INDIA: HIDE AND SEEK IN CHHATTISGARH – ANALYSIS
Two Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including a Deputy Commandant, were killed and 12 security personnel were injured in a landmine blast triggered by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres in Sukma District of Chhattisgarh on February 9, 2014. The incident took place in the morning in a forest near Bodhrajpadar village within the Bhejji Police Station limits. Constable Rajiv Rawat, of 219 Battalion, CRPF, and Deputy Commandant Nihil Alam, were killed. A joint squad of the CRPF, its specialised unit Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) and District Police personnel had been engaged in an anti-Maoist operation in the region over the preceding few days.
Just the previous evening, on February 8, three Maoists had been killed in a gunbattle with a joint team of the Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra Police, during combing operations in the Badekakler Forest in the Farsegarh Police Station limits in Bijapur District. Bodies of the three Maoists and a muzzle-loading gun, a tiffin bomb, Maoist literature and some items of daily use were later found on the spot. The dead were identified as Naveen Mandavi (38), his wife Mase Telam (27) and Sannu Udde (23). Mandavi was the ‘section commander’ in ‘Military Platoon II’ of the CPI-Maoist in the area. While these two incidents give the superficial impression of an even contest for dominance between the Security Forces (SFs) and the Maoists, the reality is different and unpleasant.
On October 25, 2013, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami had pulled up the CRPF and Border Security Force (BSF) for the “purely defensive strategy” adopted by the SFs in the State. He is believed to have expressed his displeasure with the Chhattisgarh administration and Central Forces over the “lull” in action, despite the Centre asking them to step up anti-Naxal operations, especially after the May 25, 2013, Darbha attack on a convoy of Congress Party leaders and supporters.
Goswami had also conveyed that CoBRA teams needed to be deployed extensively, with result-oriented tasks. A review of the major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) documented by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) confirms Goswami’s assessment. Through 2013, a total of eight major incidents were recorded in Chhattisgarh. Of these, the SFs suffered principal losses in as many as five, and in one incident there were two fatalities on each side. Only in one incident did the Maoists suffer heavily. That operation, however, was planned and executed by the Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh just inside the Chhattisgarh border.
The only incident where the SFs deployed in Chhattisgarh took the initiative was a botched operation that ended with the killing of at least seven villagers, one SF trooper and one Maoist. Unsurprisingly, Chhattisgarh has succeeded in avoiding the dubious distinction of recording the highest fatalities in Left Wing Extremism related incidents in a State – an unfortunate position it has often held in the past, and has only marginally edged out by Jharkhand in 2012 and 2013: fatalities in Jharkhand stood at 170 and 162, respectively, in these two years, as against 147 and 148 in Chhattisgarh. There has been little significant change in the security situation in Chhattisgarh in terms of fatalities and incidents between 2012 and 2013.
Top think tank fears resurrection of Maoists in Bihar
A latest assessment report by a top government think tank has warned of resurrection of a flailing CPI (Maoist) in the near future due to poor counter-Moaism efforts by the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government. The report titled “Left-Wing Extremism: Trends in 2013” prepared by Ajit Lal, chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), vetted by the dna categorically says that “Any respite, at this stage, such as provided by the feeble anti-Naxal response in Bihar, could be fatal to the gains made by security forces” and could help Maoists “form new battle ready company and units.” Taking a grim view of the assessment, the Centre is soon expected to send a stinker to chief minister Nitish Kumar.
Working directly under cabinet secretariat, the JIC is second most important security think tank of the government after the National Security Council (NSC) that predicts future trends after analysing Intelligence data from the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and the Directorates of Military, Naval and Air Intelligence. Taking a dim view of Bihar, the assessment report notes a significant 57% increase in terms of killings in the state even though the rise in the number of incidents was only 5%. “A part of the reason for the increase in violence in Bihar was the poor counter-Naxal efforts.
As compared to 27 security forces personnel killed during 2013 in anti-Naxal operations, there were nil casualties on the Naxal side. In terms of arrests and recoveries also there was a decline. As against 272 Naxals arrested, 2 surrendered and 148 weapons recovered in 2012.” “Again, 38 weapons were looted from the security forces in 2013 as against nil in the preceding three years. These 38 constitute over 53% of the total 71 arms looted by the Maoists all over the country.This acceleration in weapons and ammunition could help in the formation of a new platoon or company units which the party had been hoping to raise for Bihar-Jharkhand region,” the report states.
In sync with the JIC assessment, a senior official of the central reserve police force (CRPF), key central armed police force involved in anti-Maoism operation across seven states said, “In last one-and-a-half years, we have been witnessing a steady decline in the will of the state and its police to tackle Maoist insurgency. Quite often, despite having strong intelligence inputs the state police refuse to cooperate with the central forces to launch counter operations. This, in turn, demoralises our jawans as they cannot function alone in a state.”
Pressure Groups Being Roped in to Tackle Naxal Threat
The state government is in discussions with social pressure groups to act as mediators for the surrender of naxals, Home Minister K J George said on Wednesday. “These pressure groups are mediating on the process of surrendering,” he said after holding a meeting with police officials at Inspector General of Police (western range) office. The government is extending all support to help naxals join the mainstream. “Our efforts may yield results soon,” he added. George said, the Police Department will recruit 8,500 personnel and 20 per cent of them will be women.
Anti-Maoist Operations Fail to Bear Desired Fruits
The Police Department in the state completed one-year of anti-Maoist operations on Thursday without bearing any fruitful result. The police had first confirmed Maoist presence in state on February 13, 2013, in the Pulingom forest in Kannur. The rumours about the presence of armed persons in the forest was first reported from Kanamvayalil near Cherupuzha in Kannur. The estate labourers here had informed the police that they had seen a six-member armed gang, including a woman, on February 1, 2013. However, they had passed this information to the police on February 12 only. The police had confirmed the information passed on to them by the estate labourers on February 13.
The then Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan informed the State Assembly on February 18 that the government would deploy an action force to deal with the Maoist situation. A Special Commando Force under the Kerala Police ‘Thunderbolt’ started combing operations in Munderi Forest area near here on February 24, on the basis of a fresh report about the presence of armed persons in the forest area. “The anti-Maoist operation in the state is on the right track. But we are keeping the details away from public owing to the nature of the action plan. It is joint efforts with the help of different government departments to tackle the situation by taking the tribals residing in the forest area into confidence.
The government expects a breakthrough in the Maoist operation within a short time,” said Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, now the Minister for Forest. Presence of Maoists was reported from around 15 tribal colonies in Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad and Malappuram districts. They had reportedly visited five colonies more than once. The strong presence of police and commando wing did not deter the suspected groups from coming out of their hiding and interacting with the tribes. They, reportedly, collected food grains from the tribal colonies and even attacked government officials two times during this period. 45 police stations spreading in these four districts in Malabar are on the ‘attack list’ of suspected Maoist gang as per the intelligence report.