Naxal Violence: The Peoples' Liberation Front of India (PLFI) in Jharkhand

29 Mar, 2013    ·   3861

Deepak Kumar Nayak on whether the menace of this rapidly expanding group can be contained

Deepak Kumar Nayak
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Officer

The activities of the Peoples' Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group of the Communist party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), have forced the state police to intensify operations against them in the Gumla district in Jharkhand. Though the state police have, on earlier occasions, launched offensives against Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) groups other than the CPI-Maoist, the current offensive in March 2013, recognizes the growing threat from PLFI. From Kamdara and Basia police station areas to Gumla, Palkot, Raidih, Ghaghra, Bishunpur and Sisai police stations in the district, PLFI cadres have stretched out their network and have been active in these areas.

What is the PLFI? From where does its support emanate? Is the state police capable enough to contain this growing menace?

About the PLFI: Strength and Areas of Operation
The PLFI was formed in 2007 by Dinesh Gope and operated in areas around Ranchi. After the killing of his elder brother, Suresh Gope, in December 2003, Dinesh took charge and extended its area of operation. Later, in July 2007, Masi Charan Purty, a renegade of the CPI-Maoist, along with several of his followers joined Dinesh Gope and the PLFI. Though Purty was subsequently arrested, the PLFI grew under Gope’s leadership. Other Maoist cadres who walked out of the parent outfit also joined the PLFI, which thus became a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist.

Ever since, the PLFI has been wreaking havoc in Jharkhand’s Ranchi, Khunti, Simdega, Gumla, Latehar, Chatra and Palamu, although the group claims to have extended its activities and influence all over the State. Along with six other splinter groups operating in Jharkhand, the PLFI have carried out more than half the terror strikes in the state, according to a study by the state police Special Branch. The group operates through several ‘area commanders’. An assessment by the Jharkhand police puts the cadre strength of the outfit at 150 to 300.

Extortion from contractors engaged in development projects constitutes the major source of income for the PLFI, and reportedly brings in INR 1.5 billion per year. Coal traders in districts including Latehar are also specifically targeted by the group. Mainly involved in criminal activities and extortion, the group collects funds by unleashing terror in the area. In the fight for supremacy in the region, the group has also engaged in clashes with the CPI-Maoist and other splinter Maoist outfits including the Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) in Jharkhand.

Ironically, the government has also been instrumental in sustaining PLFI during its initial days, using it to counter the CPI-Maoist. However, it appears that this strategy has backfired; today the PLFI has become one of the major terror groups in the State. Unlike the Maoists, the PLFI has no ideology and is only concerned with extortion and criminal activities. Hence, joining the PLFI is, and always has been, comparatively easy. As the main source of the PLFI’s income comes from extortion and levies, it attracts a large number of unemployed youth, who are lured by the temptation of easy money.

According to the Jharkhand Police, Maoist-related incidents decreased from 65-70 per cent in 2008-09 to 44 per cent in 2012. In stark contrast, the violence perpetrated by the PLFI has gone up to 30 per cent from 14 per cent. “Where the Maoists are retreating, their rival groups are moving in to occupy the space left by them. All of them are purely criminal groups fighting over extortion and killing people if their demands are not met,” Inspector General (law and order), Jharkhand, S.N. Pradhan said.

Strategy to Contain the PLFI
As of 31 December 2011, the Police Population ratio (policemen per 100,000 population) of Jharkhand was 167, well above the national average of 137, but significantly below the level considered necessary to deal with the State’s intricate problems of law and order, administration and security. However, in its diligent efforts to contain the PLFI, Jharkhand police launched an operation against the group in Khunti, Simdega and Gumla districts in October 2012. Over 20 rebels were arrested and a huge cache of arms was seized.

Despite this, the PLFI seems to be assertive and is now expanding its base by fanning out to new areas beyond the home turf. In the last four years, for instance, the PLFI has spread its tentacles to Raiboga, Birmitrapur and Hathibari police limits and its impact was also felt in Bisra police limits in Odisha and even in the tribal region of Jashpur in Chhattisgarh.

The PLFI is not a bigger challenge than the Maoists, but as a group, it is definitely growing in strength, especially at the local level. The PLFI’s menaces have grown too much over recent years to go unobserved any further, and the present police operations against the group are timely – though they are yet to yield the desired results.