Different strategies for different booths
For the first time in decades, the Maoists have encouraged calibrated polling in some areas, instead of fanatically implementing a policy to boycott the election The districts of Chhattisgarh partially controlled by Maoists — with 12 Assembly constituencies — voted overwhelmingly in 2013. Compared to 2008, voter turnout in 2013 increased by 9.67 percentage points in 12 constituencies, while the overall polling was 6.81 percentage points higher than in the previous election. The record rise in polling illustrates that rebel-dominated constituencies embraced the democratic process more avidly than the rest of Chhattisgarh.
The rise in polling in south Chhattisgarh, where nearly 600 companies of additional paramilitaries (almost double of 2008) were posted for election, was attributed to force escalation and reduction in Maoist strength. For the first few days after the elections, senior security officials credited the forces almost exclusively for a peaceful election. However, Director General of Police (DGP) Ram Niwas told The Hindu that the credit goes to “all sections of the society” rather than to the armed forces exclusively. “We requested the civil society — individuals and organisations — including a few Gandhians, to ask the Maoists to exercise restraint during elections,” said the DGP. So, clearly, a record deployment of force was not the only reason for non-violent polling. Several examples illustrate how Maoists allowed calibrated polling in 12 constituencies, partly in areas controlled by them.
Elengnar is a tiny village about 20 km east of the road connecting Darbha to Sukma. Last May, it was on this road that Maoists ambushed a Congress party convoy and killing its top leaders. After the attack, the police had launched search operations in and around the area and picked up several residents from Elengnar as the village is considered a Maoist stronghold. On November 11, however, 95 residents of Elengnar marched 20 kilometres to vote in the middle school of Tahakwada situated on the Darbah-Sukma road and thus registered 20 per cent polling. At the same time, several villages located deep inside Maoist areas voted overwhelmingly.
In Dornapal booths 1 to 4, on the eastern fringe of Sukma district, polling went up from 15-30 per cent to nearly 80 per cent. Places like Maraiguda or Puspal — deep inside Maoist areas — had significantly higher polling. In the Modakpal area of Bijapur, where four Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed after the election, nearly 80 per cent polling was recorded. “Like all of us, the villagers in conflict areas have two or more identities. They vote for development and keep quiet while rebels plant the mines,” said a senior police official of Bastar. Moreover, there is enough evidence to suggest that Maoists put up their preferred candidates in the Assembly elections. While the names of such candidates are withheld for security reasons, a scrutiny of booth-wise results in Maoist strongholds underscores the presence of strong support for a few candidates.
It is believed that Maoists are fading in Chhattisgarh. A decreasing number of ambushes conducted on the forces, contradictory statements from rebel leaders — simultaneously ratifying and decrying the killing of politicians — indicating fissures in the rank and file, killing of leaders and large-scale desertion of cadres in some areas, increasing frequency and intensity of security operations in base areas hitherto unexplored by the forces and the initiation of welfare programmes in Bastar division have pushed the rebels to the brink, thus resulting in a record voter turnout in Maoist country. However, the officials who believe that the rebels are fast losing their grip also acknowledge that their military strength has grown massively over the last few years.
Official documents illustrate that during the 2008 elections, Maoists had only three companies in south Chhattisgarh and 13 platoons. In 2013, the outlawed party had 12 companies and more than 25 platoons, plus a few supply platoons. They were also in the process of raising a third battalion. Eight out of 12 political-cum administrative Divisions of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) are well in place even after a couple of divisions, like the North Telangana Special Zonal Committee, were wiped out in a police encounter.
As a result of a well-established political and military network, the Maoists still control half of at least four south Bastar districts and one-third of the rest. In Bijapur, most of the government-run welfare programmes are not allowed by the rebels in 36 of 147 gram panchayats; government officials never undertake any road construction project without tacit approval from the local commanders; tribal constables request the Maoists to protect their families in at least one third of the district and, surprisingly, polling in the same Bijapur has gone up by 15.50 percentage points!
