India: Downward Slide In Bihar – Analysis
December 9, 2013 By Mrinal Kanta Das The decline in violence notwithstanding, the CPI-Maoist retains sufficient capacities for disruptive dominance in large parts of the State. Bihar’s persistent and excessive dependence on Central Forces, without any urgent effort to expand and improve the capacities of the State Police, can only leave the State and its people vulnerable to Maoist violence, whenever the rebels decide that an escalation could be strategically advantageous. —
Bihar: Persistent Vulnerabilities
Eight Policemen were killed when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres blew up the vehicle in which they were travelling on the Tandwa-Nabinagar Highway in the Aurangabad District of Bihar on December 3, 2013. The Police party was returning to the Tandwa Police Station from a meeting on crime in the Nabinagar Block when the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off. Those killed included Ajay Kumar, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Tandwa Police Station, five personnel of the Special Auxiliary Force, a driver from the Home Guards, and a Bihar Military Police (BMP) constable, who belonged to a nearby village and had taken a lift.
Some weeks earlier there were reports of Maoists having harassed a panchayat (rural local body) representative in the area, after which search operations had been carried out by the Police. Barely 72 hours before the Aurangabad attack, in a daring operation in the evening of November 30, the Maoists killed three General Railway Police (GRP) personnel in Munger District. Nearly two dozen Maoists, travelling in civil dress on the 13235 Sahibganj-Danapur Inter-city train, opened fire on the escort party when the train crossed a tunnel between Jamalpur and Ratanpur railways stations, killing the three GRP personnel and decamping with their weapons.
Two persons, including a civilian, were also injured in the incident. Earlier, on November 10, 2013, the Maoists killed three persons and injured as many at Amkola village in Gaya District. Among the dead was one Sanjay Yadav, who had recently deserted the Maoist rank. The Maoists also burnt Yadav’s vehicle. The Maoists were angry with Yadav, as he was suspected to have leaked information to the Police leading to several raids on the Maoists and the recovery of arms and ammunition.
In yet another incident, suspected to have been perpetrated by Maoists, though this is yet to be confirmed, a vehicle was blown up in an IED blast killing all seven occupants in Pathara village in Aurangabad District on October 17, 2013. The victims included Sushil Pandey, a suspected Ranvir Sena (an upper caste landowners’ militia) activist and husband of Zila Parishad (district level local self-government institution) member Usha Devi.
The Maoists suspected Pandey’s hand in the killing of their cadres by the Ranvir Sena, in the Magadh region. Significantly, the ‘revenge’ attack came barely a week after the Patna (Bihar) High Court acquitted all the 26 accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case for lack of evidence. Maoists hold the Ranvir Sena responsible for the Bathe massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 dalits (lower caste Hindus) on the night of December 1, 1997.
On June 13, 2013, a group of around 200 Maoists had attacked the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express at Bhalui halt near Jamui District, killing three persons and injuring six passengers. Prima facie, the Maoist problem in Bihar is worsening again, after the tentative gains of 2011 and 2012. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data a total of 46 persons, including 21 civilians and 25 Security Force (SF) personnel have been killed in LWE-related violence in 2013 in Bihar. Interestingly, there has, so far, not been a single Maoist fatality in the State in 2013. Civilian and SF casualties in 2013 have also exceeded last year’s casualty figures.
On the other hand, arrests of and surrenders by Maoists have also gone down considerably. In 2012, 203 Maoists were arrested and 75 surrendered; in 2013, 76 Maoists have been arrested and just two have surrendered, according to partial data compiled by SATP. MHA data on arrests also confirms this trend, with 409 Maoists arrested in 2012, as against 260 Maoists arrested in 2013, till December 2, 2013. According to SATP data, seven major incidents have taken place in Bihar till December 7, 2013, out of which six have been reported from Aurangabad (3), Gaya (2) and Jamui (1) Districts, while one is from Munger.
