deadliest ever attack on security forces by rebels killing 76 CRPF personnel in Tadmetla forest of Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on April 6, 2010, has taken over charge of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC), a strategically crucial unit of outlawed CPI (Maoist), intelligence sources said on Saturday. “The CPI (Maoist) has brought some radical changes in the organisation, particularly in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, recently. Leaderships of several zonal and regional committees have also been changed.
Accordingly, Ramanna has replaced Kosa alias Katkam Sudarshan alias Satyarayan Rao as secretary of all powerful DSZC, that controls Red movements in Bastar and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra,” a senior intelligence officer told this newspaper. Earlier, Ramanna headed South Bastar Regional Committee (SBRC). Spokesman of DSZC Ganes Uiki alias Pakkala Hanumath has been made secretary of SBRC.
“The Central Committee of CPI (Maoist) has recently given its stamp of approval to the changes,” sources revealed. In the latest reconstitution of several committees, North Bastar Divisional Committee has been disbanded and merged with the recently constituted Abujhmad Divisional Committee (ADC). Rajman has replaced Sujata Nureti as chief of ADC.
Sujata has been given charge of military operation. Similarly, Jyoti alias Madhavi has been given charge of West Bastar Divisional Committee, while Vinod headed Darbha Divisional Committee. Sources said the Central Maoist leadership was mulling the proposal to give leadership of several of its units in Bastar to local tribals ultras to end the current cold war between local Naxal leaders and Andhra Pradesh rebels.
BSF boost for Narayanpatna
KORAPUT: After increasing BSF presence in Malkangiri, the state government has now turned to Maoist-hit Narayanpatna block in Koraput district. On Saturday, two additional companies of BSF were deployed in the block and one more company will reach Narayanpatna soon. These men will be stationed at Tentulipadar, Bijaghart and Mankidi, the three new BSF camps. Such camps already exist in Palur and Podapadar.
“The new camps will start functioning in the next few days. A company of BSF consisting of around 100 jawans will be deployed at each camp,” said a senior police officer of Koraput. Earlier this month, DGP Prakash Mishra had attended a community policing programme at Narayanpatna and assessed the ongoing anti-Maoist operations.
There is a need to set up three new BSF camps as the ultras are trying to convert Narayanpatna into their hub and the Red corridor stretches from Narayanpatna to Andhra Pradesh, said the police officer. With intensified combing operations, security personnel have succeeded in containing Maoist menace to a great extent in Narayanpatna.