INDIA: LEFT-WING EXTREMISM IN 2015 – ANALYSIS
At the onset of 2015, left-wing extremism (LWE) in India under the aegis of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is confronted with a choice of either coming to terms with the realities of its weakness and revisit the strategy of sustaining a protracted war with the state; or continuing with carrying out periodic attacks on the security forces and other state protagonists with the long-term aim of resurrecting itself yet again in the coming years. Although the past few years have reinforced the notion that CPI-Maoist has ceased to be the force it used to be, there is little hope that in 2015, the outfit would halt pursuing its strategy of carrying out intermittent raids as well as expanding into newer areas. How the state responds to this challenge via its reformulated strategy would be something to watch out for.
Shrinking Extremist Domination
In 2014, the trend of declining fatalities in LWE-related violence continued. According to provisional data, only 314 fatalities were registered, which is the lowest since the formation of the CPI-Maoist in 2004. While Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand account 67 per cent of these fatalities, Odisha, Maharashtra and Bihar are the other states that reported the remaining fatalities. The CPI-Maoist, which once wielded influence over almost one-third of the country’s geographical expanse, now operates with a constrained presence in these five states. A sudden expansion in the CPI-Maoist’s area of operation is unlikely in 2015. The outfit would mostly be involved in guarding its remaining influence in these states.
Affected by surrenders, killings and arrests of a large numbers of its cadres, the CPI-Maoist is clearly on a back foot, necessitating a phase of tactical retreat when the outfit rebuilds its strength. Among the many denominators that point at the state’s tightening grip over LWE is the former’s ability to carry out largely peaceful elections in various states. Jharkhand went for an assembly elections in November and December 2014. Additionally, the CPI-Maoist largely failed to carry out its threats of disrupting the poll; the over 66 per cent voter turnout – a record percentage in the state – demonstrated a growing popular confidence in the State’s ability to provide security. A stable government, now a reality in state, has an opportunity of heralding an era of decisive action against the extremists.
The operational weakness of the CPI-Maoist, however, has not curtailed its ability to carry out periodic attacks resulting in high casualty among the security forces. In fact, such attacks would remain part of the CPI-Maoist’s continuing attempt of seeking relevance, rebuilding its organisational strength, and inflicting setbacks on the security forces. The fact that the security forces in each of the LWE-affected theatres continue to face issues of coordination, leadership and direction, would aid the extremist efforts. Successful attacks such as the one that resulted in the killing of 14 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on 1 December 2014, has already led to a defensive mindset among the forces, with the CRPF headquarters insisting that all major operations against the extremists must be cleared by the top brass of the organisation.
Enclaves of Strength
New Delhi has assured the affected states of support in dealing with LWE. However, for the states, emerging from an era of overwhelming dependence on the central forces has proved to be difficult. Progress in enabling its own police forces to take a lead role in countering extremism has remained a non-starter. This is apparent in the significant level of popular compliance to the CPI-Maoist’s periodic calls for shutdown in various states. Even as the state makes advance establishing its writ over hitherto extremism-affected areas, several enclaves of extremist domination, especially in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha would continue to mock the official claims of success.
Resurrecting governance over the erstwhile Maoist-dominated areas has proved to be New Delhi’s Achilles Heel. As of the beginning of 2015, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs is pushing the state governments to appoint “officers with zeal” as district magistrates and superintendents of police in the extremism-affected districts. Even as the security forces register some successes in ending extremist domination over select areas, bureaucratic inertia in kick-starting governance has remained one of the primary hindrances in cementing success. Government functionaries are either reluctant to function in such hazardous zones or are indulging in rampant corruption exploiting the lack of accountability a conflict situation provides. The attempt to inculcate “zeal” among functionaries, both in the higher and lower levels of bureaucracy is likely to be a tough one for the state governments.
One of the less highlighted aspects of the CPI-Maoist’s activities in 2014 was its foray into Kerala. With a handful of incidents involving attacks on a forest department office and an outpost, and KFC and McDonald’s outlets, the Maoists have announced their presence in the southern state. While expansion into new areas remains an avowed objective of the CPI-Maoist exploiting fertile grounds, the divided official response has helped the outfit gain strength and sympathisers. Amid the Kerala police’s steps to deal with the emerging threat, a senior government functionary has called for a stop to the hunt and has praised the Maoists for “energising the government machinery in tribal areas.” The CPI-Maoist would continue its attempts to spread its activities into new areas in 2015. Sans a national consensus on dealing with the threat, some of these areas would lapse into new hunting grounds for the extremists.
