Naxalites torch vehicles deployed for road work
CHANDRAPUR: A group of over 50 Naxalites on Monday evening set afire vehicles deployed for construction work on Dechlipetha-Jimalgatta road near Dechlipetha village in Jimalgatta subdivision of Gadchiroli district. The rebels also stalled Aheri-Jimalgatta bus passing through the road for around an hour. Sources said the Naxalites reached the site around 6.30 pm and set ablaze three trucks, a JCB and a tractor belonging to an Andhra Pradesh based construction company.
They also stopped an Aheri-bound MSRTC bus and ordered all its passengers to disembark. Sources claimed the Naxalites also searched around 35 passengers to identify presence of any police informer. However, when nothing suspicious was found, they released the bus. On Sunday, Naxalites had shot dead Vitha Kulmethe, a surrendered Naxalite who worked as special police officer, in a weekly market at Jimalgatta.
‘Naxals collected info on trucks carrying explosives from Khadki to Ahmednagar’
Investigation following the arrest of the artistes of Pune-based cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) for their alleged Naxal links has revealed that Maoists regularly collected information about the trucks carrying explosives from the Army’s Khadki ammunition depot to Ahmednagar. Justice A R Joshi of the Bombay High Court (HC) recently rejected the bail application of three KKM artistes Sachin Maruti Male, Sagar Tatyaram Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor.
The HC order dated April 11, 2014, makes specific mention of four witnesses — Jivan Ramsai Narote, Suraj alias Gulal Darshan, Anil alias Manoj Bapu and Vikrant alias Vikram — who are surrendered Naxals and have given statements that Sachin, Sheetal, Sagar and Ramesh had participated in arms training with over 100 others in the jungle areas of Gondia and Gadchiroli between November 2011 and April 2012, when they were on the run. As per the HC order, Vikrant alias Vikram was asked to collect information about vehicles transporting explosives from the Army’s ammunition units. “In his (Vikrant’s) statement, he referred present applicants (Sachin, Sagar and Ramesh) and another co-accused regarding work allotted to him to collect information about trucks loaded with explosives passing from Khadki to Ahmednagar,” said the HC order.
According to sources in the investigating agencies, Vikrant is from Yavatmal district of Maharashtra. He surrendered in December 2012. As a student of ITI in 2003, he came in contact with an alleged “Naxal front” “Deshbhakta Yuva Manch”, through which he later joined CPI-Maoist. His statement reveals that because he was a good driver the Maoists provided him a four-wheeler for transportation of gelatin sticks, detonators and ferrying top Naxal leader Deepak alias Milind Teltumbde.
He also allegedly worked as a “courier” between the Naxal operatives in jungles and those in urban areas. As per the statement, he was in Ahmednagar between 2010 and 2011. During this time, Teltumbde allegedly told him to collect information and study the routes of trucks loaded with explosives going to Ahmednagar from the ammunition factory in Khadki (Pune) and also from the Central Ammunition Depot in Pulgaon in Wardha district. Vikrant also revealed the alleged plan of Maoists to trap and loot vehicles carrying ammunition near Deori, on NH 6, in Gondia district. A senior police officer said:
“There have been incidents of Naxals looting explosives and ammunition before. On March 12, 2010, armed Naxals looted 16 tonnes of liquid explosives from a private tanker they had trapped by felling trees on a road in the jungle area around 25 km from Dhanora in Gadchiroli. The tanker was transporting explosives from Chandrapur MIDC to Chhattisgarh.”
Maoists eye mining pie, keep guns silent in Jharkhand
The guns are quieter in Jharkhand this election. This troubled astern state has hardly had elections without bloodshed. Maoists and their splinter groups killed persons in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and 12 in the assembly elections that year. The two phases of Mandate 2014 have been peaceful barring a landmine blast in Bokaro that injured four CRPF personnel. Other Maoist-hit states have been far more violent. Chattisgarh and Bihar have so far reported 12 and two deaths respectively.
So what has happened in Jharkhand that witnessed 383 Maoist-related incidents compared to 353 in Chattisgarh? Senior police officials and activists here feel the rebel groups are refraining from big-bang attacks for a share of the lucrative iron ore mining trade. “Various rebel groups have been tacitly supporting a number of candidates to gain control over the mineral-rich constituencies and this could one of the reasons behind fewer violent incidents this election,” a senior superintendent of police heading a sensitive district told HT. According to prominent anti-mining activist Xavier Dias, many candidates in the red terror zones of Chatra, Palamu, and Khunti have reached an understanding with Maiosts and their offshoots.
“All the major groups including the CPI (Maoist), People Liberation Front of India (PFLI), Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have supported one candidate or the other,” he said. He did not take names but locals know who are backing whom. Besides, rebels have voiced their choices. CPI (Maoist) regional committee member Nakul Yadav announced support for Neelam Devi, Jharkhand Vikash Morcha candidate from Chatra.
The outfit’s rival TPC is widely believed to be supporting the BJP in the same seat. In Khunti, the PFLI is actively helping Jharkhand Party candidate Anosh Ekka. Many believe the iron ore trade is too lucrative for Maoists to stay away from. In West Singbhum’s Saranda region alone, 19 projects mining projects are in different phases of approval. “Once a powerful force, the Maoists have not only been divided into various splinter groups but have also come under severe attack from the state. They are on the back foot, and so they want to control the area politically,” Dias said. This probably explains why Maoists have checked their habit of boycotting polls. State DGP Rajeev Kumar did not rule out any Maoist-candidate understanding but insisted the rebels have lost steam because of heavy deployment of security forces and intense combing operations. “We were better prepared this time with 90,000 security personnel deployed in the two phases. Also, we began search operations on a massive scale from November last year,” he said.