Even then the rebels have not allowed uniform polling everywhere in Bastar division. For example, in Bijapur, 47 booths polled less than 10 votes in 2013, while 58 booths polled less than 10 in 2008. In Konta, 32 of 193 booths have polled less than 10 votes in 2013, whereas in 2008, 29 of 187 booths polled less than 10 votes. In Narayanpur, 13 of 228 booths polled less than 10 votes, while the number was six in 2008. In Dantewada, 12 booths polled less than 10 in 2013 and eight in the previous election.
Several booths in bordering areas between States and the districts polled less than one per cent. In Jagdalpur, while allowing villagers of Elengnar to vote, the rebels obstructed polling in Koleng, Chhindgarh or Mundagarh in adjacent panchayats. Clearly, the rebels adopted different policies for separate booths, rather than fanatically nurturing one overarching official policy to boycott the elections. While it could be argued that many of these booths were shifted out of the respective villages, thus reducing the poll percentage, what is puzzling is that the Maoists are adopting contradictory approaches.
It is now evident that the Maoists asked the villagers to walk 15 to 20 kilometres in some of the relocated booths to exercise their franchise, like in Elengnar, while resisting polling in some other areas. From a preliminary survey of 90 per cent of south Chhattisgarh’s booths, it seems that the rebels have encouraged calibrated polling in some areas for the first time in several decades, while refusing to expose the villagers from robust base areas. So, in the final count, it could well be premature to suggest that the rebels were forced to allow polling uniformly across Bastar. The person who warned against such “misplaced notions” was Manish Kunjam, the CPI leader from Sukma. “No one would dare to vote despite the presence of a large number of forces, unless the Maoists approve of it,” Mr. Kunjam said in a press statement soon after the election and warned against “provoking” the rebels. Perhaps he is right. The government certainly needs another round of cooperation from the rebels to conduct another election later this year.
Naxals planning to disrupt Lok Sabha polls
New Delhi: The Naxals are planning to enforce “poll boycott” in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls by disrupting the election process in Maoist affected states. According to a Home Ministry internal note, the CPI(Maoist) has assessed that the deployment of security forces in Naxal areas would be comparatively quite less during Lok Sabha elections and that would place the extremists in a better position to enforce the “poll boycott” call at that time. Inputs also indicate holding of a review by senior Maoist leadership in south Bastar region in Chhattisgarh with a view to chalking out a strategy for the upcoming Parliamentary elections, the note said.
The top leadership of Naxals is currently engaged in conducting a review in south Bastar region to identify villagers and poll activists who took an active part in the election process and punish them as a measure of deterrence in view of the upcoming Parliamentary elections. Among the reasons identified by the outfit for its failure include its inability to carry out acts of violence against the security forces and polling personnel. The leadership is also upset with its local units for their failure to prevent villagers in Chhattisgarh from exercising their franchise.
Disconnect between the senior formations of the outfit who chalk out strategies and the ground-level cadres who implement the same, large scale deployment of security forces during the elections and cooperation extended by the local government servants to the poll process have been identified as other important factors responsible for the failure of the “poll boycott” call, the Home Ministry note said.
Reds turn active in Agency
Rajahmundry: In a bid to consolidate their position along the border between Andra Pradesh and Orissa in the Agency area of East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts, Maoists are on a spree of intimidation and are resorting to violence by killing informers, traders and other hapless tribals in the last few days. Recently, they abducted the wife of a trader from Dharakonda of G.K. Veedhi in Visakhapatnam district in the afternoon on Monday. Their movement is palpable in the interior parts of Agency like Pathakota in East Godavari and Neelajartha, Madhimalla, Kongapakalu and Annavaram villages Visakhapatnam.
Abduction of the trader’s wife is viewed as a part of their strategy to gain sympathy of the tribals. As ganja is cultivated widely in Visakhapatnam district in addition to cotton, pulses, coffee, the Maoists are trying to appease tribals by intimidating the traders not to exploit tribals by giving meager wages, under weighing their products and also offering low prices to their produce. Police sources said that the Maoists are also threatening the tribals of killing them if they acted as informers. They are also killing them if they fail to heed to their warnings. Maoists are not directly recruiting the tribals youths, but they are engaging them as informers and to supply food.
