Maoists regrouping in Jangalmahal
Lalgarh: Maoists are regrouping in West Bengal’s Jangalmahal area, where peace prevailed for more than a year after their leader Kishenji was killed and several other top functionaries were arrested, according to the State Intelligence Bureau. Jangalmahal, which comprises three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia, where killings and encounters between Maoists and security forces were almost the order of the day since 2008, saw relative peace since the middle of 2011. But the latest intelligence reports said the ultras in small groups were trying to regroup in the area and rebuilding their movement from a scratch. “We have specific inputs that Maoists are trying to regroup in the region.
The squads of Maoist leaders Bikash in the Lalgarh area (W Midnapore), Ranjit in Ayodhya hills (Purulia), Madan Mahato in Jambani, Akash and Jayanto are trying to regroup and recruit new people,” SIB ADG, Banibrata Basu, said. One reason why the Maoists are keen to come back to the area is the topography of the area which with its deep forests and hilly terrains provide an ideal backdrop for their clandestine activity. Another factor in their favour is the ready source of cadres among the long-exploited tribal people in the entire region which is underdeveloped in terms of job availability and infrastructure. The terrain also suits their methods of guerrilla warfare while taking on the security forces and police personnel.
The area, which recorded 350 killings in 2010-11, witnessed none in 2012. According to sources, Maoist commanders Bikash’s wife Tara, Madan’s wife Jaba and Jayanto are engaged in reviving the movement and rebuilding the support base among the tribals. IG western range Gangeshwar Singh said the security forces were well prepared to combat any revival of Maoists insurgency in the area.
“Bikash, Akash, Madan, Ranjit are moving with small squads in Junglemahal area. They are trying to regroup and establish contact with the people of the area,” Singh told a news agency. Reacting to the development, Maoist ideologue Vervara Rao said, “It is the natural process of an armed movement. Once you are back and once you strike back regrouping and retreating are part of any guerrilla movement. If the promised development doesn’t take place in Jangalmahal, people of the area will again rise in revolt.”
Since the nineties, the Maoist movement in Bengal, which is the ideological offspring of Naxalbari revolution of the 60s and early 70s, had a thin base in Jangalmahal and had ideological presence only among a section of students and intellectuals of Kolkata. It started gaining momentum in 2007 during the anti-land acquisition protest in Nandigram which ultimately saw the Left Front regime being ousted in the 2011 Assembly election. The deadly attack on former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s convoy at Salboni in West Midnapore district, near Lalgarh, in November, 2008 by the Maoists gave rise to a spontaneous tribal movement known as the Lalgarh movement.
The movement swiftly spread its wings in the adjoining districts of Purulia and Bankura under the banner of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), a Maoist-backed organisation led by Chattradhar Mahato, who is currently in prison. But the reins of the movement quickly changed hands and by the beginning of 2009, the Maoists, who always cashed in on the anger of the masses against state oppression and underdevelopment, hijacked the entire movement. Maoists with their guerilla tactics and increasing mass base quickly transformed several parts of Jangalmahal into free zones’, followed by rampant killing of CPI(M) cadres and security personnel in the area.
CPI(ML) leader and former Naxalite Santosh Rana said, “The entire Maoist movement didn’t have any class line. The indiscriminate killing of poor tribals with the sole aim of removing CPI(M) from Jangalmahal proved to be their nemesis. The tribal movement was a people’s movement destroyed by the Maoists.” The Mamata Banerjee government after assuming power in 2011 announced a rehabilitation package for the Maoists and proposed peace talks, but the talks failed, which kicked off an another round of killing in the region.
This time Trinamool cadres were at the receiving end. The interlocutors, however, have blamed the government for the failure for the talks. Human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, who was the chief interlocutor, charged, “The government was never serious about the peace talks. On one hand, they were proposing talks and on the other hand they were busy advertising about the surrendered Maoists.” The Maoists, who were fast losing ground, received a body blow when Kishenji was killed in an encounter with the security forces in November 2011.
The killing was followed by arrests and surrender of several Maoist leaders like Suchitra Mahato, Jagori Baske, Abhishek, S. Ramakrishna and Bikram, which broke the backbone of the entire movement. In 2012 alone more than 50 Maoists were either arrested or had surrendered. Banerjee’s developmental package for Jangalmahal, which included recruitment of local youths in police force and supply of subsidized rice, gave a setback to the Maoist movement. However, former Naxailte Ajijul Haque is optimistic about the rebirth of people’s movement in the area if the development, promised by Banerjee, does not take place.
“They will regroup there and the people’s movement is bound to rise if the promised development doesn’t take place in the area, Haque told a news agency. CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim opined that the Maoist battle was a long-drawn battle, “it won’t phase out so soon. TMC leader Suvendu Adhikary differed, claiming that the movement can never revive in Jangalmahal as the main issue of underdevelopment in the area has been addressed.
