Naxal Violence: The LWE Redux in Jharkhand

18 Apr, 2013    ·   3886

Deepak Kumar Nayak probes whether the state government is in a position to control the escalation in violence

Deepak Kumar Nayak
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Officer

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed five jawans of the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) on 4 April 2013, in Gumla District in Jharkhand. In addition, a group of 25 to 30 Maoists blew up the Sreeram Panchayat Secretariat building on 2 April, in Lohardaga District. The attack was seen as retaliation in protest against the killing of their 10 cadres by the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, on 27 and 28 March in Chatra District. The Maoists had called a 48-hour bandh in Bihar and Jharkhand from April 6, which witnessed sporadic incidents of violence in both the states. This was one of the rare instances when Maoists lost several of their top leaders in an internecine fight, since the unilateral ceasefire called by them in June 2012 for three months.

This commentary is an attempt to probe into the recent increase in violence, which signifies the return of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and the revival of armed violence in Jharkhand. Will the splinter group now rule the roost in the state? Is the state government in a position to control the escalation in LWE violence?

About the TPC: Strength and Area of Control
The TPC is a breakaway faction of the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre (MCC). The MCC-TPC split occurred in 2002 due to ideological differences. Further, the dominance of Yadavs split wide open and led to the formation of the TPC by non-Yadavs, chiefly, the Mahtos, Ghanjus, Bhokta, Oraon, and Kherwars among others. Meanwhile, the MCC and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People's War (also known as the People's War Group or PWG) merged to form a new entity, the CPI-Maoist on 21 September 2004.

Initially, the TPC was headed by one Bharatji, a senior MCC leader in Jharkhand, which is now said to be led by Brajesh Ghanju and is active in Palamu, Latehar and some other districts in Jharkhand, and Gaya and Aurangabad in Bihar. In the subsequent years, TPC-related activities were reported from Chatra, Gaya, Ramgarh, Latehar, Aurangabad, Palamu, West Singhbhum, Lohardagga, and Simdega Districts.

According to police sources, the TPC, which is now 500-strong and growing in strength, however, is a lesser evil for them to contain. The police have the notion that the TPC is more concerned about the turf war than challenging the system.

Maoist’s Retaliation
The TPC had openly declared that its main enemy was the Maoists, not the police; and since then, began the cat-and-mouse game. Giriji, the outfit’s sub zonal commander of Palamu district claimed, "Our main enemy is not the police machinery, but the CPI-Maoist. They have diverted from their original principle and are involved in petty activities. And to successfully wage armed struggle against the Maoists, there is an imperative need to strengthen our own organisation. The results of our expansion would give us positive results in near future."

Maoist-related violence has been significantly low since 2011, till the recent fratricidal clash that has resulted in escalating the level of violence in the state. This is an indication that despite the Maoists facing reverses due to killings, arrests or surrenders of their cadres, still have the capacity to strike back.

The TPC and five other splinter groups operating in the state are in no way a match to Maoist capacities, but the state government's suspected experiment to tacitly support the TPC in eliminating Maoists and their leaders is likely to be counter-productive for the police in the long run. In a statement released on 31 March, the CPI-Maoist Bihar Jharkhand North Chhattisgarh special area committee spokesperson Gopal declared April 1 to 7 as “pratirodh saptaah” (protest week) in which they would avenge the TPC’s killings, and called for a Bihar-Jharkhand bandh on April 6 and 7.

The Counter-Insurgency Strategy
While commenting on the incident of the 10 Maoists’ killings, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that the government is not taking the help of the splinters to weaken the Maoist’s presence in Jharkhand and Bihar; rather, the incident was a result of “caste wars” between the two groups. Unexpectedly, the MHA admitted that the spates of violence are due to the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) of the Maoists, which has begun. The Maoists conduct TCOC, or 'escalation of violence', twice a year, once in April-May, and then in December-January. During these periods, there is usually an increase in violence in Maoist zones across the country.

16 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed for anti-Maoist operations, in addition to State Police Forces in Jharkhand. Further, the Union Government has recently deployed two battalions of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) to step up anti-Maoist operations in the state. However, in the present situation of the growing LWE threat, the state government has to act swiftly through a well-formulated action plan to check the intimidating threat.