This is a strategic move by the Maoists by which they are testing the credentials and loyalty of the tribals and recruit them later. The Maoists are reportedly using blank ammunition and blank fire to threaten the tribals to embrace their ideology and join the movement as most of the tribal youth are reluctant to join the movement. They are interested in pursuing higher education and seeking employment to earn a living. East Godavari-Visakhapatnam joint divisional committee, a team of 60 to 70 Maoists headed by Krishna, Venkata Ramana, Ravi and others, is active in the Agency area.
As it is easy for the Maoists to escape from the porous border into plains by traveling from Agency areas of Gurtedu, Duscharthi and other interiors to Rajahmundry by road covering a distance of more than 100 km and opt for any mode of transport including road, rail, air and water, the police are generating a databank comprising the photos of the Maoists carrying huge amount of money on their heads as reward to intercept and nab them.
RFO arrested for Naxal link in Deori
NAGPUR: The unholy nexus of forest officials and Naxals has been exposed by Gondia police who took a Range Forest Officer (RFO) in custody on Tuesday for supplying materials to the rebels from a rest house at Navegaon Bandh area. Shriram Kulmethe, the RFO of Gottengaon range, was arrested from Deori. Sources from Gondia police stated that Kulmethe and nine others, including three forest guards, were booked in August last year after the police raided a forest rest house at Navegaon Bandh where the culprits were stocking up materials for supplying them to the Naxals.
Apart from Kulmethe, police had earlier arrested forest guards Vijay Meshram, Vasant Kosre and Devendra Agre for their involvement in the racket. Agre, though a guard, worked as a clerk with Kulmethe. Sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) of Deori, Gajanan Rajmane stated that Kulmethe was the last to be arrested. “The culprits had been also providing money to the Naxals. The culprits had also procured detonators from a mine at Madhya Pradesh and handed over to the Naxals,” said Rajmane.
Police said that Kulmethe used to often meet top Naxal cadres from the dalams in Deori (Gondia) and Korchi-Khobramenda-Kurkheda (Gadchiroli) which operated in the bordering areas of the two adjoining districts. During the raid, police had come across olive green fabric (ostensibly used for making Naxal uniforms), several pairs of shoes, radio sets, confectionary items like tea and milk powder and other substances at the forest rest houses. Also among the arrests was a labour union leader of forest workers, Rajesh Katre, who was allegedly collecting funds for the Naxals.
Maoists kill arrack brewer, injure one
VIZIANAGARAM: Maoists killed an arrack brewer by slitting open his throat on Monday night and left another person grievously injured at Ballipeta village in Narayanapatna block of Odisha’s Koraput district bordering Vizianagaram. The deceased was identified as Sarat Chandra Subuddhi (38) and the injured was identified as Upendra Pandu (33). Sarat Chandra is survived by his wife and two children, who are pursuing Intermediate.
According to sources, he was targeted by the Reds because despite repeated warnings from them he was involved in brewing illegal liquor and helping anti-Naxal forces. It is after three years that Ballipeta has witnessed such Maoist brutality, after they killed an illegal liquor maker in the village in 2010. According to sources, a group of Maoists entered Ballipeta village late on Monday night and dragged out both the illegal liquor makers from their houses.
The Naxals took them to mango plantations, where Lakshmipur MLA Jinna Hikaka was released by Maoists in 2012 after a 10-day kidnap drama. The Reds severely beat up both the traders before slitting their throats. While Upendra slipped into unconsciousness, Sarat died on the spot. Nearly four to five hours after they were carried away by the Maoists, the locals went looking for them in the vicinity of the village and found them lying unconscious. By the time Sarat was already dead and a critical Upendra was moved to Narayanapatna hospital before being shifted to Visakhapatnam for better treatment when his condition has started deteriorating.
