Gadchiroli cops now cautious with identification
NAGPUR: The recovered body of a Naxal is yet to be identified even after 24 hours of the encounter at Hetalkasa jungle in north Gadchiroli on Sunday. Gadchiroli police seems to be careful enough to ensure identification bereft of any controversy unlike in previous couple of occasions.
Gadchiroli police have faced serious allegations for goofing up identifications in the past. Following the encounters at Bhatpar jungle in Bhamragarh, police faced embarrassment after two families claimed the body of a slain woman killed during exchange of fires. Police had to resort to DNA fingerprinting for indentifying the woman.
Similar confusion regarding the identities of the slain Naxalites came to fore after the encounter at Sindesur forest. The police authorities, which depend on surrendered Naxalites and records of their Naxal cell for identifications, had to face another round of embarrassment after the rebels came out with the names of their martyred guerillas.
The names claimed by the cops were different. A senior officer of Gadhchiroli police said that the name of the slain Naxalite would not be disclosed until the security forces get concrete evidence of his identity.
Cops turn tables on Reds, kill 1 rebel
CHANDRAPUR: Aided with advance intelligence, Gadchiroli police successfully carried out a first-of-its-kind counter-ambush against Naxalites in Hetalkasa jungle under Gadchiroli on Sunday evening, killing a rebel. C-60 commandos gunned down the Naxalite under Malewada police station in Kurkheda sub-division.
Two commandos sustained minor injuries. A small cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered. “The Naxalites had planned to ambush police search parties in Hetalkasa jungle. However, thanks to strong intelligence network, we had advance information about their operation, which helped us to carry out the counter ambush successfully,” SP Suvez Haque said.
DIG, anti-Naxal operations, Ravindra Kadam claimed that this is fourth successful operation against Naxalites in Gadchiroli during last few months. “Our jawans have killed 17 Naxalites in four encounters this year,” he said. Kadam informed that police had a tip-off about the strong ambush laid by 60 Naxal guerrillas belonging to Platoon dalam-55 and 56, aided by Naxals of Devri, Kurkheda, Korchi and Khobrameda dalam. Parties of C-60 commandos were dispatched with counter battle strategy in the ambush area on Sunday evening.
Encounter began at 5.30pm, lasted till late in the evening. Alert commandos turned the tables against the lurking Naxalites and gunned down a young Naxalite during the gun-battle. Rebels even carried out four bomb explosions during the encounter, but police commandos held their front and forced the Naxalites to retreat. C-60 commandos Nagesh and Vijay Tatle sustained minor injuries during the encounter.
Dead body of a male Naxalite was recovered from the place during post encounter search operation. Cops also recovered a 12-bore rifle, its 19 bullets, 5 bullets of 9 mm pistol, a spent pipe-bomb, 10 bamboo pieces rolled with wire to help carrying out explosions, a magazine pouch and other Naxal material from the spot.
While police search parties were heading back to their base camp in Malewada later in the same night, some Naxalites fired at them in jungle between Malewada and Karwafa, and fled into the jungle. Cops recovered two land mines from this area after the firing. Anti Naxal operation has been intensified in the area following the encounter, Kadam told.
Chhattisgarh: Naxal killed in encounter with CRPF
Raipur: A Naxal, allegedly involved in several murder cases, was killed in an encounter with CRPF jawans in Dantewada district, police said on Monday. The incident occurred yesterday when the CRPF jawans guarding a helipad at Purangel village came under fire from the insurgents. A helicopter was to land at the spot to evacuate two injured jawans of CoBRA 199 battalion.
The jawans — Lakshman Singh (22) and Chhabilal (24) — were injured in the Naxal attack in Bijapur district that had taken place yesterday. “22-year-old Masu, the deputy commander of Jan Militia Group of Maoists, was killed in an encounter with CRPF jawans in Purangel village under Aranpur police station area on Sunday,” Dantewada SP Narendra Khare said. Masu was involved in several cases of loot, arson and murder in the region, he said. Khare said the naxals fled to jungle when CRPF jawans retaliated.
“While cordoning off the encounter spot this morning, jawans found the body of Masu,” the SP said, adding that police found blood stains at the spot indicating that some more ultras might either have been killed or injured in the gun battle. “Later, the injured jawans were air-lifted to a private hospital at Raipur for treatment,” Khare said. An air-gun, a bag and a knife were recovered from the site.
Collateral damage incurred in anti-naxal ops: MHA
About seven people killed during an encounter between securitymen and Maoists in Chhattisgarh on Friday were innocents, union home ministry and police sources confirmed on Monday.
