INDIA: MEETING THE MAOIST CHALLENGE – ANALYSIS
In a spectacular strike on the security forces, cadres belonging to the CPI-Maoist ambushed a large team of police and paramilitary forces and killed 14 personnel of the CRPF in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh in December 2014. Ironically, two days before the attack, Chief Minister Raman Singh had declared that, “The day is not far when the state and Centre will together wipe out the Maoist menace and succeed in making Chhattisgarh Naxal-free.” The Sukma attack has punctured such optimistic assessments. It was by far the gravest attack since the BJP-led NDA government assumed power in New Delhi in May 2014. The previous major attack targeting the security forces had occurred on 11 May 2014 in Maharashtra in which seven C-60 police commandos had been killed when Maoists blew up a police vehicle in Gadchiroli district.
Between June and November 2014, the average monthly fatalities among the security forces was less than three – a comforting, yet complacency-inducing figure. The extremists, on the other hand, had suffered 56 fatalities during the period. Extremism-related fatalities usually decline during the monsoon, which compels both the extremists and the security forces to scale down their operations. In addition, the CPI-Maoist was rocked by a number of high profile surrenders of some of its leaders. This led to the further extension of the lean period of Maoist violence in 2014. In the first 10 months of 2014, 472 Maoist cadres surrendered, compared with 283 in 2013. In his statement on the Sukma attack in Parliament, the Home Minister referred to the success achieved by Chhattisgarh in terms of the record surrender of the extremists, which has led to a weakening of the “morale of the Maoists”. The adverse operational impact of the recent desertions from the so-called revolutionary path has been acknowledged by the Maoists. [ the reality of these “surrenders” is questionable at best see here-Signalfire]
Maoists have overcome reverses
In the wake of the Sukma attack, it is apparent that the CPI-Maoist’s weather- and surrender-induced operational frailty is a matter of the past. While it is convenient to interpret the Chhattisgarh attack as an aberration and a desperate attempt by a dying outfit to prove a point, a range of indicators – the continuing recruitment of cadres, organisation of training camps, people’s courts, and the outfit’s foray into new states such as Kerala – underline the fact that the Sukma attack could be the beginning of the rejuvenation of left-wing extremism (LWE). Chief Minister Raman Singh had claimed on 30 November 2014 that “Central security forces, state police jawans and officers are fighting the menace of Naxalism with better coordination on every front.” In sharp contrast, only a few days earlier, the CRPF chief had accused the Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand governments of underutilising the central forces.
Be that as it may, the CRPF, designated as the primary counter-insurgency force of the country over a decade ago, needs better leadership. The force has consistently fallen short in the provision of even basic logistics support to its personnel engaged in counter-insurgency operations. The modernisation plans of the state police forces are also continuing to stagnate.
Need for a Comprehensive Strategy
Maoist attacks on the security forces and the symbols of state power are characterised by meticulous planning, systematic preparation, near-surgical execution and a high degree of coordination. On several occasions, the rebels have achieved considerable success in launching synchronised attacks on multiple targets involving large numbers of cadres.
For the Maoists, besides waging a protracted people’s war with the ultimate objective of capturing or seizing political power, participating in a peace process and talks is a ‘tactic’ and considered ‘war by other means’. The response of various state governments and the Centre is invariably reactive. While the Maoists have been expanding to newer areas and have been steadily enhancing their military capabilities, counter-Naxal operations have mostly been lackadaisical. The reasons for this apathetic approach are three-fold.
Firstly, Naxal terrorism is not an emotive issue at the national level like the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, there is some confusion about whether the Naxalites are terrorists or not as they have a ‘social justice’ tag attached to them. And, lastly, an impression has gained currency that the Naxal menace is not “as bad as the media makes it out to be.” Coordination between the police and intelligence agencies of various affected states has been generally unsatisfactory. The acquisition, compilation, collation, analysis, synthesis and dissemination of intelligence are inadequate. The Naxalites are continuing to spread their tentacles and it is crucial that intelligence about their activities, arms and equipment, training, sources of funding and future operations is shared on a daily basis so that it trickles down in near real-time to the functional level. A national-level data base of all terrorist groups and individuals is an inescapable operational necessity.