In an earlier assessment, it was noted that 60 per cent of Maoist violence in Bihar occurred in just three Districts: Aurangabad, Gaya and Jamui. Recently, the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Union Government has accused the Bihar Government of being soft towards the CPI-Maoists. “There has been continual deterioration in most parameters of the counter-insurgency grid in Bihar,” a JIC report observes, underlining the fact that, while there has been a substantive decline in Maoists violence across the country, Bihar has registered an increase. “Our concern is not only sharp increase in security forces casualties but also the fact that not a single Maoists cadre has been killed in counter-insurgency operations this year compared to five Maoists killed during the same period last year,” the report notes.
While 17 encounters with Maoists took place in 2011, the number of cross-firing incidents between SFs and Maoists decreased to 12 in 2012 and, till August this year, only six encounters took place in Bihar. The recovery of weapons has also shown a downward trend — 171 in 2011 and 47 in 2013. Another report discloses that Maoists had snatched as many as 38 weapons in 2013 in the State, accounting for nearly one in every two weapons snatched in India by the Maoists. State officials, however, quite surprisingly claimed that Bihar had, in fact, been carrying out specific intelligence-based operations and been quite successful in arresting the ‘maximum number’ of Maoists in 2013.
A top State Police official thus asserted, “Only killing Maoists is not a sign of big operations”, adding that the clearing of the entire Chakarbanda area in Gaya District — which had once been a Maoist stronghold where Police did not even think of entering — was an example of how the State has been doing intelligence-based operation quietly. The Nitish Kumar Government has still not abandoned its delusions of fighting Maoists with ‘development’.
On December 2, 2013, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared that Bihar did not have a “magic wand” to stop the Maoist attacks, and the answer lay in initiating multiple measures including socio-economic development. Amidst all this, the State Police has taken initiatives to cripple Maoist leaders financially by confiscating their property under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an approach that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) believes other States should emulate. According to data accessed from Police Headquarters, Patna, 21 Maoist leaders’ immovable property, including approximately 44 acres of land and movable property worth over INR 20 million had been seized under the drive. On the other hand, the State has only recently announced its surrender and rehabilitation policy, formulated on the basis of UMHA recommendations.
Further, the State has announced a reward of INR 300,000-500,000 for the capture of seven top Maoist leaders. A reward of INR 500,000 has been declared for Arvind Kumar alias Arvind Singh, a member of the CPI-Maoist Central Committee. A reward of INR 300,000 has been announced for Vijay Yadav alias Sandip, who is a member of the ‘special area committee’ that covers Bihar, Jharkhand and northern Chhattishgarh. Similar rewards have been declared for Shiv Shankar Dhobi alias Tayagi, Parvesh alias Anuj, Ram Babu Ram, Prajapat and Chirag. Most of these Maoist leaders are from Jehananbad, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Motihari, considered strongholds of Maoists.
Bihar’s reluctance to take effective steps to counter the Maoist threat at a time when other States are at least putting some pressure on Left Wing Extremists (LWE), has made Bihar the favourite hunting ground for the Maoists. The failure to mount sustained pressure against the rebels has created a perfect theatre for them to extend their areas of influence and activity, at a time when these are contracting sharply in other States, and provide the Maoists with the safe haven and retreat where they can fine tune their strategy and tactics for the revival of a movement which, in their own assessment, is at a “critical stage”.
Buoyed by Red effort? Most prefer NOTA in Chhattisgarh
RAIPUR: Amid exceptionally high number of people choosing NOTA option in Chhattisgarh as compared to four other states in the assembly polls, question now being asked is whether it has anything to do with outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) efforts to encourage people to reject all candidates participating in the democratic process. In the 90 assembly segments, including the Naxalite-dominated areas of tribal Bastar, more than four lakh votes, were polled in the two-phased assembly elections. In constituencies of tribal Bastar region, NOTA polled 78,186 votes, with the highest 10,848 in Chitrakot-ST followed by 9,677 in Dantewada-ST.
