Weak database on Maoists hampers NIA investigation
JAGDALPUR: A weak database of Chhattisgarh police on Maoist commanders in the area have stalled investigations of National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the May 25 ambush in which 30 persons, including three senior Congress leaders, were killed at JiramGhati. Sources said that NIA has sought fresh photos of key suspects, including Ramana alias Ramalu Srinivas, chief of CPI (Maoist) Dandakaranya special zonal committee, and Vinod, Ganpati, Jaganna and Savitri, but to no avail. They have got pictures of a few, but they are too old to be of any use, an official said. Ramana is known for his cruelty against paramilitary forces.
His predecessor Kosa, alias Katkam, alias Satyanarayan Rao, did not use violent methods. The trend of beheading and mutilating bodies of security personnel and suspected police informers by Maoists started after Ramana took charge. However, surrendered Maoists claim that he was not so cruel when he moved to Chhattisgarh from Andhra Pradesh in 80s. “Two of his brothers were shot dead by paramilitary forces some years ago and since then he became cruel,” an ex-rebel told TOI pleading anonymity. It was Ramana, who had led the April 2010 Tadmetla attack in which 76 CRPF personnel were killed.
When contacted, NIA officials admitted that they were facing problems because of a weak database. Other Maoists whom the federal agency is in search of are Gajarla Ravi (Ganesh), commander, who was made chief of Bastar in December 2012, and his brother Gajarla Ashok, alias Eiatu, the Maoist military commander of Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli division and an expert in explosives. The officials also want the photo of Pankaj, alias Gaganna, and a female commander Savitri, who was in the forefront at Jiram Ghati ambush. Vinod, who carries a reward of Rs 5 lakh and is a close associate of Ramana, is also being tracked.
According to NIA sources, Ashok was given the responsibility of leading the ambush team. The only information that the local police have about Eiatu is that he had lost his three fingers while making a bomb a couple of years ago. His photo is not available. The NIA officials are now counting on local villagers – who allegedly witnessed the May 25 incident – to collect more and more information and explore the alleged sabotage theory. The officials are also looking for two government school teachers, who were allegedly held by the Maoists on May 25 for identification of the Congressmen in the convoy.
The officials have questioned more than 40 persons, including some of the survivors of the incident, besides putting hundreds of phone numbers under scanner. They are analysing the call details records (CDR) of those who were part of the Congress rally, sources said. Meanwhile, the agency has also released a press note stating that they have not submitted any report to the MHA on this attack so far countering some media reports.
States agree to adopt Andhra-style anti Naxal policy; national policy soon
NEW DELHI: All nine states affected by Left-wing extremism have agreed to form a unified national policy to tackle the Maoist menace and follow the Andhra Pradesh model to counter them. The decision after a two-hour special session on Left-wing extremism at the chief ministers’ conference comes ahead of the all-party meeting called by the government next Monday to discuss the strategy to tackle Maoists, following the Darbha attack in Chhattisgarh that wiped out the state Congress leadership.
During the meeting, chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Bihar, badly affected by Maosits, advocated diverse strategies to tackle the militants, exemplifying the challenges for the Centre to organise a coordinated offensive. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, speaking at the chief ministers’ conference in the capital, on Wednesday called for some hard decisions and a united national policy to treat Maoists as terrorists and fight a decisive battle. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on the other hand, said the police alone could not fight the problem and said this was a superficial solution to a problem that had political dimensions.
At a special two-hour-long session with the chief ministers of all nine Maoist-affected states in the evening, the Centre decided to progressively enhance the deployment level of central forces in the worst-affected states and stressed on surgical operations to take out the top leadership of the CPI (Maoist). Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa agreed to be on board for a coordinated offensive with the central forces in the tri-junction of the Bastar jungles from where the senior Maoist leadership operates, an official told ET. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Reddy, whose police officers gave a presentation on how the state had successfully driven out the Maoists, cautioned that they anticipated the militants to stage a comeback in the state in case of any let-up in preparedness of the security forces.
