Half Yearly Review

Naxal Violence: Progressive Consolidation

22 Aug, 2013    ·   4094

Deepak Kumar Nayak comments as part of the IPCS Database on Peace and Conflict in South Asia

Deepak Kumar Nayak
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Officer

The Communist Party of India – Maoist has shaken the country since the killing of ten jawans (nine from the Central Reserve Police Force and one from the state’s commando force Jharkhand Jaguars) in an ambush in Latehar District, Jharkhand, in January 2013. What was more shocking was the later revelation that the Maoists put the bodies of three CRPF jawans over landmines and implanted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the abdomens of two other jawans to maximise police causalities. This mindless attack on the security forces was enough to convey the message that the Maoists are down but not out and still possess the capability to launch major attacks on their targets.

The first six months of 2013 were marked with Maoist resurgence: recruitments, training camps, new geographical spread,change of tactics and progressive consolidation were noted during this time. Reports indicate that the twenty seven most highly affected districts with eighty per cent violence are spread over seven Naxal affected states: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. State-wise, the districts are as follows:
• Jharkhand: Garhwa, Giridih, Gumla, Khunti, Latehar, Palamu, Simdega and West Singhbhum
• Chhattisgarh: Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Rajnandgaon and Sukma
• Bihar: Aurangabad, Muzaffarpur, Gaya, and Jamui
• Odisha: Koraput, Malkangiri and Bolangir
• Andhra Pradesh: Karimnagar, Khammam and Visakhapatnam
• Maharashtra: Gadchiroli

Resurgence in Naxal Violence
The Maoists were able to demonstrate that when it comes to jungle-warfare, they are a force to be reckoned with. After lying low through 2012, the Maoists are gradually resurfacing with their disruptive activities. Numerically speaking, the total number of fatalities (civilians, security forces and Maoists) in the first half of 2013 stands at 243 (till 30 June 2013), as against two hundred eleven fatalities for the same period in 2012. A closer look at the fatality trend reveals that the combined civilian and security forces to that of the Maoists is poor – one hundred fifty seven to eighty six - which is almost double the fatality of the Maoists. Reviews of Naxal-related incidents indicate that there are increasing numbers of attacks engineered by Maoists than the security forces. However, DG CRPF Pranay Sahay said that the trend has reversed and more Naxals are being killed. According to him, on an average, they were killing more than three Naxals against every CRPF personnel killed during operations. He said: “In 2011 we had an adverse ratio of 0.43 Naxals killed per CRPF personnel who lost his life. Three years later we have managed to bring it to 3.14 Naxals killed against each CRPF who lost his life.”

Naxal violence has been reported in areas falling under two hundred seventy police stations in sixty four districts in seven states. The incidence of Maoist attacks indicate that Jharkhand not only fared as the state with the highest incidence of Naxal violence in the first half of this year but also further consolidated its lead over Chhattisgarh with twice the number of incidents and thrice the deaths reported by the latter. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in its latest statistics on the activities of Left Wing Extremism,revealed that states like, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar together accounted for over eighty per cent of Naxal violence across the country. (The Times of India, 20 April 2013). However, Jharkhand’s share in Naxal violence nationwide is a disturbing development. The state, which has been under President's rule since January, accounted for over forty per cent of the countrywide incidents and over fifty eight per cent of the deaths in the beginning of 2013. Odisha has shown a significant decline in Naxal violence, while West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh reported nil/negligible violence (The Times of India, 20 April 2013).

New Geographical Spread
The Maoists have chalked up a three-pronged approach to orchestrate Maoist expansion in the newer areas. First, they recruit fresh cadres; second, they try to flare discontent among the recruits and locals by raking up controversial issues and third, manipulate the new recruits to indulge in violence.

Interestingly, the geographical spreads of Naxal violence have expanded in the first half of the current year. The influence of Maoists in Naxal affected areas is assessed on the basis of both over-ground activities by their front organisations and violent activities by their under-ground cadres. Closer analysis indicates that while the core areas of Maoist activity has remained intact, they have further made inroads into the northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, while in the northwest they have spread towards New Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan. Though the new areas are not seriously affected, they are still very active through their front organisations and their presence cannot be undermined. The Maoists have also attempted to regain their foothold in Andhra Pradesh, their traditional stronghold.

Recruitment and Training Camps
During the first half of 2013, the Maoists were able to mobilise and recruit some new cadres during the recent observance of the Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Week. A recruitment drive by Maoists in Barak Valley’s poverty-stricken tea garden areas has been reported in Assam. Talking to reporters in Assam, Inspector-General of Police (Law and Order) SN Singh revealed that around two hundred youths have been recruited by the CPI (Maoist), who are mostly from the tea belts and other backward areas in the state.(The Telegraph, 25 June 2013). Intelligence reports suggest that the number of women cadres has considerably increased in the past two years in Bastar region and apparently in other states as well. In the year 2010, women comprised around forty percent of the Naxal cadre, which increased to sixty percent in the first half of 2013. It is noted that recruitment of women cadre is higher in Chhattisgarh in comparison to other Naxal affected states.

The Maoists also organised training camps to impart overall military tactics to new recruits and planning of special ambush against security forces.  These camps were organised in Dandakaranya forest region, which comprise of Sukma, Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Kanker district in Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. According to Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh, in 2012, twenty six Maoist training camps were reportedly organised in these districts. During the current year, till 15 April 2013, six such training camps have been reportedly organised in these areas.