12,062 have perished in Naxal violence so far: RTI
MEERUT: In reply to an RTI query, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has revealed that a total of 12,062 civilians have been killed in Naxal violence till now since 1980. The detail was given in reply to a question filed under RTI (Right to Information) rules by a Meerut-based activist. Interestingly, when the Naxalite movement began in India, only three states were involved – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. But by 2014, eight states had got dragged into it. While in 1980, 70 people had died in the violence, in 2010 the number was a far higher 720. The reply also mentions that 3,078 security personnel were injured in Naxal-related violence in the last 34 years. MHA, however, did not disclose the actual number of security personnel dead in the same period.
Sarpanch aspirants relive Naxal nightmare
Around 130 sarpanch aspirants had to fight cold and hunger for five days after being held hostage by Maoists in a dense forest in Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-wracked Sukma district recently. The panchayat poll candidates, who were set free on January 15 with a warning not to contest the ensuing rural local bodies elections, scheduled to be held in the state in four phases from end of this month, narrated their nightmarish experience while they were in the rebel custody in January 9-15.
“We were herded to the core of forest near Gonguda hill range and made to sit under trees. We reached the area after sunset. We did not have additional clothes or food with us. We were given the impression that we will be let off after a meeting with Naxals. “But we came to realise that we had been held hostage after we reached near the Gonguda hill. We started shivering as night temperature dipped to around 4-5 degrees Celsius. We had to fight cold and hunger the whole night. “The next day, some kids came with utensils, paddy and red chillies. We had to remove the husk to cook rice ourselves. We were forced to live on cooked rice along with salt and red chillies for the next five days. Our hostage life had been spent under the open sky,” the sarpanch candidates narrated their ordeal in rebel custody before the local police after their release. They were not even allowed to go to the nearby pond to wash their body.
“We called them for interrogation when we received information of their release from Maoist custody,” a senior district officer told this newspaper unwilling to be quoted. In the morning of January 15, divisional committee member Jaggu, along with Kerlapal area committee commander Bhime, alias Reena, and armed rebel cadres, reached there to warn them against participating in the elections before they were set free.
Naxals set two trucks on fire in Gaya
Naxals set two trucks on fire in a village near Gaya late Tuesday evening. “They gathered the labor staff and said that the work is going on even after they had ordered not to. Then everyone was made to stand aside, they sprinkled petrol on the trucks and set them on fire,” said Surendra Prasad Yadav, a truck owner. “Last evening two trucks from Hari Om Constructions were set on fire. The FIR has been registered in the local police station. It can be identified as a Naxal attack,” said Rakesh Kumar, the superintendent of area.
BSF jawans to be redeployed in Maoist-prone areas: Odisha DGP
Odisha’s Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Marik today said Border Security Force (BSF) jawans engaged in Maoist-prone areas in the state will be re-deployed keeping in view the intelligence inputs. “We took stock of the Maoist situation in the state and discussed the redeployment of the BSF personnel so as to make all possible use of the central forces. “We have decided to withdraw the BSF from places where Maoist activities have scaled down and redeploy them in places where there has been a spurt in Left Wing Extremism (LWE),” Marik said after a meeting of the state police and the BSF.
Presently, BSF jawans were deployed in the Maoist hot-bed of Koraput and Malkangiri districts. Their presence has helped the state police to weed out the rebels from certain pockets, sources in state home department said. Besides senior police officers of Odisha Police, BSF’s additional DG K K Sharma discussed on the Maoist situation and operations in the state and it was decided to relocate the forces to areas where Maoists were more active.
SPO killed by Maoists near Ranchi
Suspected Maoists have killed two persons, including a special police officer (SPO) near Bundu, about 50 km from the Jharkhand capital, the police said today. The two were shot dead near a school in Ranchi district’s Bundu area last evening. “One of them was a SPO,” Ranchi Senior Superintendent of Police Prabhat Kumar said.