“The possibility of Naxal armed action teams striking at individual targets cannot be ruled out,” Reddy said. The Bihar chief minister, however, maintained that a multi-dimensional strategy based on the theme of governance with justice was required. “We must work together to launch serious developmental schemes so that misdirected people can be brought back into the socio-economic mainstream,” Kumar said. His counterpart from Chhattisgarh, however, said it was a battle of democratic forces against the perpetrators of violence. “To call Naxals as defenders of rights of anyone in society would only be a cruel joke. The battles being fought in Sukma, Dantewada, Bastar and Narayanpur are not Chhattisgarh’s alone. We are fighting those whose ultimate aim is to capture Delhi and the Red Fort through power of the gun,” Singh said . Finance Minister P Chidambaram also told journalists later that the Centre’s policy remained two pronged – development and police action to handle Naxalism. “In Bastar, what development can you attempt if people can’t enter?” Chidambaram asked.
States to adopt uniform approach to counter Maoist menace
NEW DELHI: With the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking the Centre and states to work together to deal with the “very grave threat” posed by Maoists, the CMs during the conference on internal security here on Wednesday vowed to use “all their might” to counter the Maoist insurgents through a “uniform approach” under a national policy. Consensus to adopt a national policy to deal with Naxalism is considered a major shift from the existing system, where every Maoist-affected state has its own way to deal with the problem. The states also agreed to adopt Andhra Pradesh-model of policing to deal with the Red Ultras.
Besides having a strong special force (Greyhounds), the state had over the years worked diligently to strengthen police stations in Naxal-affected districts. The Centre agreed to provide adequate fund to the states for improving the basic police infrastructure and fill the critical security gaps of over one lakh square kilometers in the affected states through recruitment, training and deployment. Setting the tone for the June 10 all-party meeting over the Maoist issue which is being convened in the backdrop of the last month’s Chhattisgarh killings to build a broader national consensus on the strategy to tackle the Naxalite challenge, the leaders also adopted a resolution during the conference showing complete unity in dealing with the Maoist menace.
Deliberations on strategy to deal with the problem also saw CMs of seven Naxal-affected states agreed to have a policy where the states can directly procure forest resources like tendu leaf through a minimum support price (MSP) mechanism so that such economic activity does not fall into the Maoists’ hands. “At present, these lucrative forest produce are being procured by private contractors who have to part their earnings with Maoists out of fear. Once states start procuring these products, it will help in blocking the ‘finance’ of Red Ultras,” said an official.
Addressing the CMs, the PM also showed urgency to develop a mechanism where both the Centre and states can work together. Admitting that the Chhattisgarh Naxal attack was a “setback” to the success story achieved by the government in tackling the Maoists, he said the time has come to view the challenges of terrorism, communal violence and left wing extremism in a holistic manner, rising above narrow, political and ideological divides.
“I think each one of us needs to be completely objective in our approach to these issues, acting in national interest rising above narrow political and ideological divides. I would appeal to all political parties and all sections of society to work together to find effective ways and means of meeting these grave challenges,” Singh said. Most of the chief ministers and lieutenant governors of Union Territories attended the Conference. West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee and Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa were among the notable absentees.
There was a separate session for seven Naxal-affected states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra — to discuss the Maoists issue in the conference. Interestingly, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi too earlier during his speech pitched for including his state in all deliberations concerning Naxalism taking in view the urban plan of the CPI (Maoists) which include Golden Corridor of the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad industrial belt as one of its main targets.
No stringent Act invoked against Maoist posters
The arrest of several Naxal suspects from the city in 2011 and appearance of posters carrying demands of CPI (Maoist) in the next two years, both times in March, have led investigators to believe the presence of a sleeper cell of the banned outfit in the city. Although investigators suspect that Maoists are focusing on Pune, no arrest has been made for putting up the posters. While no case was registered for putting up posters in 2012, in the 2013 case, police registered an offence under the Prevention of Defacement of Property Act. CCTV footage from Patrakar Bhavan shows three young men arriving on a motorcycle and putting up posters on March 23, 2013.
Similar posters were found outside the district collectorate, some colleges, Shivajinagar court, Balgandharva auditorium and bus-stops. The posters carrying a picture of Bhagat Singh declared that Naxals had set apart “this saptah” (week) between March 23 and March 29 to remember ‘Comrade Bhagat Singh’. The posters also sought the rights of fellow “revolutionaries” lodged in jail. Last year, the CPI (Maoist) allegedly put up posters outside Patrakar Bhavan and other spots, calling for a bandh on March 23, 2012 and demanding unconditional release of “comrades Kobad Ghandy, Vijay, Vikram, Madanlal, Mahesh, Bhanu and Angela Sontakke”. Deputy Commissioner (special branch) M B Tambade said, “Last year, no offence was registered in the Maoist poster case. This year we got the offence registered.
