Jharkhand: Strategic Silence
In a change for good, the five phase Assembly Election in Jharkhand held in the month of November and December 2014 passed off peacefully, with a record voter turnout of 66.47 per cent. According to the Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer P.K. Jajoria the State has not recorded this high a polling in any election – Assembly or Lok Sabha – since the creation of the State in 2000. Significantly, Inspector General (IG) of Police (Operations) M.L. Meena, who was a nodal officer in the Election Cell, added, “Since 1996, no election had been peaceful. Casualties were reported in 2009 and 2005 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls from Palamu, Dhanbad, Giridih, Khunti and Dumka.”
In the General Elections to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) held in April-May 2014, eight persons – five Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) personnel, two poll officials and a cleaner of the minibus in which they were travelling – died in a landmine blast by the Maoists in the Shikaripada Police Station area in Dumka District on April 24. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its pre-poll alliance partner the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) won 42 seats (BJP 37 and AJSU 5) in the 81-member Assembly, looking to end the persistent political instability since the formation of the State. Jharkhand has seen nine Governments in the 14 years of its existence, with none of these completing a full term. President’s rule has been imposed thrice in the State. Moreover, with BJP now leading the State Government, better coordination between the State and the Centre at the policy as well as operational levels is expected, raising hopes for improved state response to the Maoist challenge.
The Maoists, moreover, have lost significant momentum in the State, despite making their presence felt in a number of incidents. In fact, just a day after the declaration of the results of the Assembly Elections on December 23, over 40 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) attacked a Police patrol at Itkhori in Chatra District, killing one Policeman and injuring another three on December 24, 2014. The ambush spot was just one kilometre from the Itkhori Police Station. A 30-minute encounter followed, after which the Maoists escaped, taking advantage of the cover of darkness. Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar termed the incident a “desperate attempt” by the Maoists who “have lost the ground”.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP),Jharkhand recorded a total of 97 fatalities, including 48 civilians, 12 Security Force (SF) personnel and 37 left wing extremist (LWE) cadres in 2014. In 2013 the State registered 131 fatalities, including 48 civilians, 26 SF personnel and 57 LWE cadres.
With this, Jharkhand retained the dubious distinction of recording highest civilian fatalities for the third year running, though Chhattisgarh, with a total of 113 killings – 25 civilians, 55 SF personnel and 33 Maoists – recorded the highest fatalities in LWE related incidents. Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data available till November 15, 2014, confirms these trends, with the Jharkhand fatalities at 93, including 77 civilians, eight SF personnel and eight LWE cadres; for the whole of 2013 the figures were 162 killed, including 120 civilians, 30 SF personnel and 12 LWE cadres [the high variance between SATP and Government data on LWE insurgents killed is because MHA records only those killed in encounters with SFs, while SATP includes all those killed in fratricidal violence between various LWE groupings].
In 2015, as of January 11, Jharkhand has recorded three fatalities: two suspected leftwing extremists were killed by Maoists allegedly over a dispute on ‘levy’ collection, at Kadamdiha in West Singhbhum District on January 6; and chief of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), Guddu Ganjhu, was killed in an fratricidal clash at Birhu village in Chatra District on January 10. JPC is a splinter Maoist group. A decline in Maoist activities in the State is evident. While civilian fatalities remain at the same level, SF fatalities have reduced by more than half from, 26 to 12, between 2013 and 2014. LWE fatalities have also come down from 57 to 37, indicating that the extremists are carefully avoiding active engagement with the SFs.
An analysis of major incidents also confirms this trend. While various LWE splinter groups generally avoid clashing with SFs, CPI-Maoist continues to target the SFs. In 2014, out of a total of eight major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities), CPI-Maoist engineered just one attack against SFs, on April 24 (during the last phase of the Lok Sabha poll in Jharkhand). Further, there has been just one major incident in which CPI-Maoist suffered major losses at the hands of the SFs: SFs killed three CPI-Maoist cadres, including an ‘area commander’, at Nayanpur in Giridih District on September 12, in a gun battle that broke out during an area domination exercise by the SFs.
Significantly, the Maoists engineered a big revenge attack on the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) on August 9, 2014, killing at least 14 cadres of this splinter group at Choti Kauriya village under Vishrampur Police Station limits in Palamu District. Maoists also killed three civilians each on two occasions, on June 3 and July 25, suspecting them of acting against their interests. PLFI was responsible for one major incident, killing seven persons, including two Special Police Officers and two members of the Shanti Sena (Peace Army), a vigilante formation operating in the State.
