ISSN 2330-717X

India: Struggle for Survival In Gadchiroli, Maharashtra – Analysis

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By Deepak Kumar Nayak*

On December 6, 2017, seven cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) near Kalled village, 15 kilometres north of Zinganoor Police Station in the Sironcha tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District.

Bodies of the seven uniformed Maoists, along with two Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) rifles, two .303 rifles, two 12 bore guns and one country-made pistol, were recovered from the encounter spot. The deceased CPI-Maoist cadres were identified as Aheri area ‘dalam (armed squad) commander’ Ashok Pendam aka Aaytu, (34), resident of Lingampalli in Gadchiroli, who carried a head money of INR 800,000; Sironcha ‘area assistant commander’; Sunita Kodape and ‘assistant commander’ Chandu from the Aheri area, both of whom carried rewards of INR 600,000 each; Sarita Kavande from Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, Shaila Pokur from Bhamragarh area in Gadchiroli, and Akhila Kulmethe from Aheri, each with a reward of INR 200,000 on their heads. The identity of one remaining cadre is yet to be ascertained.

On November 26, 2017, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, identified as Manjunath Shivaligappa, was killed and another two were injured during an encounter with CPI-Maoist cadres in Gadchiroli District.

On November 24, 2017, a Policeman, Suresh Gawde, was killed and a Policewoman, Sonal Khevale, was injured, when CPI-Maoist cadres triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in a bustling market place in Gadchiroli District.

On the same day, CPI-Maoist cadres hacked to death a villager, Suresh Tofa, suspecting him to be a ‘Police informer’, in Sodegaon under the Dhanora Tehsil in Gadchiroli District.

On November 21, 2017, a former CPI-Maoist supporter Sunil Pawar was shot dead at a market place at Jhadapapda, which is located around eight kilometres from Pendhri in the Dhanora Tehsil of Gadchiroli District. Two others, Sadaram Thakur and Ravindra Kusram, sustained injuries as Maoists in civil attire opened fire at them.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 23 fatalities (six civilians, three SF personnel and 14 Maoists) have so far been recorded in Gadchiroli, in Maoist-linked violence, since the beginning of 2017 (data till December 10). During the corresponding period of 2016, the same number of fatalities was recorded 23 (nine civilians, two SF personnel and 12 Maoists). Total fatalities through 2016 were 26 (12 civilians, two SF personnel and 12 Maoists).

Fatalities in Gadchiroli District: 2004*- 2017**

Year

Civilians
SFs
LWEs
Total

2004

0
0
0
0

2005

2
15
4
21

2006

13
3
34
50

2007

7
2
8
17

2008

2
5
7
14

2009

10
53
22
85

2010

21
15
3
39

2011

34
9
24
67

2012

18
14
5
37

2013

9
7
28
44

2014

9
11
10
30

2015

11
4
2
17

2016

12
2
12
26

2017

6
3
14
23

Total

154
143
173
470
Source: SATP, **Data till December 10, 2017
* Formation of CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004.

INDIA
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Maharashtra: Gadchiroli: Struggle for Survival
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On December 6, 2017, seven cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) near Kalled village, 15 kilometres north of Zinganoor Police Station in the Sironcha tehsil (revenue unit) of Gadchiroli District. Bodies of the seven uniformed Maoists, along with two Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) rifles, two .303 rifles, two 12 bore guns and one country-made pistol, were recovered from the encounter spot. The deceased CPI-Maoist cadres were identified as Aheri area ‘dalam (armed squad) commander’ Ashok Pendam aka Aaytu, (34), resident of Lingampalli in Gadchiroli, who carried a head money of INR 800,000; Sironcha ‘area assistant commander’; Sunita Kodape and ‘assistant commander’ Chandu from the Aheri area, both of whom carried rewards of INR 600,000 each; Sarita Kavande from Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, Shaila Pokur from Bhamragarh area in Gadchiroli, and Akhila Kulmethe from Aheri, each with a reward of INR 200,000 on their heads. The identity of one remaining cadre is yet to be ascertained.

On November 26, 2017, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper, identified as Manjunath Shivaligappa, was killed and another two were injured during an encounter with CPI-Maoist cadres in Gadchiroli District.