And we can always invoke more stringent laws during the course of investigation.” Sources from intelligence agencies said Naxalism is a serious concern and so the case of Maoist posters in Pune cannot be taken lightly. Pune Police Commissioner Gulabrao Pol refused to comment on the matter.
Maoists find Pune an important, opinion-making city: ATS
Last week, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde specifically mentioned Pune, while making a statement on how Maoists have turned their focus on urban centers. Investigators say Pune has been on their radar for quite a long time now. According to Amarnath Chandaliya, the founder of Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), an alleged Naxal front for urban areas, Anuradha Ghandy, a senior CPI (Maoist) leader, told him that “Pune is an opinion-making city…Opinions formed in Pune are accepted all over Maharashtra…The views of intellectuals in Pune stand out…” Anuradha is top CPI (Maoist) leader Kobad Ghandy’s wife. She was mostly involved in Maoist propaganda in urban areas. She is also believed to be one of the founders of CPI(Maoist) in Maharashtra. She died on April 12, 2008. Her views on Pune, which Chandaliya claimed she discussed with him in 2007, describe how the Maoists came to recognise the importance of the city.
After the arrest of Angela Sontakke, the self-proclaimed general secretary of the Golden Corridor Committee of CPI(Maoist), and six others including KKM members in 2011, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) interrogated Chandaliya as a witness and recorded his statement. As per the statement, Chandaliya was introduced to Anuradha in 2007 by a Mumbai-based writer, Sudhir Dhawale, who was arrested by the Gondia police in 2010 on charges of sedition. At their meeting in Mumbai’s Ruia College, Anuradha had asked Chandaliya several questions regarding Pune. ‘Urban perspective’ of the Maoists
A document, “Urban perspective”, believed to have been released by the CPI(Maoist) a few years ago, describes urban areas as “centres of the enemy” and states that work in urban areas has special importance in revolutionary work. The document broadly describes three tasks while working in towns and cities. The first and the main task is to organise the working class, students and intellectuals among others to deal with the problems of women, Dalits, minorities and labourers, and mobilise them for their ‘revolutionary movement’. The second task is to form ‘united fronts’, which includes unifying the working class, building fronts against globalisation, religious fascism and repression. The third is military tasks or urban militia, which will initially complement rural armed struggle, like arranging logistic support, infiltrating enemy organisations and recruiting the urban youth for jungle warfare.
Pune-Ahmedabad corridor on target
The document suggests Maoist plans of “urban work” in the Pune-Ahmedabad corridor that covers other big cities and towns like Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Surat and Vadodara. Maoists consider these areas to be more industrialised and urbanised, with a diversified working class who have migrated from different parts of the country. According to a senior intelligence officer, Maoists are losing their support-base in their usual domains and are looking towards the cities. They look at Pune in a special way because it is an educational and cultural hub, having a healthy ever-growing population of students and youngsters belonging to varied financial backgrounds.
Besides, there is also a considerable number of labourers in the city, along with big slum areas. Maoists target these sections of people and try to penetrate the intellectual groups, particularly those coming from poor and backward classes. They see them as “potential recruits” for spreading their movement in urban belts, the intelligence officer had said, adding that as per their intelligence inputs, Maoists were targeting the newly created urban areas like Sangli and Kolhapur. Investigation had revealed that CPI(Maoist) formed the golden corridor committee especially to work in the urban areas of western Maharashtra. Angela, who was arrested in April 2011, was operating from Pune.
As per the document, other urban centres on the Maoist radar are Delhi, being the national capital, Bangalore, the IT capital of country, Chennai, a major industrial hub in the south, the Coimbatore-Erode belt, Kolkata, a major urban centre in northeastern India, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and cities in central India and the Gangetic plain. On May 30, Sushilkumar Shinde said, “We are aware that Naxals have been using urban centres, and Pune has been one of their targets. They are trying to spread their presence in other cities. There have been reports regarding their strong presence in parts of Rajasthan.”
