India: Maoists Urban, Interrupted – Analysis
By SATP October 21, 2013
By Mrinal Kanta Das
The detention of Hem Chandra Mishra (30), a student of the New Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) by the Nagpur Police in Aheri, Gadchiroli District, Maharashtra, on August 20, 2013, and his subsequent arrest by the State Police on August 23, has opened up an old debate about the Communist Party of India-Maoist’s (CPI-Maoist) penetration into the urban spaces of the country. Mishra was arrested along with Pandu Pora Narote (27) and Mahesh Tirki (24) of Morewada village in the Etapalli tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District. He was carrying coded messages meant for the Maoist leadership in Dandakaranya forests in central India.
Confirming the arrest, a press release of the Gadchiroli District Police stated, on August 24, “The accused have accepted that they were going to give these documents to Senior Naxal [Left-Wing Extremist (LWE)] leader Narmada Akka. Pandu Narote and Mahesh Tirki also accepted that both of them were regular couriers of Narmada Akka and other senior Naxal leaders in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.” Further, within a week of Mishra’s arrest, Police searched the Delhi home of G.N. Saibaba, an Assistant Professor of English literature at Ram Lal Anand College of Delhi University on September 12, 2013. He is the Joint Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF), a Maoist front organisation active in Delhi and in Gurgaon and Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi. The Gadchiroli Police claim that Saibaba is a Maoist, known in his circles as Prashant alias Chetan, and uses these names to interact and hatch conspiracies with over ground Maoists through online chat forums. Police claim that Mishra went to Gadchiroli under Saibaba’s direction.
Though Saibaba admitted that he had met Mishra in the past, he denies sending him to Dandakaranya. It is significant that, on December 7, 2011, the then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Jitendra Singh, while replying to a Parliamentary question, disclosed that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had listed the RDF as a Maoist front organisation along with the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI) and Democratic Students Union (DSU), each of which is active in Delhi. On September 1, 2013, Prashant Rahi (52), a free lance journalist from Uttarakhand, and his associate, Vijay Tikri, were arrested from Deori in the Gondia District of Maharashtra, on suspicion that Rahi was heading to meet a senior Maoist leader. Rahi is from Uttarakhand and he has been associated with number of social causes from time to time.
He has been arrested on an earlier occasion for his alleged Maoist links. Though he has rejected the charges levelled against him by the Gadchiroli Police, the Police still claim that they had enough evidence to arrest him. It is useful to recall the arrest of Kobad Ghandy, a CPI-Maoist Central Committee member and top Maoist ideologue, from Delhi on September 21, 2009. This was one of the first high profile arrests that threw light on the Maoists’ evolving networks with India’s cities. Subsequently, there have been numerous arrests in various cities.
The most prominent among these were:
December 3, 2010: Anil Ghosh alias Ajoyda, State Committee Member, was arrested from Kolkata in West Bengal.
February 8, 2010: Baccha Prasad Singh, CPI-Maoist Politbureau member was arrested from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh. Seven other Maoists, including top leader Banshidhar alias Chintan Da were also arrested along with him.
August 24, 2009: Amitabha Bagchi alias Anil, CPI-Maoist Politbureau member, was arrested from Ranchi in Jharkhand.
August 19, 2007: Krishnan Srinivasan alias Vishnu alias Vijay alias Sreedhar alias Shekar, Central Committee Member, was arrested from Mumbai in Maharashtra.
The Maoists’ efforts to extend their networks into India’s cities is guided by a detailed strategy that has been meticulously explained in their document, Urban Perspective: Our Work in Urban Areas, which notes, inter alia.
Work in the urban areas has a special importance in our revolutionary work… in our revolution, which follows the line of protracted people’s war, the liberation of urban areas will be possible only in the last stage of the revolution… However, we should not belittle the importance of the fact that the urban areas are the strong centres of the enemy. Building up of a strong urban revolutionary movement means that our Party should build a struggle network capable of waging struggle consistently by sustaining itself until the protracted people’s war reaches the stage of strategic offensive. With this long term perspective, we should develop a secret party, a united front and people’s armed elements; intensify the class struggle in the urban areas and mobilize the support of millions of urban masses for the people’s war.