On November 24, 2017, a Policeman, Suresh Gawde, was killed and a Policewoman, Sonal Khevale, was injured, when CPI-Maoist cadres triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in a bustling market place in Gadchiroli District. On the same day, CPI-Maoist cadres hacked to death a villager, Suresh Tofa, suspecting him to be a ‘Police informer’, in Sodegaon under the Dhanora Tehsil in Gadchiroli District.

On November 21, 2017, a former CPI-Maoist supporter Sunil Pawar was shot dead at a market place at Jhadapapda, which is located around eight kilometres from Pendhri in the Dhanora Tehsil of Gadchiroli District. Two others, Sadaram Thakur and Ravindra Kusram, sustained injuries as Maoists in civil attire opened fire at them.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 23 fatalities (six civilians, three SF personnel and 14 Maoists) have so far been recorded in Gadchiroli, in Maoist-linked violence, since the beginning of 2017 (data till December 10). During the corresponding period of 2016, the same number of fatalities was recorded 23 (nine civilians, two SF personnel and 12 Maoists). Total fatalities through 2016 were 26 (12 civilians, two SF personnel and 12 Maoists).
Fatalities in Gadchiroli District: 2004*- 2017**

Year

Civilians

SFs

LWEs

Total

2004

0

0

0

0

2005

2

15

4

21

2006

13

3

34

50

2007

7

2

8

17

2008

2

5

7

14

2009

10

53

22

85

2010

21

15

3

39

2011

34

9

24

67

2012

18

14

5

37

2013

9

7

28

44

2014

9

11

10

30

2015

11

4

2

17

2016

12

2

12

26

2017

6

3

14

23

Total

154

143

173

470
Source: SATP, **Data till December 10, 2017
* Formation of CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004.

With the success achieved in the December 6, 2017, incident, SFs have further consolidated the position they had begun to secure on the ground during 2016. The kill ratio was in favour of the Maoists in 2014 and 2015, at 1.1:1 and 2:1, respectively. Strongly reversing the trend, SFs secured a ratio of 1:6 in 2016. The kill ratio stands in favour of SFs in the current year at 1:4.66.

Moreover, according to SATP data, at least 10 Maoists were arrested in Gadchiroli in 2017 (data till December 10). During the corresponding period in 2016, only one Maoist had been arrested, and no further arrest was made in the remaining period of 2016. Most recently, on June 17, 2017, SFs arrested Pawan aka Soma Phoda Weladi (35), a member of the Maoists’ Gariabandh ‘divisional committee’, carrying a reward of INR 1.6 million, in Gadchiroli District. A press release by the Superintendent of Police (SP), Gadchiroli, disclosed that Pawan had been involved in several acts of violence in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha over the past 20 years and also worked as a bodyguard for senior Naxal [Left-Wing Extremist (LWE)] leaders.

Mounting SFs pressure has led to the surrender of eight Maoists in 2017 (data till December 10) in addition to 34 such surrenders reported in the corresponding period of 2016 (no further surrender was reported in the remaining period of 2016). Significantly, on December 7, 2017, two Maoists, identified as Kamla Gavle and Nagesh Madavi, each of them carrying a reward of INR 200,000, surrendered before the Gadchiroli Police. In the interim, terming the Aatmasamarpan (surrender) scheme a successful weapon against the Naxalites, the Maharashtra Government extended the scheme for another two years, till August 28, 2019. The Naxal surrender scheme was introduced in August 29, 2005, with the aim of rehabilitating and absorbing the ultras into the mainstream of society. According to a report dated October 6, 2015, the State Government disclosed that, during the 10 years for which the program had been in place, at least 502 Maoists had given up arms and had been rehabilitated. Of those 502, at least 482 were from the Gadchiroli District alone.

In combination, these factors have impacted positively on the civilian security scenario in the District. The number of civilian fatalities, which stands at six in the current year, is the lowest recorded during the corresponding period of each of the previous years, since 2008, when there were two fatalities in this category (there were no more fatalities during the remaining period of 2008). Moreover, fatalities in this category after registering a minimal increase in 2014 and 2015, from nine to 11, declined considerably in the current year.