The state government has ordered a judicial probe. But the home ministry appears to have come around to the view that the forces may not have done a good job of implementing plans taken last year to minimise “collateral” loss of lives. Besides the state’s Rs. 5 lakh compensation, the home ministry has decided to give an extra Rs. 3 lakh to each victim. After 17 tribals were killed in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur in June last year, the home ministry had advised against engaging Maoists in gunfights if rebels use villagers as shields.
Less than a year later, a team of CRPF men and police targeted what intelligence inputs described as a meeting of rebels about 1.5 km from a village on Friday night. The Maoists who fired at the security forces were on an elevated piece of land. The villagers — who were in between — got killed in cross-firing.
In South Bastar, grim battles on to retake Maoist bases
With semi-automatic weapons slung over their shoulders, these soldiers are more than just patrolling arterial village roads. They are in the midst of full-scale battles in which several people, mostly non-combatants, are getting killed. Forces have been mobilised in their thousands; dehydrated soldiers are getting evacuated by the Indian Air Force; corpses are removed in huge tractors meant for transporting farm produce; and Maoists are intensifying coordination at villages. South Bastar villagers believe that the current spell of violence, which has caused several deaths, cannot be sporadic action conducted by either the police or stray Maoist squads of 20-year-olds. Perhaps they are right.
There are two battles going on in two patches. One is the battle to take control of Pidiya, a rugged terrain spread over 15 km on the south-eastern border of Bijapur district. The other is in Minappa, further south. The battle for Pidiya has been intermittent since January. And it is going to continue. “We are targeting Pidiya as it is a strong base of the Maoists,” Additional Director-General of Police (Naxal Operations) R.K. Vij told The Hindu earlier.
Explaining the importance of Pidiya, senior officials said two out of 10 military companies of the CPI (Maoist) are based upland of Pidiya, which is ringed by mountains on three sides. “[The companies] 02 and 08 coordinated the 2010 ambush that killed 76 soldiers,” said a Home Ministry official. The militants also have a “signalling centre, printing press, arms dump and training schools” in Pidiya. In January, the joint forces raided the area and claimed to have seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition.
However, after visiting the area, social scientist Bela Bhatia wrote to the Chhattisgarh police, saying that “17 houses and 14 huts were burnt,” and “belongings destroyed” in several hamlets. In January, however, no one was killed. This time though, at least seven villagers were killed in Edesmeta village, eight km from Pidiya. While officials are unsure how the villagers were killed, they admit all of them were “innocent civilians.” “[The] force bypassed Edesmeta and followed the standard operating procedure of avoiding villages at night.
But the route they had chosen was where the villagers were cooking. Someone fired, and the force retaliated. Unfortunately, innocent civilians got shot,” said a senior officer. Perhaps, that is why Chief Minister Raman Singh was quick in extending condolence to the families of the victims, a gesture not extended to the Naxalites.
What is important is the size of the force deployed to win the battle for Pidiya. Six teams of the joint forces, with 150-200 men, were converging on the area. The distance each team covered were 20-25 km from their stations at Cherpal, Basaguda, Sarkeguda, Jagargunda, Kirandul and Ganglur.
More significantly, seven gunfights took place between the Maoists and the forces in the last four days at and around Pidiya. Police sources said Team V, coming from Kirandul, killed a rebel. “Two members of the armed forces were injured at a place near Parangal,” said an officer. Team III from Sarkeguda waged three small fights.
Another big operation was reportedly conducted on Sunday further down, at Bhejji, near the Andhra Pradesh border. Pidiya villagers called The Hindu up to inform that the Maoists conducted a condolence meeting soon after the forces left Peddapara, one of the villages within Pidiya, and offered compensation to the families of the deceased. The State police have set up a makeshift camp at Minappa, south of Pidiya. Minappa is sited between Dornapal and Jagargunda, a 50-km stretch that already has 8-10 paramilitary camps and an equal number of police camps.
Each camp houses 200-300 personnel. This means roughly 5,000 personnel are guarding the stretch from the eastern border of Chhattisgarh to Jagargunda. Experts reckon the number of personnel deployed to be very high for an internal conflict. In addition, over 1,000 personnel have been stationed at Minappa to “sanitise” the area. A senior police officer was a bit cynical. “If not full scale, a half-scale battle is on at and around Pidiya.”