State police forces and the Central armed police forces (CAPFs) need to be better equipped and trained like the army to successfully combat the serious threat posed by the Naxalites. At present they lack the army’s organisational structure and cohesiveness, the army’s institutionalised operational experience and ethos and its outstanding junior leadership – qualities that are mandatory for success in counter-insurgency operations. A great deal more needs to be done if the states are to effectively coordinate anti-Maoist operations across their borders. The Maoist threat presents a clear and present danger. So far the national response has been inadequate, both at the policy formulation and execution levels.
To cope with this serious threat, India needs a well-deliberated and finely calibrated strategy with matching operational doctrines and the allotment of necessary resources. Only a skilfully planned and coordinated strategy, with all stakeholders pooling in their resources to achieve synergy in execution, will achieve the desired results. At the same time, a comprehensive socio-economic strategy must be evolved to treat the root causes of this malaise that is gnawing away at the nation’s innards, along with a carefully drawn up plan for perception management. Good governance, development, security and perception management must go hand in hand.
Chhattisgarh police recover video clip showing Naxals training to gun down choppers
A rare video footage of Maoists purportedly showing the rebels conducting a ‘commando-style’ training to gun down helicopters, used to ferry security personnel and VIPs in Chhattisgarh’s worst insurgency-hit Bastar region, has been recovered by police. The video of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) at a training camp apparently in forests of Sukma — south Bastar adjoining Andhra Pradesh and Odisha — shows a group of 15-20 guerrilla cadres doing a practice to bring down a chopper by using its ‘dummy’ with LMGs (light machine guns) and small weapons.
“Documents detailing Naxals’ nefarious strategies to target choppers have been seized a number of the times from various places of Bastar, but for the first time it has come to our knowledge that they have made its clippings. Now it’s clear that the Naxals are conducting such trainings,” State Additional Director-General of Police (anti-Naxal operations) R.K. Vij told PTI. “Security will be beefed up around helipads in the dense forests and all necessary precautionary measures will be taken to ensure that Maoists do not get a chance to target choppers,” Mr. Vij said. The video clip, believed to be shot recently, shows a dummy of a flying machine, prepared with raw wood, plastic sheets and branches of trees, suspended on a rope tied to trees from two sides.
In the footage, few cadres are seen swinging off the ’dummy’ from one side to another in a descending pattern, quite like a helicopter lands from some specific height at the helipad, while the armed cadres positioned on the ground are seen firing at its bottom. The video also shows Maoists training in different techniques to engage helicopters with small weapons along with some sophisticated weapons positioned at strategic points. Machine guns mounted on tripods made of tree branches were also being used in the training, as per the footage. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official posted in Chhattisgarh said, “We have received number of inputs that they are being trained to bring down choppers generally used in casualty evacuation mission and to ferry VIPs and VVIPs.”
Maoists generally try to fire at copters at the time of landing and take-off from around a kilometre away from the landing site, but they hardly get any success, he said on condition of anonymity. The rebels have also tried to divert the choppers to land at a wrong place in the dense forests, but they have never been successful in it, the paramilitary official said. As per police statistics, the Naxals last year looted as many as 41 assault rifles, including AK-47, Insas and SLR, after encounter with security forces in Bastar. Around eight of the snatched sophisticated weapons were built with Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL), which has a capacity to target to at least 800 metres. “The looted sophisticated weapons could be used to target choppers. We have asked our men to trace the locations of such camps (if any) meant to train to shoot down choppers, in Sukma and Bijapur,” the CRPF official said.
Maoist violence takes a waning trend in Bihar, claim police
Patna: Bihar police has claimed that it has been successful in containing the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the state with arrests of Maoists and recovery of explosives. According to the figures released by Bihar Police Headquarters, though there were 105 incidents of Maoist violence in 2014 in comparison to 103 in 2013, only 20 civilians were killed against 36 in 2013. The number of police personnel who died during such incidents shows a sharp drop to six in 2014 from 25 in 2013.