NAXAL VIOLENCE: OLD CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT – ANALYSIS:IPCS
That the Communist Party of India-Maoist (Maoist) does not believe in democratic principles and electoral processes is too well known. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections provided the extremist outfit with yet another opportunity to reassert its vision for the country. In words and as well as with accompanied violence, it proved once more that the probability of a negotiated settlement to the long-standing conflict is rather low.
The CPI-Maoist released three sets of somewhat contradictory statements in March 2014, two signed by the spokesperson of the outfit’s Central Committee (CC) and one on behalf of the outfit’s Eastern Regional Bureau. Dated 24 March, the CC released its customary boycott of elections calling the affair “another huge financial burden on the people”, which can not transform the “present exploitative system.” Critiquing all the political parties for their dishonest policies towards the tribals, the statement termed the government’s peace proposals “deceptive.” Interestingly, another 19-page document was released by the CC on the same day, which contained answers to 11 questions posed by the media persons to the outfit.
Responding to a question on the outlook of the outfit on peace talks with the government, the spokesperson stated that while the outfit is “not against Peace Talks with the government”, since talks are “an integral part of the political struggle.” However, five demands were outlined which the government must fulfil before a peace process could begin. These included declaring the CPI-Maoist a political movement; de-proscribing the outfit and its front organisations; initiating judicial inquiries into the killings of its senior leaders; stopping of security force operations; and releasing arrested leaders/cadres of the outfit.
The statement surprisingly was hailed as the outfit’s declaration for peace by the media, ignoring the fact that the conditions outlined have remained an integral part of the outfit’s statements in the past. While the outfit expects the government to fulfil some of its most impious demands, the outfit itself has rebuffed the minimum condition laid down by the home ministry to “stop violence for 72 hours” as the lone condition for starting of a peace process. Few days prior to the release of the twin CC statements, the CPI-Maoist’s Eastern Regional Bureau had issued a four-page ‘short-term vision document’ appealing the masses to chose between “real democracy” or a “pseudo-democratic system.”
This document, which effectively constituted a manifesto of the outfit, reiterated the need for a “new constitution” including provisions for “equal socio-economic rights to women” and “death penalty compulsory for molestation and rape.” It further called for “freedom of speech and expression, right to congregate and protest, form an organisation, primary health care, access to primary education, primary and minimum employment and compulsory participation in daily governance system.” The outfit additionally promised not to suppress the separatist movements with the power of the gun, but to “honour nationalist movements and self-decision to allow them dignified and peaceful co-existence (sic).” Neither the proclamation of intent for peace nor the declaration of its own manifesto, however, stopped the outfit from carrying out a series of attacks on security force personnel, poll officials as well as civilians in the affected states that went to polls.
Compared to the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, during which 19 people were killed by the outfit, till the writing of the article, at least 20 civilians and security forces had been killed in Maoist attacks. These contrasting signals emanating from the outfit signify two possibilities. One, peace negotiation as an instrument of conflict resolution does not figure in the imagination of the extremist outfit and its utterances on a peace process are merely rhetorical. Two, the outfit intends to use violence as a bargaining tool in case a peace process with the government comes to fruition. Faced with this deceptive extremist strategy, the action plans of the political class to deal with the challenge, remains highly fractured.
Going by the manifestos of the political parties, the probability that the new government in New Delhi would be able to address the anomalies of the past and chart a new course looks blurry. While the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) promise to deal with the problem with a “firm hand” and a policy of “zero tolerance” respectively, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) prefers a “multi-lateral dialogue.” The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) opines in favour of “specific measures to tackle the socio-economic problems” faced “particularly by the tribal people.” The BJP insists that “talks with the insurgent groups will be conditional and within the framework of the constitution.” The Congress, on the other hand, is silent on the process of dialogue and prefers to pursue “a development agenda to empower people” in the affected areas. While the CPI-M insists that left-wing extremism is “not just a security issue,” the AAP reiterates that “socio-economic development and effective political de-centralisation” hold the key.
Keeping strict vigil on border areas to tackle Maoists: Andhra DGP
Andhra Pradesh police are keeping a strict vigil on the bordering areas of the state to tackle Maoists ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, a top police officer said today. “Their (Maoists) presence is very much there in neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha (bordering Andhra Pradesh)…Keeping that in view and assuming that they may stage a infiltrate these parts (bordering districts of AP) and commit offences, we keep a continuous vigil on these parts, especially through our special parties and specialised anti-Maoist force–Greyhounds, “DGP B Prasada Rao here said. “These forces will continuously monitor and take counter measures against the Maoists,” he said at a ‘Meet-the-Press’ event hosted by Andhra Pradesh Journalists Forum. ”
CPI (Maoists) routinely give poll boycott call before elections. It has happened in the past also. Going by their presence and influence, we take counter measures. We know that Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam are affected by Maoists problem in Telangana region of the state while East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam are LWE affected in coastal districts of AP,” Rao said. He said the cops were aware of the threat the naxals pose to political leaders and also of their method.
“Sometimes, Maoists induct action teams to hit at certain targets. So, we are aware of this threat also and we sensitise the political party leaders those who go for campaigning as well as for conducting political meetings in affected places. The precaution, required bandobast and security arrangements are taken by us,” the DGP said. Asked if there are any specific inputs from Central agencies that Maoists may disrupt electoral process in AP, he said, “That threat is there…We have seen it very recently during polls in Chattisgarh. They attacked police stations and polling parties. We are aware of that and we have been making necessary security arrangements”.