Confusing strategy in tackling maoists
In this busy season for play in the Maoist universe of India comes talk of creating special anti-Naxal police forces in Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, along the lines of the Greyhound force in Andhra Pradesh. This ministry of home affairs-managed scheme will apparently be monitored and implemented by a senior army officer on deputation to the ministry’s naxal management division, who will directly work with police in these states. Whatever the efficacy of this information-sharing with the media, there are several issues to consider, besides a re-booting of that clichéd query aimed at the ministry: Anybody home? More charitably: what now? On the face of it, from the security perspective of states there is much to be gained by replicating a force like Greyhound.
Over the years, diligent application of both the operational hammer and the scalpel by Greyhound, and some velvet glove plays—shoring up police infrastructure, enhanced training, penetration of rebel networks, ruthless anything-goes operations, surgical strikes, schemes of surrender and rehabilitation—led to the near-destruction of Maoist forces in Andhra Pradesh.
The rebellion exists today only in the border areas of the state along south-western Orissa and southern Chhattisgarh—the eastern periphery of the Maoist hub in Dandakaranya region. (Or, to qualify the statement: at least, in-your-face armed rebellion, not the resentment that continues to upwell; domination of Maoists by arms hasn’t been effectively replaced by development and governance, thereby encouraging future conflict.) Similarly, but to a far lesser extent, C-60 commandos of the Maharashtra Police have had occasional successes against superbly motivated and deeply entrenched rebels in the western parts of the Dandakaranya region that the state shares with Chhattisgarh.
The most recent success came on 20 January when a C-60 posse ambushed a group of rebels returning from a village meeting in Gadchiroli district. Police claims six rebels died and several others were injured in an operation planned with gathered intelligence and stealth. The Xeroxing of such approaches also signals existing and confusing application of personnel and strategy. What of the “special forces” that already exist among the police in, say, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa? What of the several tens of thousands of ill-briefed paramilitaries, mostly of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), but also from the Border Security Force and the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force, deployed in rebellion-affected states? What, indeed, of CRPF’s own anti-Maoist crack troopers—CoBRA, or Commando Battalion for Resolute Action—several thousands of whom are deployed in and around areas of rebel dominance?
There are those in security circles who believe the indiscriminate use of paramilitaries in operations against Maoist rebels has—most notably in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa—led to state police pulling out of anything but bare bones law-keeping in rebel zones. This was further cemented, say some security experts, when CRPF, during the tenure of its recently demitted director general K. Vijay Kumar, assumed a more combative role for that force in operations against Maoists. This provided the trigger for the police in several states to pull back, letting CRPF be both cannon fodder and battle axe, and in several cases deepen the already deep operational divide between state police and centrally-run paramilitaries. I have heard senior paramilitary commanders rant about the deliberate lack of intelligence sharing and logistics coordination by state police forces.
Equally, I’ve heard police officials complain that for all their vaunted training edge, CoBRA, CRPF and other paramilitaries were mostly unwilling to cooperate with police in India’s zones of internal conflict; often let valuable intelligence about rebel movement be wasted by not acting quickly on it; and displayed stolidity when fluidity was required: paramilitaries are generally reluctant to actively patrol, preferring instead to remain barricaded in their camps. And when they do react, it could end in over-reaction, leading to non-combatants dying or getting hurt. A combination of such factors plays into the hands of the Maoists. Far quicker in mind-and-matter reaction, the rebels are able to leverage their vastly inferior numbers—estimated at fewer than 10,000 cadres and active militias—and depleted leadership—jailed, killed and a few surrendered—into operating in immense geographies across central and eastern India.
Three Maoists held in Odisha
Koraput (Odisha), Feb 1 (PTI) Three Maoists, including a hardcore rebel, were arrested during an anti-naxal operation by security personnel belonging to BSF and police in Odisha’s Koraput district, police said today. The three arrested from a forest area on the outskirts of Podapadar last night identified as hardcore ultra leader Sarbu Wadeka, who was a bodyguard of Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) president Nachika Linga, Wadeka Siku and Wadeka Jetu, police said. The rebels are from Podapadar village of Narayanpatna block.
Rebels chase away workers- ‘Levy prod’ in Latehar, IEDs in Tamar
Ranchi, Jan. 31: Maoist guerrillas today manhandled road construction equipment at Chhatariyatar, a village 10km from Latehar district headquarters, barely three weeks after the Amuatikar gun battle, signalling without a single bullet the rising clout of rebels in the area despite Jharkhand’s efforts to turn the tide.
Around 11.30am, a 12-member armed Maoist squad swooped on the construction site and chased away the labourers deputed to build a 5km stretch under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Then, simply using sticks and stones, they shattered the earthmover’s windscreen, damaged the mixer and overturned two diesel pumps in Dhardharia river. “We heard them using filthy language against the contractor, Tannu Singh. The rebels waited at the site for some time to check if labourers would resume work,” a local resident said. But the Maoists had driven their message home. Workers were too scared to return. By the time police reached the spot after 1pm, the Maoists had already left. Latehar superintendent of police Kranti G. Kumar confirmed the incident. “After the police came to know about the incident around 1pm, it strategically rushed to the spot but the Maoists had left,” he said.