Gaya police reach Meerut,seek remand of Maoist
GAYA: A team of the Gaya police reached Meerut to get the remand of Chandan Das alleged to be zonal commander of CPI (Maoist), the most dreaded outfit. Chandan was arrested by the UP police in Meerut. The Maoist is wanted by the Gaya police in several cases of Naxalite violence, including the landmine blast in October’2012 in which a CRPF deputy commandant and half-a-dozen other personnel of the Central force were killed. ‘
According to SSP Nishant Tiwari, the Gaya police have obtained Chandan’s transit remand from the Meerut court and the Maoist was being brought to Gaya for custodial interrogation. The Gaya police are hopeful of getting vital clues from the arrested Maoist. The police party bringing the Maoist would be reaching Gaya on Wednesday. Sources say the police would be seeking formal remand of the arrested Maoist from Gaya court for his custodial interrogation. Maoist activity, of late has witnessed a spurt in Gaya district and last week the Maoists struck at three different places in the district.
Besides attacking two highway construction sites in Tekari and Konch police station areas, the Maoists also killed two supporters of the assembly Speaker Udai Narain Chaudhary in the Banke Bazar police station area of the district. Chandan’s arrest, under the circumstances has brought some good news for the police, as the Maoist had been successfully dodging the Gaya police for quite sometime now.
CRPF’s elite Cobra Force to have base in State
GUWAHATI, Jan 7 – The process of construction of a full-fledged battalion headquarter of the elite Cobra Force of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Assam has started and the battalion has already been posted in the State for launching specific operations against militants. Talking to The Assam Tribune, DK Pathak, who recently relinquished charge of Special Director General (DG) of the CRPF and is all set to take over as Special DG of BSF tomorrow, said that the Assam Government has already handed over a plot of land for setting up the battalion headquarter of the Cobra Force in Darrang district, and the process of setting up the HQ, is likely to be completed within the next couple of years.
Pathak, an Assam cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, said that the battalion which would have 20 operational teams, each having 39 well-trained personnel, has started functioning from Assam. The personnel of the battalion have launched successful operations in parts of Upper Assam, while some personnel are now in Meghalaya. A few teams are fighting Maoists in Bihar. The senior IPS officer revealed that the Cobra Force was basically created to deal with Maoist rebels in different parts of the country and so far 10 battalions of the force have been raised.
He disclosed that the personnel of the force are well trained in jungle and guerrilla warfare and they are being used as an assault force. He pointed out that the personnel of the Cobra Force are well equipped and they would not be used for normal law-and-order duties. Pathak revealed that setting up of a battalion headquarter of the force in Assam would be beneficial for the entire North Eastern region as the personnel of the force can be used by the states of the region to launch specific operations against militants.
DGP writes to CRPF to not post Bihar officers for anti-Naxal ops
A letter from Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) telling Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) director general not to post any Bihar officer for anti-Naxal operations in the state has created a flutter among Bihar police officers and led the opposition BJP to term it an insult to Bihar officers engaged in anti-Naxal operations with commitment and sincerity. DGP Abhayanand’s letter was sent in November after CRPF assistant commandant Sanjay Yadav, posted at Barachatti in Gaya, was booked (FIR no. 159/2013) by the Imamganj police under the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Official Secrets Act for allegedly leaking anti-Maoist operation details to Naxal Pradeep Yadav arrested by the police.
The DGP’s letter recommends shifting of the 159 battalion of CRPF from Gaya to outside Bihar. The three-page letter largely dwells on the case against the CRPF assistant commandant and has two recommendations. The Indian Express has a copy of the letter. The DGP’s recommendations: 1) “It is requested that CRPF officers belonging (to) Bihar should not be posted in the state for anti-Naxal operations. 2) 159 battalion of CRPF should be relocated outside state and substituted by another CRPF battalion”.
Five CRPF battalions are deployed in the state, including the one at Barachatti, Gaya. Sources said CRPF had not reverted on the DGP’s recommendations. Abhayanand told The Indian Express: “I do not want to use the media as a forum for justifying contents of my letter to CRPF. I wrote it as a professional and do not want to say anything more.” The letter mentions at least three instances when Naxalites allegedly got information from the assistant commandant about CRPF’s movements and operations.