The recent arrests point to the fact that, despite setbacks, the Maoists persist in their efforts to build a ‘struggle network’ across India’s cities, including the capital, Delhi, metros, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, as well as other cities like Patna, Ranchi, Kanpur, Nagpur and Pune. Preliminary inroads were made through various devices, including engagement with workers unions, university students, various ‘Rights’ organisations, and popular protest movements.
On August 13, 2013, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh told the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), “There is no intelligence/information to suggest that Naxal organizations are infiltrating through security agencies and factories to expand their network in the urban areas. However, a few cases have come to notice where the CPI-Maoist cadres have undertaken employment in urban areas primarily to earn livelihood and also evade police arrest. Also, the ‘front organizations’ of the banned CPI-Maoist party as well as organizations sympathetic to the said outfit have been supporting the cause of the workers employed in factories.Their objective is essentially to exploit the situation to gain a foot-hold among the working class.”
The Minister added, further, that the Maoists were operating under their Tactical United Front (TUF) to mobilise ‘working classes’ for carrying out subversive activities. During the 2012 Maruti plant strike in Manesar (Haryana) it was widely speculated in the media and security organisations that the Maoists’ affiliated front organisations may have had a role in the cycle of escalating violence in the plant. However, in November 2013, the Chief Secretary of Haryana claimed that there was no evidence of Maoist involvement in the incidents. Speaking on the Maruti plant strike in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) the then Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Jitendra Singh, observed, on August 22, 2012, “Subsequent to the incident (violence at Maruti Manesar plant), a number of front organizations of the banned CPI-Maoists, as well as bodies sympathetic to the outfit such as the Mehnatkash Mazdoor Morcha (MMM), Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI) and the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), have organized demonstrations supporting the cause of the workers of the Maruti factory.”
Though there was no concrete evidence of Maoist involvement in the violence at the Maruti plant, protest demonstrations organised in support of the workers after the incidents suggest that front organisations at least sought to exploit the situation to gain a foothold among workers, in line with the Maoists’ ‘urban perspective’. The arrest of Kanchan alias Sudip Chongdar alias Batash alias Gautam, the Maoists’ ‘state secretary’, in Kolkata on December 3, 2010, shed more light on how students were being used as new recruits to carry forward Maoists ideas. Kanchan revealed that a recruitment process was on for the outfit’s ‘military wing’ and Jadavpur University had emerged as a major centre for cadres.
He also revealed that 12 students from Presidency College were working actively as CPI-Maoist cadres in Lalgarh. However, the Maoists’ attempts to spread their network in Kolkata have suffered heavily, as many of their senior leaders have been arrested from Kolkata. These prominently include Sadanala Ramakrishna alias RK, the head of the Central Technical Committee (arrested on February 29, 2012); Venkateswar Reddy alias Telugu Dipak, a top CPI-Maoist leader (arrested on March 2, 2010); Mohan Vishwakarma, a senior member of the Central Technical Committee and Technical Research and Arms Manufacturing (TRAM) cell (arrested on July 26, 2012); Madhusudan Mondal alias Narayan alias Madhu alias Salim, Member – State Committee and Secretary Zonal Committee, Nandigram (arrested on June 29, 2010); Musafir Sahani alias Anand alias Alok da alias Manik, member of the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh State Committees (arrested on August 21, 2010).
According to the Maharashtra Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) wing, a “close watch” is being maintained on Mumbai’s St Xavier College, Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), and Fergusson College, Pune, for possible Maoist links. Maharashtra’s Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) and ANO believe these institutions may be the new Maoist recruiting grounds. Separately, on June 3, 2013, a Hyderabad Central University student was arrested in Khammam District for escorting a top Maoist’s wife.