A police officer not wishing to come on record said today’s incident was a ‘gentle reminder’ from the rebels for the contractor of the road project to shell out levy. “They did not seem interested in serious damage. If they had, they would have resorted to arson and more violence. It seems Naxalites just wanted to mount pressure for levy on the contractor who’s in charge of constructing the 5km stretch linking Barwadih forest area with Sarwadih village. The project is worth around Rs 1 crore,” he said. There may be more to it than what meets the eye. Amuatikar, where the rebel ambush and combat with security personnel took place on January 7-8, falls under Barwadih police station. A road will aid easy access and rob the area its importance as a strategic hideout for rebels. On January 20, four rebel landmines blew up at Jhumra in Bokaro to stall the 14km road constructed by the state at a cost of Rs 18 crore to link the area with the mainstream. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130201/jsp/frontpage/story_16508008.jsp#.UQvmZn2yg0g
Red leader fights for lost ground
RANCHI: South Chotanagpur zonal commander of the Maoist KundanPahan, who had created a national stir after beheading intelligence bureau inspector Francis Induwar in 2009, is trying to gain lost ground in rural Ranchi. An aide of Pahan, PitambarMahto alias Pritam alias Lambu, who was helping him gain ground by distributing posters and brainwashing villagers to join their ranks in Silli, Tamar, Bundu, Sonahatu and adjoining areas, was arrested by district police on Thursday.
Police recovered a pistol made-in-Italy, some ammunition and 40kg can bomb. Rural parts of Ranchi particularly Tamar, Bundu, Sonahatu, Angara, Sikidiri, and Rahe where Pahan had powerful dominance had been worst affected by activities of Maoist groups till the end of 2009. Pahan, who has now shifted his activities to Saraikela, Chaibasa, Simdega, Gumla, East Singhbhum, Khunti and rural Ranchi, hails from Badigarha village of Tamar. After the brutal killing of Induwar police had launched extensive operations in the area diminishing Maoist dominance to almost zero. Few rebels were killed in encounters and a total of 80 were arrested in 2009-10 itself and thousands of kilos of explosives were seized.
Police said Pahan is so desperate to regain his lost dominance in the area that he rushed Mahto to Silli-Tamar-Bundu immediately after a senior Maoist was arrested on January 9. The arrested rebel Nandu Ram alias Prabhatji, secretary of Koyal Sankh Zone (KSZ) of the Maoists, which is considered to be one of the most dreaded Maoists zone in Jharkhand, was also an aide of Pahan and was helping him strengthen his base in the area. ASP (operation) Sambhu Kumar said Mahto was asked to distribute posters among the villagers.
“A huge cache of posters were also recovered from his possession through which the Maoist rebels were trying to induce the villagers to join their rank,” said the ASP. Mahto was arrested by a team of Ranchi police and CRPF from Silli-Rahe locality. “The rebel was released from jail in July last year. He used to collect levies from contractors,” said Ranchi SP (city) Vipul Shukla. He was also associated with Rammohan Dasta of the Maoists. Police are interrogating him for more information
Maoists arrested, training camp destroyed in Odisha
Malkangiri (Odisha):Two Maoists were arrested and their training camp smashed by securitymen inside a dense forest in Odisha’s Malkangiri district bordering Chhatisgarh, police said on Friday. Acting on intelligence information, security personnel raided the training camp located inside the inaccessible forest near Mundaguda village under Mathili police limits on Wednesday night, Malkangiri Superintendent of Police Akhileswar Singh said. While Unga Madkami of Pujariguda and Boti Kumjama of Termaguda village, aged between 22 and 30 years were nabbed, other naxals present in the camp managed to escape to neighbouring Chhattisgarh crossing Sabari river.
Leaflates, posters, banners and other literature relating to the red rebel ideology were seized from them. During interrogation, both told the police that they were being trained by the top Maoist cadres, the SP said. Vigorous combing operation and patrolling had been launched in the area by the security forces after the operation, Singh said.
Raid yields 314kg of explosives
Ranchi, Jan. 31: Security personnel this evening seized 314kg of explosives in Tamar, 70km from the capital, averting a major catastrophe in the state’s power centre. Jawans of 209 COBRA and Jharkhand Jaguar, based on a tip-off, raided Kumarburu hillock near village Paramdih to recover the haul stashed underground. Commandant Puran Singh said the explosives were kept in 2,511 small cylinders, storing 100gm or 150gm in each. Chaibasa operational range DIG (CRPF) Ashok Samyal confirmed the recovery, adding: “Rebels planned to conduct a huge explosion by connecting all 2,511 cylinders in a series with detonators.”
A police officer added that the explosives were arranged in a series, suggesting Maoists planned a rerun of the Lohardaga landmine tragedy of May 2011 in Dhardharia forest, that killed 11 security personnel. It is not clear who tipped off security personnel about the explosives, though there is speculation that the Maoist who was arrested in Rahe may have spilled the beans.