India: Assam Troubled Again? – Analysis
On April 19, 2013, an Inspector of a commando unit of the Assam Police, identified as Lohit Sonowal, two militants of the ‘Independent’ faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), and one civilian, were killed in an encounter at Kordoiguri village in Tinsukia District. The militants killed in the encounter were identified as Raktajeet Hazarika and Ananta Moran. An official disclosed that residents of the village where the incident occurred identified the civilian as Pona Moran, who reportedly died in the crossfire. This is the first major incident (involving three or more killing) in the State in the current year.
Earlier, on May 9, 2012, four Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed and a Police constable was injured, in an encounter with the Police in Bangaon village near Deopan under the Sadiya Subdivision of Tinsukia District. The slain Maoists were identified as Siddhartha Buragohain, Rajeev Gogoi alias Medang, Arup Chetia alias Iyan and Kamala Gogoi. Siddhartha Buragohain was the ‘second-in-command’ of the armed wing of the CPI-Maoist in the State. Tinsukia District has already registered five fatalities in two incidents in 2013.
The earlier incident occurred on January 20, 2013, when Security Forces (SFs) killed a militant, identified as Lalit Moran, belonging to the ULFA-I, in an encounter in the Kakojan Reserve Forest under Digboi Police Station. There were nine fatalities in the District in 2012, and seven in 2011. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the District has witnessed 16 major incidents since 2000, resulting in 139 fatalities.
Of these, 14 incidents involved ULFA. The highest fatalities were recorded in 2007, when 45 persons were killed in four major incidents, mostly involving settlers from other Indian States. In the worst such incident, ULFA militants massacred 34 ‘outsiders’ on January 5, 2007. Fatalities had registered declining trends over recent years, as the major outfit operating in the District, ULFA, had witnessed several reverses.
On June 24, 2008, two companies [Alpha and Charlie] of ULFA’s ‘28th battalion’, the most potent strike group of the outfit, announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Government. The ‘battalion’ operated in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Sivasagar Districts of Assam, and also in the neighbouring State of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, as well as the Sagaing region of Myanmar.
The split within the ‘battalion’ drastically reduced ULFA’s strike capacities in the Tinsukia. This was followed by the action taken by the Bangladesh against ULFA in 2009-2010, when most of the top leadership of the outfit, who had long received safe haven in that country, was handed over to India, with the exception ‘commander in chief’ Paresh Baruah. The outfit then split into a Pro-talk and Anti-talks faction in 2011, and the latter is now ULFA-I.
Despite declining fatalities, the surviving capacities of ULFA-I and the increasing penetration of the Maoists in the District had raised continuous concerns. The District recorded as many as seven explosions in 2012 – six of them by ULFA-I – though these resulted in just one fatality. 2011 and 2010 had recorded no such incidents, while one explosion was recorded in 2009.
According to partial data compiled by SATP, six extortion cases were reported in Tinsukia in 2012 rising from two incidents in 2011 & one in 2010 [a majority of extortion cases are believed to go unreported]. In one such incident in December 2012, ULFA-I sent extortion notes to legislators Bolin Chetia, from the Sadiya Assembly constituency, and Dilip Moran, from the Doom Dooma Assembly constituency, both in the District, asking them to pay INR 2 million each. Extortion by the militant groups remains a major cause of concern.
A “very conservative estimate” by security sources reported in the media on January 24, 2013, indicated that the militants collected ‘at least’ INR 270 million from the State in 2012. ULFA-I topped the extortion assessment chart. Tinsukia occupies an area of 3,790 square kilometres, with a population of 1,316,948, and is bounded by Arunachal Pradesh on three sides. The District is inhibited by Assamese, Bengali, Nepali and Hindi speaking people, besides backward communities including Adivasis, Morans and Muttocks.
The District also boasts the oldest oil refinery in India, at Digboi, besides places like Margherita and Ledo, well known for coal mining. Illegal mining in Margherita Subdivision is believed to be among the main sources of funds for ULFA-I, the National Socialist Council for Nagalim (NSCN) factions, and CPI-Maoist. A report by District authorities cited intelligence inputs to note, “creation of huge amount of slush funds because of the illegal diversion and exploitation of coal” by the militant groups in league with local anti-socials had led to criminalisation of many institutions and triggered tension in the area.
In one incident targeting the mining sector, suspected militants of the Khaplang faction of NSCN (NSCN-K) abducted four employees of Brahmaputra Infrastructure Private Ltd. from their camp at Tikak Colliery at Ledo on January 11, 2013. They were rescued by SFs the day after. A September 12, 2012, news report claimed that ULFA-I had set-up two camps in the Manabhum and Kharsang areas of Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang District, bordering Tinsukia, along with NSCN-K. ULFA-I and NSCN-K have also helped the Arunachal Pradesh-based United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), operating from Lohit and Changlang Districts.