Maoist posters were also found pasted in the campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh) in June 2013. Further, the Democratic Students Union (DSU), active in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been identified by the Union Home Ministry as a Maoist front organisation. According to a recent internal report prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Government has identified 128 Maoist front organisations. These organisations are present in 16 states, including relatively ‘unaffected’ states, which have not traditionally suffered Maoist violence, such as Uttarakhand, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. The IB report lists 17 such organizations operating in Jharkhand, 13 in Andhra Pradesh, 12 in Karnataka, 10 each in Bihar and Odisha, nine each in Delhi, Maharashtra and Bengal, eight in Haryana, six in Chhattisgarh, four each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and three in Gujarat. Of Delhi’s 11 Districts, seven have been categorized as ‘marginally affected’ by Maoist activity – Central, South, New Delhi, North-West, North, South-West and North East Districts.
The Maoists’ attempt to expand their base in India is not a new phenomenon. They have, however, had limited success in these efforts and have, in fact, suffered dramatic leadership losses as a result. Nevertheless, the effort appears sustained and can be expected to accelerate, precisely because of the increasing dearth of ‘ideological’ cadres, partly because of the recent leadership losses and also because of the fading appeal of the movement in some of its heartland areas and institutions.
These processes continue with no more than fitful interruption because of the limited capacities of state enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor activities of various Maoist fronts, as well as to document and interdict the development and activities of the urban ‘struggle networks’ that have been established, or are evolving. Unless far more comprehensive measures are available to discover and neutralize the Maoist presence in urban areas, the dangerous possibility of the rebels building the bases of a self-sustaining struggle in cities cannot be excluded.
12,000 civilians, 3000 policemen killed by Naxals in 3 decades
Nearly 12,000 civilians and 3,000 security personnel were killed by Naxals in the last three decades, according to the Home Ministry. The Ministry statistics said 4,638 Naxals were killed by security forces during the period. Altogether 11,742 civilians and 2,947 security personnel were killed by the Naxals in different parts of the country since 1980. The highest number of civilian casualty was reported in 2010 when the Naxals killed 720 people — mostly in nine Naxal-affected states–Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The highest number of casualty among security forces was reported in 2009 when the Maoists killed 317 policemen. The highest — 296 — Naxals were eliminated in 1998. In 1980, Naxals killed 84 civilians while 17 of the rebels were also killed that year. There was no loss of life among security personnel in 1980. In 2012, Naxals killed 300 civilians and 114 security personnel. A total of 52 Naxals were killed in encounters with security forces. In 2013, till September 30, a total of 198 civilians and 88 security personnel were killed by Naxals while 52 members of the ultra Left group were eliminated by security forces.
Maoists burn road construction vehicles in Odisha
An armed group of Maoists attacked a road construction site and burnt vehicles used for road laying work at Miangpadar in Kalahandi district, police said today. About 30 armed ultras, including women, raided the site of a contractor, undertaking road construction from Titijhola to Jugsaipatna under PMGSY, and took the staff out of the camp before setting afire two JCBs, two tractors and a motorbike last Sunday.
The contractor was not present at the time of incident in the camp located in an inaccessible area, police said. The Maoists then ordered the villagers to resist road construction work on the plea that it would facilitate Bauxite mining from Khandualgiri and thereby take away their right over the forest. The rebels also claimed that the labourers engaged for road construction were paid low wages. After being informed about the incident, a police team reached the spot yesterday and recovered posters purportedly left by the Maoists at Minagpadar and Jugsaipatna. Investigation into the incident was in progress and combing operation launched in the area,police rpt police said.
Woman Naxal held in Chhattisgarh
A woman Naxal was arrested from Maoist-hit Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh today, police said. The cadre identified as Michha Ranjita (24) was nabbed from the forest of Modakpal Police Station area by a joint team of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force, a senior official told PTI. The search party was on a combing operation in Modakpal region, around 400 kms from here this morning, he said.