Geographically, fatalities were recorded in Gumla (18), Palamu (16), Khunti (12), Dumka (10), Giridih (7), Hazaribagh (6), Ranchi (5), East Singhbhum (4), Simdega (4), West Singhbhum (4), Latehar (3), Lohardaga (2), Seraikella-Kharsawan (2), Bokaro (1), Chatra (1), Daltonganj (1) and Garwah (1). Among other patterns of violence recorded by SATP, the Maoists engaged in at least 12 incidents of arson in eight Districts – Gumla (3), Lohardaga (2), Chatra (1), Dumka (1), East Singhbhum (1), Khunti (1), Latehar (2) and Ramgarh (1) through 2014. In this period LWE groups were also involved in eight blasts in four Districts – Bokaro (3), Giridih (2), Latehar (2), and Hazaribagh (1) – and five recorded cases of abduction.
In 2013, LWE groups were involved in 12 incidents of arson in six Districts, eight recorded incidents of abduction and eight incidents of explosions. An analysis of Maoist violence, as well as of overground and underground activities, through 2014, indicates that a total of 11 Districts, including Dumka, East Singhbhum, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Palamu, Ranchi, Latehar, Simdega, and West Singhbhum, remain highly affected; Bokaro, Chatra, Garhwa, Lohardaga Seraikela-Kharswan, Ramgarh are moderately affected; and Dhanbad and Godda are marginally affected by LWE activities. A peculiar feature of LWE violence in Jharkhand is that various splinter groups (which have broken away from the CPI-Maoist) continue to operate, parallel to CPI-Maoist.
The most prominent among these groups include the PLFI, TPC, and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). These splinter groups are strongly antagonist to CPI-Maoist, and are also engaged in fratricidal struggles – essentially turf wars for territorial dominance – among themselves. Meanwhile, a joint team of Jharkhand and Delhi Police arrested former Jharkhand agriculture minister Yogendra Sao from Sukurpur area in Delhi, on October 5, 2014, on charges of harbouring and operating two extremist outfits – Jharkhand Tiger Group (JTG) and Jharkhand Bachao Aandolan (JBA ) – in the Hazaribagh area. In a sensational revelation, outgoing Chief Minister (CM) Hemant Soren claimed, on the floor of the Assembly on August 4, 2014, that it was the Police that created TPC and PLFI: “It is our system which creates such organisations. It was Ram [Ex-DGP V.D. Ram] who formed TPC and PLFI in 2004. It is the system we have! We all have to work collectively and not just blaming the Government of the day or policemen is going to help (sic).”
Jharkhand Police had recorded some good catches in 2014. Prominent among them was Krishna Ahir aka Prasad ji, a ‘Zonal Commander’ of the South Chhotanagpur Zone and a member of CPI-Maoist’s Jharkhand State Committee under the Eastern Regional Bureau, from the Hapedag Forest under the Angara Police Station of Ranchi District, on August 13. Ahir had a bounty of INR 2 million on his head. Another was Sanjay Ganjhu aka Ramesh aka Rameshwar aka Pratap Ganjhu, member of the CPI-Maoist Bihar-Jharkhand-North-Chhattisgarh Regional Committee, who carried a cash reward of INR one million, from the border of West Singhbhum and Simdega Districts, on December 11. Ganjhu was a key explosives expert.
Other significant arrests included: Jetha Kachchap ‘second-in-command’ of the PLFI, arrested from his hideout in Chautanga village in Tupudana Police Station in Ranchi District on August 5; Praveer Da alias Pravil Da, a CPI-Maoist cadre who played a major role in the 2013 killing of Superintendent of Police Amarjeet Balihar in Pakur District on July 2, 2013, arrested from Harwadangal village in Ramgarh Block in Dumka District on September 27, 2014. Meanwhile, the arrest of CPI-Maoist ‘zonal commander’ Mukhlal alias Mochhu aliasBhagat, carrying a cash prize of INR 500,000 on his head, was clouded by doubts about the actual identity of the arrested person. In another case, Sushil Ganju, a CPI-Maoist ‘zonal commander’, who is said to have led the Karmatiya massacre in Latehar District in January 2013, and carried a reward of INR 300,000, is believed by the Maoists to have been arrested on November 1, 2014, though Police have not claimed the arrest.