Notes from the Bastar battlefield
The Maoists’ military formations can be effectively fought only by the deployment of special forces The attack in May on the convoy of a political party by the Maoists in Jeeram Ghaati, Bastar in Chhattisgarh should not be seen in isolation. It was an act of frustration on the part of the Maoists, aimed at reasserting their ideology against the democratic values of the country. The killing of 76 CRPF men in 2010 near Chintagufa, the hub of Naxal activities in Sukma district, was an indication of the Maoist strategy of entering a phase of mobile warfare.
Mostly, they are still fighting a guerilla war — a war that is sometimes won by the Maoists and at other times, by the security forces. In general, the government writ prevails in such areas and the security forces showcase their authority effectively. In most of the less and moderately affected areas, the Maoists have been pushed back and the police has been able to check their expansion into newer areas with the help of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).
Chhattisgarh’s special task force (STF) has played a prominent role, aided by its growing special intelligence branch (SIB). New police stations and security camps in affected areas have restored the people’s confidence in the state. But the situation in the so-called liberated zone of the Maoists is drastically different. Most of the Maad area and large swathes of Bijapur and Sukma fall into this category. They not only take advantage of the hilly and forested terrain in these areas, but also of the poor connectivity in terms of both roads and communication. The unemployed youth is mostly with them as jan militia, strategically positioned to warn them by providing information on the movement of security forces and engaging them in fire-fighting as the first and front layer, that is, the base force of the “People’s Liberation Guerilla Army” (PLGA), constituted by the then Maoist outfit, CPI (ML-PW) in December 2000, renamed to CPI (Maoist) in September 2004.
Those that don’t support them face their wrath in jan adalats. In such a hostile environment, intelligence outflow has a time lag. The guerilla dalams of smaller strength have now swelled to platoons and companies. Whereas the first military Maoist company was formed in the Maad area of Dandakaranya in 2004, after an attack on the armoury of the Koraput district in Orissa, the total number of military companies has increased to more than 10, including two in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, which is also part of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee. Though the Maoists’ janatana sarkars (people’s government) in “liberated zones” pay only lip-service to villagers to retain their support, their military formations unleash waves of terror at will.
They have now formed two military battalions, each with a strength of not less than 250 armed cadres. During the three month period of their tactical counter offensive campaign from March 15 to June 15, they converge at fewer locations to regroup in larger numbers, conspire and organise attacks on security forces and identified targets. These are the military formations fought by the police and the CAPF on a regular basis. The Centre and state governments have done reasonably well to strengthen the police. Whereas the state has increased the strength of each affected police station, raised the STF and SIB, and carved out new districts to improve administration, the Centre has liberally sanctioned new India Reserve Battalions and sent the CAPF to assist state forces.
Similarly, whereas the state government took the initiative to establish a counter-terrorism and jungle warfare school in Kanker district, the Centre provided financial assistance to set up counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism centres in Maoist-affected states, including four in Chhattisgarh, to strengthen training capabilities and infrastructure. Helicopters have been pressed into service for the evacuation of casualties. But the so-called liberated zones, where security forces are hardly present, are yet to be made motorable and penetrable for mobile connectivity. Perhaps a recently cleared proposal by the department of telecommunication to set up 2,199 mobile towers in Maoist-affected states will bring some relief to such areas.
However, special agencies are required to make roads with the help of committed security, as local contractors mostly run away with advance payment under the perceived threat to their lives. Other government departments also need to fill in the administrative vacuum in the state. Recently, a temporary camp was established by the security forces in the “liberated zone” of the Maoists near Chintagufa to counter their military battalion. Since the camp penetrated the Maoists’ stronghold in order to reassert the government’s writ and demystify the “liberated zone”, Maoists attacked it using high explosive “finned shells” and automatic weapons.
The security forces not only retaliated successfully, but also comforted the villagers by organising a medical camp and distributing daily necessities. While the state has made arrangements for PDS, villagers in interior areas have to travel long distances to access it. Medical facilities are a still distant dream. Drill machines hardly visit these areas to explore water. When the state government tries to reach out to these villagers, we learn that they have seen only Maoists and the security forces in their lives.