Meanwhile, the CPI (Maoist) has formed its own elite training 'institute', the Buniyadi Communist Training School (BCTS), in the Dandakaranya forest, to transform tribal cadres into Communist professionals equipped to handle tasks related to the Central Committee. The BCTS trains about thirty to thirty five recruits in each batch for six months, and is believed to have trained four batches since 2009, while the fifth batch is reportedly undergoing training in the Dharba area.

Weaponry used by the Maoists is not superior to the weaponry used by the security forces in the Naxal-affected area. Of late, the Maoists are using weaponry like LMG, AK-47, SLR, .303 Rifles, GF Rifles, HE grenades and VHF & HF sets to engineer fatal attacks on security forces. According to an MHA response to a parliamentary question, the CPI (Maoist) is focusing on the further augmentation of its military capability to increase the lethality of its armoury. In some attacks, Maoists are known to have used mortars and Molotov Cocktails and indigenously manufactured launchers for rockets against the security forces in the Bastar region. The Maoist attack on the Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper in Sukma district is evidence of the Maoist capacity to target helicopters used in rescue operation and their preparedness for self-defense against aerial strikes. 

State Round-Up
During the first half of 2013, Jharkhand witnessed an escalation in Naxal violence.Maoists killed 24 police personnel in six separate incidents, out of which the police initiated just one incident. Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar claimed that encounters in the state have increased in the first five months of the year, with thirty one encounters in 2013, as against twenty two in 2012 and twenty seven in 2011. 

The Maoists stunned the country by attacking a Congress Party convoy in the Darbha Valley of Bastar district in Chhattisgarh, killing twenty six persons, including Mahendra Karma, architect of Salwa Judum, the anti-Maoist ‘people’s movement’. During the corresponding period, the state recorded the deaths of forty three civilians, twenty six security force personnel and twenty three Maoists (till 30June 2013). Out of the twenty-three ‘Maoists’ killed, at least seven are widely believed to be villagers killed in a messed up operation. The Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh killed nine in another incident. The remaining seven Maoists were killed in eleven encounters.

Bihar is the only state where incidents of Naxal violence have not dropped during the first six months in this year and the casualties caused by the Maoists have increased. The attacks on police personeel in Bihar have increased while the arrests of Naxalites have dropped by almost half compared to last year. The Maoists have not lost a single cadre in the state, though they have killed ten police personnel; seven of them in a single major attack. The Maoists not only managed to kill policemen but also succeeded in looting thirty sophisticated weapons, including fifteen INSAS rifles, twelve self-loading rifles and three AK-47 rifles in addition to twenty five hundred rounds of ammunition. The Maoists also attacked the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express train, killing two security force personnel and one civilian.

Maharashtra is an exception where security forces have engineered a success;inflicting heavy casualties on the Maoists in the first half of 2013. There are nearly three thousand armed Naxals operating in Maharashtra, while more than ten thousand CRPF and other paramilitary personnel have been deployed to combat them. Fatality data makes it amply clear that the steadiness is gradually tilting in favour of the security forces in Maharashtra in 2013. However, the Maoists targeted civilians in one major incident, killing three persons, including the Vice President of Lloyds, a sub-contractor and a policeman, in protest against a proposal to start mining in Surajagad and Damkodvadavi hills in Gadchiroli District.

In Odisha, the Maoists have witnessed a weakening of control, as more than twenty four hundred supporters of the Narayanpatna-based Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), a CPI-Maoist front organisation, have surrendered to the Police since the beginning of the current year. The split in the Maoist party, with the Sabyasachi Panda group that dominated Ganjam, Kandhamal, Gajapati and Rayagada districts, breaking away to form the Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP), has forced the Maoists to extend their network in the Nuapada, Bolangir and Bargarh districts. Most of the current violence is concentrated in the Malkangiri District.

Government Initiatives
The Maoists are able to engineer devastating strikes because the state has failed to deliver its security and administrative functions effectively. However, there is a sense of optimism as some initiatives by the central government are visible. Nine Maoist-hit states, including Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Bengal and Maharashtra, will get twenty two hundred mobile towers by the year-end. The Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has launched a new skill development scheme called ‘Roshni’ for fifty thousand rural youth from the 24 most critical Naxal affected districts in the country. The Naxal affected states will adopt the Andhra Pradesh model, which, besides Greyhounds, includes strengthening the intelligence-gathering mechanism, enhancing the role of local police stations in operations, and making efforts to infiltrate the Maoist hierarchy.The states that would raise the ‘Greyhounds’ are Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

However, the nature and course of Naxal violence in the first half of 2013 indicates that the Maoist insurgency continues to be the biggest internal security challenge for India. Some of the most rudimentary standard operating procedures are repeatedly ignored which gives an opportunity to the Maoists to take undue advantage. It is useful to bear in mind that the Andhra Pradesh police could get rid of the state's Naxal problem with modest help from other states, financial support for security expenditure and police modernisation from the centre and the dogged determination of the Greyhounds. Hence, without underestimating Maoist capacity, both the government at the centre and the states have to have a strong and determined political will to weed out Naxalism before it is consolidated further in the coming days.