The Maoists gave a bandh call, demanding that his ‘arrest’ be made public. Altogether, 29 ‘commanders’ at various levels in different LWE groups were arrested through 2014, including at least 14 from CPI-Maoist. A total of 230 insurgents were arrested in 2014 in Jharkhand. Further, seven ‘commanders’ of various groups were killed through 2014, including at least five from CPI-Maoist. Significantly, a former ‘sub zonal commander’ of the CPI-Maoist, identified as Mangal Nagesiya, was killed by the Maoists at Kanshikona village in Gumla District of Jharkhand in an apparent move to ‘clear ground’. Nagesiya had been with CPI-Maoist for several years, then parted ways to join PLFI, then three years ago formed his own group called Janhit Kranti Party. After killing him, Maoists looted his weapons. He carried a reward of INR 500,000 on his head. Further, out of a total of 10 surrenders two are ‘commander’ level Maoists.
However, in a significant security lapse, 55 undertrials, of whom 26 were in jail on charges of Maoist activities, made a bid to escape from the Chaibasa District Jail when they found the main gate open, as soon as the vehicle in which they were taken to court returned to the jail premises. Two persons, Teepa Das, said to be a CPI-Maoist ‘Zonal Commander’ and Ram Vilas Tanti, died on the spot when Police opened fire on the escaping undertrials. However, 15 managed to escape. Various conspiracy theories have arisen regarding the incident, creating a worrisome picture in conjunction with the simultaneous hunger strikes across Jharkhand Jails in 2014, and Maoists’ declared objective of forming jail communes.
Further, in November 2014, a confidential Police report revealed that some corrupt Police officials were selling Police ammunition to LWE insurgents, after showing exaggerated bullet consumption in fake encounters or fake target practice. An enquiry is on. A ‘platoon commander’ of the CPI-Maoist’s People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), identified as Jeevan Kandulna aka Gajendra Singh, in an interview in the Porahat Forest of West Singhbum District of Jharkhand on November 5, confessed that the outfit was not in a healthy state in its former stronghold of the Porahat ‘sub-zone’. He blamed its absence at the grassroots level for the decline and conceded, “The party works through its committees. We don’t have the Nari (Mukti Sangh, Women’s Liberation Union), and the (Krantikari) Kisan (Revolutionary Farmers’) Committee is nonexistent. I am the only person running the party here; there should be at least three.” In efforts at damage control, CPI-Maoist’s Bihar-Jharkhand Special Area Committee (BJSAC) ‘general secretary’ Rupesh ji, on November 15, 2014, asserted that the Maoists’ silence should not be mistaken for disenchantment of the militia with its ideology.
He claimed that a mass movement was being planned against the forceful eviction of villagers to give mining rights to 19 private companies in Saranda. “How long can the Government succeed if the villagers themselves rise against them?” he demanded. Meanwhile, during his visit to Saranda, responding to a query related to the Saranda Action Plan, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated, “Much has to be done. Problems are there. Roads are not good.” In November 2014, CPI-Maoist introduced structural changes in their organization, introducing a new committee with a focus on the Jharkhand-Bihar region, and dismantling an existing committee. The formation of the East Bihar Eastern Jharkhand Special Area Committee (EBEJSAC) – to dominate four districts of Dumka, Godda, Pakur and Jamtara under Santhal Pargana Division, and Bhagalpur, Banka, Jamui Lakhisarai and Monghyr in Bihar – is part of the strategy adopted by CPI Maoist during their Fourth Central Committee Meeting held in 2013. Earlier the outgoing Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Dilip Trivedi, while addressing the media on the eve of the CRPF’s 75th Raising Day, on November 12, 2014, had termed Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as the most challenging States with regard to tackling Left Wing Extremism in the country.
He worried that Maoists were obtaining capabilities to detonate a mine from a long distance and hinted that some States, including Jharkhand, had a vested interest in letting Maoist violence continue. Interestingly, in the beginning of 2014 Jharkhand proposed to phase out deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in the State within a period of five years to reduce the financial burden. In October 2014, however, the State was once again urging the UMHA to deploy an additional seven CRPF battalions in some of the CPI-Maoist-affected Districts, which have seen the worst violence triggered by LWE since 2004. Over 24 battalions of CAPFs are currently deployed in the State. Jharkhand has a Police-population ratio of 174 per 100,000, as on December 31, 2013 (National Crime Records Bureau data). The CRPF recently sent two small squads (35 per squad) of women commandos to fight the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, for the first time.