Similarly, in tribal areas of Sarguja in north Chhattisgarh, an average 5,000 votes had preferred NOTA option in all eight constituencies, while in three constituencies of tribal Jashpur, the NOTA votes ranged between 4,000 and 5,500. In Marwahi-ST constituency, from where former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s son Amit Jogi was in the fray, 7,115 voters exercised NOTA option. Votes for NOTA were polled in all 90 constituencies.
“In Maoist areas, it is likely that people preferred NOTA option because of the directive by the Naxalites. Maoists can encourage people to opt for NOTA in every elections and can argue at some point of time in future that people in their areas of influence have rejected all candidates participating in the democratic process,” said former state election commissioner Sushil Trivedi. He attributed “first time excitement”, particularly among new voters, as the reason for higher votes for NOTA in areas other than in Naxalite-affected areas, as a section of younger generation could have felt that thrill of rejecting all the candidates in the fray.
“Besides, there are also cynics in the society, who think that all the candidates are not worth,” he added. Additional director general of police (Naxalite operations) Rajinder Kumar Vij told TOI “As of now, we have no inputs whether the Maoists had directed or encouraged the people in the tribal areas to exercise their franchise on NOTA.” Before elections, there were reports that Maoists were conducting training camps with dummy EVMs in Bastar region to make the people aware about the NOTA option, if at all they decide to go out for vote. These reports also quoted that the rebels were telling people that it was best tool to protest against government’s exploitation. However, Maoists had appealed to people to boycott elections, but they could not enforce it because of the unprecedented security arrangements.
Security Beefed up After Maoist Attack
Police administration has mobilised force in Kumbariput village following the killing of two locals by Maoists suspecting them to be police informer on Saturday night. Sources said over 30 armed Maoist cadres under Koraput-Srikakulam divisional committee entered the village and called villagers Bandhu Saraka and Das Huika from their houses and cut their throats with sharp weapons. Later, they ransacked local telephone exchange and beat up one home guard and supervisor of the exchange. The attack did not end there. The Red rebels burnt four vehicles and machineries kept for road construction of RSS company costing over `4 crore before leaving the village.
Before leaving, the Maoists left behind a letter signed by divisional secretary of Koraput-Srikakulam Dalam Daya. The letter stated that Bandhu and Huika were killed for their link with police and the Maoists burnt the company’s property as it was engaged in road construction work which was being opposed by them for quite some time. Remarkably, the attack was committed 15 km from Bandhugam police station where both armed police of State and Central Government were camping. Koraput Police SP Aswini Kumar said police operation was on in the areas . As many as 20 villages have been killed by the Maoists by branding them as police informers in sensitive Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas in past few months.
Wanted Maoist Nabbed
A former Maoist cadre identified as Elias Munda alias Ajay (21) was on Monday arrested and forwarded to court by Bisra police in Sundargarh district. Bisra IIC Susant Das said Munda of bordering Chirubera village in Bisra block has been sent to judicial custody. His claim of having quit the Maoist outfit two years back is under verification, he added. Among other cases, he was wanted for twin murders of Home Guard Kandri Lohar and her three-year-old son. He was also named in a case by K Balang police for planting land mines to ambush police party.
Hunt for Maoists on Near Karnataka Border
Police and the Thunderbolt team continued search in the forest areas near the Karnataka border on Monday after a tapping worker reportedly spotted a five-member team of suspected Maoists at Prappoyil town near Cherupuzha two days ago. Police and the Thunderbolt team had conducted searches in the nearby forests on Sunday also. The search operations continued on Monday in Kottathalachi and Chenattukolli forest areas under the leadership of Kannur Narcotic DySP P C Babu, Thunderbolt SI Prabhakaran and Peringome Additional SI Narayanan. But, the joint police team could not find any trace of Maoist presence in the area.SI Narayanan told ‘Express’ after the search operations that they could not find anything that could be connected to Maoist presence.