Located in the north-eastern part of Maharashtra, Gadchiroli is the epicenter of Maoist violence in the State. The District serves as a transit between Telangana [it shares borders with two Districts: Adilabad and Karimnagar] and Chhattisgarh [it shares borders with four District: Bijapur, Kanker, Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon], in regions that are strategically crucial for the Maoists. Gadchiroli has a 78.40 per cent forest cover, i.e. 11,694 square kilometres, out of a total area of 14,412 square kilometres, making the task of locating and sanitizing Maoists hideouts quite difficult. Inevitably, Gadchiroli is among the 35 worst Naxal-affected Districts identified by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) in 2010 across the country. The same information has been shared by the Government thereafter on several occasions. Most recently, on July 18, 2017, the Government informed the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Indian Parliament) that there are 35 most affected Districts across seven states (Gadchiroli included).

Gadchiroli also remains an extremely backward District. According to the “District Development and Diversity Index Report for India and Major States,” a joint survey conducted by the US-India Policy Institute (USIPI) and the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy (CRDDP), among the 599 Districts across India covered by the survey, Gadchiroli ranked 429th towards the bottom. The report of the survey, which took composite development — measured in terms of economic development and the indices of health, education and material well-being – into consideration, was released on January 29, 2015.

According to Maharashtra Economic Survey 2016-17, Gadchiroli with INR 6,710 per capita Gross Value Added (GVA, at constant prices), had the lowest per capita district GVA in the State, as against Mumbai, with the highest at INR 296,208, and a State average of INR 43,347.

Meanwhile, according to a May 20, 2017, report, Waman Mandavi (19), a member of the Chetna Natya Mandali (CNM), the CPI-Maoist ‘cultural wing’, who was arrested from neighboring Gondia District (Maharashtra) in the last week of April 2017, revealed that the old North Gadchiroli-Gondia-Balaghat-Rajnandgaon (NGGBR) zone/division had been converted into the Gadchiroli-Rajnandgaon-Balaghat (GRB) zone/division. This is an effort to widen Maoist presence in the whole of Gadchiroli, and not just its Northern part, as in the past, and is expected to provide an opportunity to ‘utilize’ the facilities available in strong Maoist ‘base areas’ of the bordering Districts of Chhattisgarh, such as Kanker, Narayanpur and Bijapur, falling under the Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, the epicenter of Maoist violence. The Maoists have started surveying and recruiting in the GRB zone/division. The GRB zone/division is currently headed by Darbha ‘divisional commander’ Surendra aka Madkami Soma, who has been promoted to a rank equivalent to a ‘Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee Member (DSZC). Soma is supported by Dama aka Rajesh (50) from Marum in Gadchiroli; and Santosh.

The Maharashtra Government has taken several measures to deal with the problem of backwardness prevalent in the region. Most recently, according to a December 4, 2017, report, the State Government has tied up with the United Nations (UN) to launch the Human Development Mission (HDM) in Gadchiroli District.

In a media interview on December 20, 2016, Abhinav Deshmukh, Superintendent of Police (SP), Gadchiroli, had asserted that the District could be Naxal free in five years if other departments worked as necessary: “We have controlled Naxalism considerably. It’s time for other departments to put in their efforts to fill the development backlog. Then only we can curb Naxalism.”

On the Security Front, according to an April 19, 2017, report, for better surveillance of Maoist activities, Gadchiroli District will have Closed-Circuit Television (CCTVs) in around 25 villages. These cameras would make the images of these remote places — from Kamlapur in the Aheri division to Hedri in Etapalli division — available at the local Police Station as well as at the District Police control room at Gadchiroli, more than 100 kilometers away. In the first phase, south Gadchiroli is being covered, with distant villages like Challewada, Kodselgudam, Tarigudam and some others already connected.

Further, according to a September 6, 2017, report, to boost anti-Naxal operations, the Maharashtra Government has decided to buy a new helicopter which will be used for operations in Gadchiroli and Chandrapur Districts, as well as an air ambulance. Around 12,000 Police personnel are deployed in Gadchiroli, including Commando-60 (C-60, the special anti-Maoist Force of the Maharashtra Police) units, CRPF and the Sate Reserve Police Force (SRPF).

SF successes in Gadchiroli have been dramatic, but greater efforts are required to further reinforce the gains. Any lowering of the guard would augment spaces for the Maoists to recover lost ground.

*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management


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SATP

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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