On January 2, 2015, the newly elected Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das, declared that he would provide development-oriented schemes and good governance in the State, as he held “administrative failure” to be a major cause of Naxalism. He announced that, within a month, the teachers’ recruitment process would commence, and 17,000 Policemen would be appointed within a ‘couple of months’. Such ambitions, however, must be moderated by the prevailing political culture of the State. According to media reports, 22 candidates in the recently concluded Assembly Election in the State have or had alleged LWE links, with 10 of these having present or past links with CPI-Maoist. Seven of them have managed to win the election. Maoists appear to have adopted a strategic silence in Jharkhand, currently focusing more on Chhattisgarh. A stable Government in the State presents a unique opportunity for decisive action against the Maoists over a longer term, as the political vacillation and opportunism of the unstable coalition Governments of the past could see a decline, even as coordination between the BJP-led State and Central Governments improves.
Centre not keen on special force in trains to naxal belt
The union home ministry is not keen on deployment of special commando force to guard the passengers travelling to naxal regions across India. Highly placed sources in home department said, “The union home minister Rajnath Singh has neither rejected nor accepted the suggestions for dedicated commando force to guard commuters.” Sources in the state government revealed to Indian Express, “The union home minister is eliciting views from state chief ministers and home ministers on the matter.
A formal decision would be taken only after considering the views of all state leaders.” Sources revealed, “Some states namely West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh et al expressed anguish over possibility of escalating the conflict with naxals if commandos are regularly travelling in long distance trains through naxal belts.” At present there are central reserve police force in the trains for passengers security.
Gadkari Calls Meeting of CMs of 8 Naxal-hit States
NEW DELHI: Union Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari has convened a Chief Ministers’ conference of eight naxal-hit states on Tuesday to resolve the bottlenecks in constriction of road networks in worst-affected districts. The conference, to be held in Raipur is likely to be attended by the CMs of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, while Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh will be represented by the PWD ministers.
According to ministry officials, the conference would also be attended by senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs, State PWD, CRPF, BSF and other departments concerned. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had taken up improvement of road connectivity in the 34 worst naxal-affected districts, covering a total length of 5,477 km.
ADGP reviews situation in the wake of naxal attack in Kerala
The Tamil Nadu ADGP (L and O), T K Rajendran, today reviewed and discussed security arrangements in the West Zone, following spurt of attacks by Naxals in neighbouring Kerala. The official held discussions with top police officials, including West Zone IG, K Shankar and City Police Commissioner, A K Vishwanathan and reviewed the security measures in the areas bordering Kerala, police said. Superintendents of Police of Coimbatore, Erode, NIlgiris and Tirupur participated in the meeting, they said.
Police gun down three Maoists in Jharkhand
RANCHI: Security forces gunned down three suspected CPI Maoist rebels on Monday morning at Bukar village close on the Jharkhand-Bihar border under Chauparan police station area in Hazaribag district, 200km here, during a three-hour long encounter with the extremists. Police have recovered three bodies, three rifles, a huge cache of explosives and Naxalite literature from the spot. Though police is yet to identify the dead bodies. Jharkhand police spokesperson Anurag Gupta confirmed the incident.
“Our forces have recovered three dead bodies, rifles and a huge cache of explosives from the forests where encounter took place,” said CRPF IG (Jharkhand) R K Mishra. Police had launched a joint operation with CRPF 22 battalion on Sunday night after it got intelligence inputs suggesting Maoists presence in Chauparan near Maoist dominated Hazaribag-Gaya border. “The anti-Naxalite operation continued throughout the night. A group of Maoists opened fire on security personnel when they were returning from the operation at Bukar village the next morning. In retaliatory fire three rebels were killed,” Mishra said adding, “”all the jawans involved in the operation are safe.”
” A combing and search operation was launched after the encounter. “The Maoists have sneaked into the forests after the encounter. We will continue the combing operation,” said Hazaribag SP Akhilesh Jha . A police officer said the Bihar police has also been alerted. “The Maoists would try to sneak into Bihar to escape the forces,” said a police officer.
Maoists claim credit for TS govt.’s welfare tilt
Seen by the police as an attempt by the outlaws to woo Adivasi youth.
The extremists conducted separate indoctrination classes attended by about 15 youths from each of these villages for 3 to 4 days curiously hinging much of their talk on the performance of the first government in Telangana. Is the Telangana government’s benevolence towards its people the result of Maoist struggle? Naxalites are reported to be spreading the word in the interior areas of Adilabad that the government has taken up welfare programmes like food security, social pensions and employment generation only due to the struggle waged by the outlawed outfit in support of the poor. A dalam of Maoist extremists currently involved in an indoctrination campaign in villages on the fringes of the Mangi forest area in Tiryani and Rebbena mandals is said to be invoking enthusiasm among Adivasi youth by claiming to have influenced the government to address people’s problems.