The SFs have continued operations against militants in 2013, and have already arrested six, including five of ULFA-I and one of NSCN-IM], in Tinsukia. SFs had arrested 30 ULFA-I militants in 2012, up from 23 in 2011. One suspected CPI-Maoist cadre was also arrested in the District. In addition, 15 militants belonging to ULFA-I have already surrendered in 2013, while seven ULFA-I militant surrendered in 2012.
The most prominent surrender was of the ‘deputy commander-in-chief’ and ‘eastern zone commander’ of ULFA-I, Bijoy Das alias Bijoy Chinese, in February 2013. Further, the Moran and Muttock communities inhabiting Tinsukia and neighbouring Districts of Sivasagar and Dibrugarh, have been demanding Scheduled Tribes (ST) status and have threatened ‘armed rebellion’ in case their demand is not met.
Significantly, most of the ULFA cadres in the upper Assam region, which includes Tinsukia, come from these two communities. Adivasi militants groups have also raised a similar demand, though most of these groups are currently under a ceasefire. Worryingly, the Sadiya Subdivision of Tinsukia, accessible only by boat, has been substantially penetrated by the CPI-Maoist. The Subdivision sits next to the Lohit and Lower Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh, an area marked by the CPI-Maoist as their ‘resting post’, and has recorded fatalities as well as extortion incidents.
State Inspector-General of Police, Central Western Range (IGP-CWR), L.R. Bishnoi, noted, on April 26, 2013, “Our investigation has revealed that the group [CPI-Maoist] is trying to strengthen its base in the Northeast so that the region, particularly Arunachal Pradesh, can be used as a safe refuge for their senior members when anti-Maoist operations intensify in the rest of the country.” A response to the emerging CPI-Maoist threat came in the last week of March 2013, when State Governor, J.B. Patnaik accorded a special category status to Tinsukia District, to tackle the growing Maoist influence.
The State Government constituted a 13-member High-powered Committee headed by State Power and Industry Minister, Pradyut Bordoloi [one of the MLAs from the District], with senior officers from various Departments, to prepare a special developmental plan [Integrated District Action Plan (IDAP)] for the Tinsukia. IDAP will focus on infrastructure development and avenues of employment generation. The District Deputy Commissioner (DC) S.S Meenakshi Sundaram, on April 8, 2013, announced that a baseline survey would be conducted in all 1,126 villages of the District, with special focus on about 200 villages identified as CPI-Maoist and ULFA-affected, to prepare the IDAP.
Earlier, in 2011, State Police, taking a cue from their Andhra Pradesh counterparts, had sent a proposal to develop a strong intelligence-led security structure to help the Police respond to the Maoist threat. Proposals from the Police included changing the post of zonal Superintendent of Police – Special Branch (SP-SB) based at Jorhat, to SP – Operations (SP-O) or SP – Left Wing Extremism (SP-LWE), to bring all operations and intelligence-gathering mechanisms against the Maoists under a single officer.
It also called for improving road connectivity [seven roads were proposed in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia], and augmenting manpower and Infrastructure, to aid policing in remote areas. In March 2012, Assam & Arunachal Pradesh decided to carry out operations by Joint Police teams, based on latest information about militant movements in “specific areas” on both sides of the State borders. The plan was initially implemented in the border areas along Tinsukia District of Assam and three Districts of Arunachal Pradesh – Lohit, Changlang and Lower Dibang Valley – and was later extended to include Tirap and East Siang.
An October 2, 2012, report later indicated that the SFs had intensified operations against the ULFA militants hiding along the Arunachal-Assam borders along Dibrugarh-Tinsukia-Sivasagar Districts of Assam and Changlang and Lohit Districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Although the overall fatalities in Assam have come down from 758 in 2000 to just 91 in 2012, constant vigilance is particularly required in vulnerable Districts such as Goalpara and Tinsukia, which share borders with other susceptible Northeastern States, including Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
At the ‘Chief Ministers Conference on Public Order’ held at New Delhi on April 15, 2013, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi conceded that the the downward trend in violence was reversible, and rightly emphasized the need for coordinated action with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and some parts of Meghalaya, if training, arms supply, transit routes and shelters for militants operating in Assam were to be choked off. Gogoi noted,
“In the past few years, there has been a declining trend of militant violence and talks are on with several militant outfits. However, it would be over-optimistic to declare that the nightmare of militant violence is over.” Extremist efforts for a revival in Tinsukia underline enduring vulnerabilities and the necessity of extreme vigilance on the part of state agencies if the gains of the past years are to be consolidated into a permanent peace in Assam.