On reaching the forest between Kongupalli and Metupalli village, security forces spotted a woman fleeing from the area following which they chased and held her, he added. During her interrogation, she admitted that she was involved in Naxal activities, he said, adding, that the rebel was involved in serious crimes in the region, including murder and abduction. Further investigation is on, he added.
Naxal teams may subvert polls: Centre
Ahead of Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the Chhattisgarh government about intelligence inputs that Maoists may have “deployed small action teams” to “attack helicopters, especially during landing and take off” during the elections. In a letter, the Centre said Maoists may “attack soft targets, particularly outside their core areas.” Elections are scheduled in two phases between November 11-19.
The Centre has called for strengthening anti-Naxal operations and an awareness campaign to encourage people to vote. It expressed concern over a lull in anti-Naxal operations by the State police, CRPF and BSF. After the May 25 attack on a Congress convoy, the Centre had drawn up a fresh strategy to counter Maoists, but things have not moved on the ground. Intelligence Bureau inputs indicated Maoist regrouping in Chhattisgarh and being joined by groups from Orissa and Maharashtra. The letter said, “Maoists have been threatening government employees, especially school teachers, not to take poll duties.
Inputs indicate Maoists are preparing for fabrication of IEDs and Molotov cocktails and have already planted IEDs on the main highways and arterial roads…” These reports have spurred the Centre to mobilize 400 companies of paramilitary forces for election duty in Chhattisgarh, said officials. The alert said, “Maoist may target security forces, political leaders and polling parties, besides indulging in arson, abduction of candidates and looting of EVMs.” “Above inputs indicate that the CPI (Maoist) will make a wholehearted effort with a well laid down strategy to subvert elections. The Maoists, at the time of election adopt a two-pronged strategy of creating an atmosphere of fear and vigorous poll boycott campaign…”
Dangerous signs: Is Bihar moving back to era of bloody caste wars?
After nearly a decade of shift of emphasis to development, growth, good governance and social harmony, Bihar is returning fast to the vicious cycle of violent caste conflicts. In the south-central region of the state, a hotbed of Maoist-Ranvir Sena conflicts decades ago, the trend of revenge and retribution killings looks set for a comeback. Last week, seven upper caste Bhumihar villagers were killed by suspected Maoists – the first such attack in over decade.
The victims were returning to their village in south Bihar’s Aurangabad district in a vehicle when the rebels triggered a powerful landmine blast using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). All the victims were killed on the spot. The blast was so powerful that it blew the vehicles to smithereens and tore the bodies into pieces. This is the first time, the police claim, that IEDs have been used in Bihar for such killings.
Those dead included Sushil Pandey, a former commander of the now disbanded Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords. The incident would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the timing. It came close on the heels of the recent acquittal of all 26 accused of the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in which 58 Dalit villagers had been killed in cold blood by alleged activists of the Ranvir Sena in December 1997. Prior to that all the accused of the massacres at Bathani Tola, Miyanpur and Nagari had been acquitted after being convicted by the lower courts. They all were acquitted by the High Court for lack of “sufficient evidence”.
A series of such acquittals has now angered the Maoists who claim to be fighting for the cause of the poor, Dalits and the oppressed. “In the prevailing system, it’s just impossible to get justice for the poor.A series of recent acquittals of the massacre accused by the courts point towards it,” the Magadh Zonal Committee of the Maiosts has said in a press statement adding, “While on the one hand, the poor, innocent and the oppressed are being frequently held guilty by the court, the persons accused in massacre cases are being acquitted.” The rebels even owned up responsibility for the killing of the seven Aurangabad villagers even as the police were trying to play down the issue. “The people’s guerrilla army carried out the operation as the Ranvir Sena was trying to stop the ‘jankranti’ (people’s revolution) in Bihar,” a spokesman of the Maoists, who identified himself as Natwar, told the media. The rebels have further pasted posters in neighbouring Arwal district where as many as 22 farmers figure on their target-list.