“There were 21 encounters between police and naxals this year against seven such incidents in 2013, and the extremists did not succeed in snatching any arms from our forces. In 2013 we had lost 36 weapons to them,” said Bihar Police Additional Director General (Headquarters) Gupteshwar Pandey. Pandey said that the police arrested 354 Maoists in 2014 in comparison to 259 in 2013. The forces also seized 1,785 kg of explosives last year in comparison to 40 kg recovered in 2013. The number of detonators recovered also shot up to 2,181 last year as against 243 in 2013. “This is a big achievement of Bihar Police. It shows the LWE is losing ground,” added Pandey. Meanwhile, Inspector General (Operations) Sushil M Khopde, who also heads the Special Task Force (STF) of the Bihar Police, said the overall picture shows LWE on a downward trend, though they had indulged in such incidents around the Lok Sabha polls.
“It is not that Maoists are not trying to launch attacks, but we have been successful in countering them and hemming them up. Several operations were conducted against them and the STF arrested 94 of them, including several who are hardcore,” Khopde said. Khopde said that additional forces were deployed to conduct anti-naxal operations and stop Maoist activities. “We received a Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) battalion in October 2014 for anti-naxal operations. We will be receiving one more later this month. Likewise, we are raising one more STF unit by January-end. These will lend additional boost to our measures against LWE,” Khopde said. Around 15 out of 38 districts in Bihar are considered LWE-affected and the police is also planning to establish more fortified camps in the far-flung areas of the worst affected districts to cut-off movements of naxal squads and help stage operations against them.
Chennithala to meet top police officers
Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala will hold a meeting of senior police officers in north Kerala here on Friday, against the backdrop of reported infiltration by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in the tri-junction of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The meeting, to be held at the PWD Rest House at West Hill at 11 a.m., will see Additional Chief Secretary (Home and Vigilance) Nalini Netto, State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP-North Zone) N. Shankar Reddy, ADGP (Intelligence) A. Hemachandran, Inspector General of Police (Thissur Range) Suresh Raj Purohit, and Deputy Inspector General of Police (Kannur Range) Dinendra Kashyap take part. Superintendents of Police from the districts of Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Palakkad, Kozhikode Rural, Malappuram and Thrissur Rural; Commissioners of Kozhikode and Thrissur cities; and Deputy Superintendents of Police in north Kerala will also attend.
The agenda of the meeting will be chiefly the anti-Maoist operation in north Kerala, especially after a recent attack on a stone quarrying unit near a tribal settlement close to forests in Kannur, police sources told The Hindu here on Thursday. A major concern is the suspected Maoist infiltration in many tribal hamlets even though Thunderbolt commandos are camping in the forests. The meeting will discuss the need to rope in the Central Reserve Police Force for combined search operations.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has already suggested that the State set up an anti-Naxal unit in the wake of a number of such incidents. It has been giving timely intelligence inputs about the heightened Maoist activity in the Kerala forests and has issued fresh warnings of a possible direct assault on government institutions. This apart, the sources said, the meeting would review the progress of Operation Kubera launched in the State to tackle illegal moneylenders. There were complaints that the operation against “blade mafias” had waned in the past few months.
Maoists hack policeman to death in Chhattisgarh
The incident took place in Katekalyan town of Dantewada, when a police platoon was returning from routing area domination exercise. A police constable was hacked to death near a busy market place by the Maoists in Maoist insurgency hit Dantewada district of South Chhattisgarh on Friday. The incident took place in Katekalyan town of Dantewada, when a police platoon was returning from routing area domination exercise. “Maoists attacked the jawans who were last in the queue after crossing the market place.
Constable Shankar Joshi was killed in the attack and the Maoists took away his SLR (Self Loading Rifle),” informed Dantewada district Superintendent of Police (SP), Mr.Kamlochan Kashyap. The attack was carried out by a small action team of the Maoists. “They (Maoists) were four to five persons, two of them were in Maoist uniform. The deceased constable was the last one in the platoon formation which was returning to Katekalyan police camp,” added the SP.