When they speak their mind, they aspire for development and not janatana sarkar. In response to a query on extortion by the Maoists, the local representative said that he could give them their share only when they allowed him to get some development work done in the village. The Maoists’ military formations can be effectively fought only through the deployment of special forces. The jan-militia needs to be de-engaged to destabilise the PLGA. Connectivity must be improved to increase the operational efficiency and mobility of the forces. It is a war-like situation now, and needs to be similarly dealt with.
The writer is an additional director general of police in Chhattisgarh
Maoist commander held
PATNA: Acting on a tip-off, Patna Police on Tuesday night arrested a CPI (Maoist) area commander, GopalPaswan, from village Daulatpur under Bhagwanganj police station area in Patna district. SSP Patna Manu Maharaj said, “Paswan was active in levy collection in the area. He had reached the area to hold a meeting with his associates regarding levy collection.” Paswan used to operate from Masaurhi area and was a major fund raiser for the Maoists. He told the cops that he was involved in blowing up the Morhar bridge in 2004 under Dhanarua police station area and also the Bada bridge under Bhagwanganj police station area. “He was accused in several cases of levy collection with Masaurhi and Dhanarua police stations in Patna district,” the SSP said.
Arrested Maoist handed over to Bihar cops
DALTONGANJ: The district police handed over a Maoist leader Bhola Yadav (35) to the Nabinagar police in Bihar late on Tuesday. SP Narendra Kumar Singh said, “He was caught in Palamu’s Manukhaap near Kala Pahar on June 3. He had come to attend a marriage ceremony of a relative Mundrika Singh.” The SP added that Palamu police had been on the lookout for this Maoist and waited for the right time to nab him.
Dressed in plain clothes, the police acted with precision as any hurried activity on the occasion could have alerted the Maoist, who would have tried to escape. tnn SP Narendra said, “Our boys showed patience as no one wanted to create any hindrance in the marriage. They waited for the rituals to be over and for guests to have dinner before pouncing upon him.” The Maoist had been operative in Bihar’s Nabinagar, Khira and in Jharkhand Palamu’s Hussainabad sub division. He has several cases against him in Bihar and Jharkhand.
Maoists latest threat to State: Gogoi
NEW DELHI, June 5 – The rising activities of Maoists in Assam has come as a latest threat for Assam Government, with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday warning that emerging Maoist movement, concentrated mainly in Upper Assam, might spread to Lower Assam and Barak Valley taking into its fold local militants. He sought clearance to convert Indian Reserve Battalions into a specialised strike force (Rapid Action Force) to take on the Maoists. Addressing the Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security, the Chief Minister indulged in some plain talking earning kudos from those in attendance.
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram later told newsmen that the Chief Minister of Assam made a very useful speech. The Chief Minister lamented that when ULFA had targeted Congress-men in Assam there was no major hue and cry over political killings, as being witnessed now. The ULFA continues to profess a pan-Assam identity; other militant groups are ethnic-based and hence with only a local footprint. The emerging Maoist movement with strength mainly in Upper Assam, but presence in Lower Assam and Barak Valley could overshadow and even absorb all the localised militancy and attract those who were earlier drawn to ULFA, the Chief Minister cautioned.
“The Government of India has initiated consultation to include some of our districts in the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) that forms a major component of the joint counter-Maoist strategy. We reiterate the urgency needed in implementing the scheme in districts of Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Golaghat,” Gogoi appealed. “Also, effective anti-Maoist operations need specialist capabilities and we propose that one of the existing IR Battalions is upgraded to a Special IR battalion with an Engineer Company, as approved for other Maoist-affected states. It is only by proactive efforts that we can prevent the Maoists from spreading roots in this state.
Therefore, we propose that two existing IR Battalions are converted into RAF-type units organized, trained and equipped to be rapidly deployed.” Tarun Gogoi, significantly brought up the issue of sealing Indo-Bangladesh border. An important area of concern for Assam is the sealing of Indo-Bangladesh border. While the fencing and border road works in Assam have progressed significantly, there has been slow progress in other border States. Further intervention is necessary through infrastructure development and technological support to provide fool proof surveillance on the 45 km stretch of riverine areas in Assam on Indo-Bangladesh border, he said, seeking Centre’s assistance.