“The aim obviously is to recruit fresh blood,” opined a source in the Police Department who is involved in anti-Naxalite operations in the eastern part of the district. According to sources, the much sighted armed dalam which was twice engaged in exchange of fire with police last year, visited the Sonapur, Parsa Nambala and Khairiguda in Rebbena mandal and Dorli village in Tiryani mandal in the first week of this month. The extremists conducted separate indoctrination classes attended by about 15 youths from each of these villages for 3 to 4 days curiously hinging much of their talk on the performance of the first government in Telangana.
“The Maoists are also reported to have drawn comparisons between the past and present governments while trying to drive home their point,” the sources pointed out. “The dalam leaders also seem to have stoked passions among the gullible youngsters by exhibiting their sophisticated firearms,” the sources added. Meanwhile, the police are puzzled over the continued movement of the extremists in the district despite the heat generated by their pursuit of the underground cadres during the last few months.
The dalam however, seems to have been truncated to seven members now with Atram Shobhan alias Charles, Adilabad Area Committee Secretary and Mylarapur Adellu alias Bhaskar and his wife Kanthi Lingavva, both Area Committee members, in the lead. The police are also surprised over the fact the dalam, of late, has been seen in villages rather than its movements being noticed in forest areas. The area of movement of the extremists spans between Gangapur in Kadem mandal and Rebbena, the sources said.
Maoist leader trashes Odisha police claim of 7 deaths
A day after Inspector General of Police (IGP) of south-west range of Odisha Yashwant Jethwa claimed that at least seven Maoists have been killed in the ongoing ‘Operation All Out’ jointly launched by the elite Greyhound unit of Andhra Pradesh police and the SOG and DVF forces of the Odisha Police, a Maoist leader today rebutted the claims of any casualty on their side during the operation. Malkangiri Koraput Border committee Secretary Ghenu, in an audio message, claimed that two security personnel were injured during a pre-dawn exchange of fire on January 5 at Tumbei-Dejing area near Balimela reservoir in the cut-off areas of Malkangiri district. However, there was zero casualty or injury on the Maoist side, he added. On January 4, a man from Narenjala village was gunned down by the armed forces while returning from Panasaput haat on a ferry, the Maoist leader claimed. He said security personnel have been threatening the family members of the deceased to keep mum.
Tough days ahead for Kozhikode administration
About 60 personnel of Thunderbolts, the commando force of Kerala Police, currently camping at Attappady had a tough time last week when rumours spread that a suspected woman Maoist cadre had taken refuge in one of the tribal hamlets for giving birth. The intelligence wing of the police, which received ‘secret information’ about the delivery, told the Thunderbolts squad that the woman was part of a Maoist team that had vandalised the forest range office at Mukkali in Silent Valley in December last week.
Hamlets located deep inside forests were searched, and officials interrogated a number of tribal people accusing them of providing help to the Maoist woman for a safe delivery. The Maoist cadre, the police said, was accompanied by another woman with radical affiliations. The combing operations continued for six days, but in vain. Though there was no trace of the women or the baby, the police continued to claim that the Maoist cadre had indeed reached one of the hamlets and that they could not be traced only because they kept moving from one hamlet to another. With none to back their side of the story, the tribal people could only bear the ordeal of repeated searches in their hamlets.
Azad encounter case hearing on Feb.13
Hearing on the petition seeking filing of criminal cases against policemen, who had participated in the encounter of top Maoist Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and journalist Hemchandra Pandey, in Adilabad Munsif Court has been adjourned to February 13. The petition was filed by K. Padma and Babita Pandey, wives of Azad and Hemchandra and came up for hearing on Monday.
Maoists set nine vehicles afire in Bihar
A group of about 20 armed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres attacked a road construction company’s camp site at Motipur in Muzaffarpur District of Bihar a little after January 10 midnight and burnt nine heavy vehicles and machineries worth about INR 30 million, reports The Times of India.
Giving details of the attack, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ranjeet Kumar Mishra said Vaishali-Muzaffarpur sub-zonal committee of the CPI-Maoist has taken the responsibility of the attack through four handbills left on the site. The Maoists alleged the attack was made to punish the agency for ignoring some directions issued to it sometime back. But the agency failed to inform the Police about any such direction, the SSP said.