INDIA: SUKMA, CHHATTISGARH REGION OF SORROW – ANALYSIS
On July 28, 2014, a Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadre was killed and three personnel of the 150th battalion of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), including an Assistant Commandant, Alok Kumar, were injured in an encounter in the forest near Ramaram village under the Chintagufa Police Station limits in Sukma District.
Police recovered the body of the slain Maoist after the exchange of fire was over. Police later claimed that reliable sources indicated that another ten Maoists, including ‘five commanders’, were killed, though Police did not recover any other bodies. Earlier, on July 7, 2014, two troopers of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) of the CRPF were injured in an encounter with the Maoists in forested patches of Karikunda under Bhejji Police Station limits in Sukma District.
According to Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP), Neeraj Chandrakar, during a combing operation in the forested patch, the Security Forces (SFs) suddenly came under indiscriminate firing by the Maoists. Sukma was carved out of Dantewada as a separate District in January 16, 2012, and occupies an area of 5635.79 square kilometres, with a population of 250,159 (census 2011). It shares its borders with Maoist-infested the Bastar, Bijapur and Dantewada Districts of the State to the north and west, Malkangiri District of Odisha to the east and Khammam District of Telangana to the South. Some 3,500 square kilometres of Sukma, more than 75 per cent of its total area, are under thick forest cover.
The forest cover, terrain and location of the District give the Maoists a distinct advantage in their campaigns to establish disruptive dominance and evade action by SFs. The location of major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) as part of Dantewada District, the newly established Sukma District caught the attention of the nation with the high-profile abduction of the District’s first Collector, Alex Paul Menon, on April 21, 2012. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the District has already registered 23 fatalities (2 civilians 20 SF personnel and one Maoist) in five incidents of killing in 2014, out of a total of 67 fatalities in Chhattisgarh. There were 56 fatalities in 16 incidents of killing in the District in 2013 (out of 128 in Chhattisgarh), and 16 fatalities in nine incidents of killing in 2012 (out of 108 in Chhattisgarh).
Focus shifts from Maoists to PLFI
RANCHI: The balance of power between various rebel groups in the state is shifting, with CPI (Maoist) weakening and its breakaway factions and splinter groups strengthening base. In the first six months of 2014, five splinter groups of the Maoists together carried out 75 incidents across the state while CPI (Maoist) carried out 50 incidents. People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) carried out the largest number of incidents – 45 – among all splinter groups.
A report of Jharkhand police said till Tritiya Prastuti Committee were involved in 17 incidents, Jharkhand Prastuti Committee in six, Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha in two, and Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad in five. In 2012, a study conducted by the special branch of the state police concluded that People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) is the second biggest threat to internal security in the state after CPI (Maoists). DGP Rajiv Kumar said: “We have decided to eliminate the Maoists’ splinter groups from Jharkhand. All kinds of operations have been launched targeting them. Our intelligence networks are being used to arrest them and we are also encouraging some to put down their arms. In the past few years, it has been observed that the splinter groups have become more brutal than the mother outfit,” he added.
A police source said now that the security machinery now run more anti-Naxalite operations targeting splinter groups because PLFI is considered a bigger threat. Though it is not on paper, SPs in various districts have been told to come down heavily on the splinter groups. “These splinter groups do not follow any ideology and they are brutal than the Maoists. I do not mean to say that Maoists are less brutal, but they do not behave like a gang of criminals ready to shoot someone down for a penny. They have become more powerful because they are run by people with the sole aim of amassing money by hook or crook. The person who kills more people and collects more money is the most admired one,” said an IPS officer who did not want to be named.
Data obtained from Jharkhand Police justify that police is focusing on rebels belonging to the splinter groups. Until June 2014, police have arrested 108 PLFI rebels and 97 Maoists across the state. According to a report, sent by Jharkhand police spokesperson Anurag Gupta, only four top leaders of CPI (Maoists) have been arrested as against eight PLFI leaders in the same period. Last month, police launched the anti-PLFI “Operation Karo” in Khunti, Gumla, Lohardaga and other districts after the rebels got the schools closed in Khunti because security personnel were staying on the campus during anti-Naxalite operations. Every year, the splinter groups account for more than 50% of Left Wing Extremism incidents.
Activists launch initiative for release of Swiss youth
THRISSUR: A group of pro-Left intellectuals and human rights activists has launched an initiative for the unconditional release of Jonathan Baud, the Swiss youth arrested by Kerala police for alleged Maoist links. They will organise a convention here on August 6 to press the demand. Efforts are also on to appeal to the international and national academic and political community to press the Kerala government to drop charges against Baud. Activists said there was no legal or political ground for Baud’s detention as he was not engaged in any subversive underground act. “Police have not been able to find any clinching evidence so far to establish his alleged Maoist links,” Gandhian thinker and social activist K Aravindakshan said.
Police, however, have not listed Maoist links in the remand report. Officers also admit that no additional evidence has been extracted to support the allegation during his interrogation in custody. The organisers of the meeting, attended by Baud, said he had just introduced himself after the meeting and shared his sympathies. Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners vice-president M N Ravunni, who presided over the meeting, said the government was according VIP treatment to Italian marines accused of killing Indian fishermen while using repressive laws to intimidate Baud. Poet and former Sahithya academy secretary K Satchidanandan said the arrest was violation of human rights.
“There is no law in the country that proscribes a person who arrived in the country on tourist visa from attending a meeting. He was not a speaker there; he is well known in the French academic circles and has made important contribution to the intellectual culture.He respects Communist views, but is in no way engaged in any underground subversive act,” he said over phone from New Delhi. However, historian M G S Narayanan said it was difficult to believe that a Swiss national would attend a meeting of the Left and Maoist sympathizers in Kerala without some local links. “I’m ready to wait, let’s see whether the police are able to collect some evidence,” he said. Swiss mission officials in India have been collecting details on Baud’s arrest but had not officially demanded his release so far.
Three Maoists Held with Land Mines in C’garh
Three Naxals were arrested when they were allegedly trying to plant land mines near a rivulet in Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-hit Dantewada district today, police said. “The Jan Militia cadres were apprehended near Rewali rivulet under Aranpur police station limits by a joint team of district force, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Special Task Force (STF),” Dantewada Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap told PTI. Based on specific inputs about the movement of a huge group of cadres in Burgum and Neelawaya region, located around 500 kms away from the state capital, separate joint squads were mobilized there from Dantewada and Sukma districts on August 3, the SP said. “When the security forces were returning to their camp after conducting intense combing in the region, they spotted three ultras planting land mines near Rewali rivulet, after which they were nabbed,” he said.
A five kg land mine, 30 meter wire, couple of detonators and other materials were also seized from the spot, he said. Those arrested were identified as Joga Mandawi (30), Rajaram Sori (19) and Pandu Mandawi (21), all natives of Burgum’s Pujaripara area, the SP said, adding, that they were being interrogated. Meanwhile, in another incident during the operation, a minor exchange of fire took place between security forces and rebels between Burgum and Choperapara village forests yesterday. However, on finding security personnel zeroing on them, the rebels fled to the core forests taking the advantage of hilly terrain, the SP said.