By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On May 21, 2017, seven cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), were killed in an exchange of fire between two of its own factions in the Keredari area of Hazaribagh District. Three of the slain cadres were identified as TPC ‘zonal commander’ Sagar Ganzu, ‘area commander’ Manish Mahato and ‘commander’ Jhonson. One severed head recovered from the spot is yet to be identified. The remaining three bodies were taken away by the rebels. The Police team recovered some empty cartridges, Naxal [Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)] uniforms, a blood-stained carpet and other items from the spot. Bhimsen Tuti, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), North Chhotanagpur Division, disclosed that the group fought following a dispute on the sharing of money extorted from construction companies.
On April 17, 2017, a villager, Shiv Nath Yadav (55), and his son, Guddu Yadav (28), were killed by over 20 armed CPI-Maoist cadres at village Kulheya under Harihurganj Police Station in Palamu District. The two were suspected by CPI-Maoist cadres to be TPC supporters.
On March 24, 2017, three TPC cadres were killed in an internecine clash at Seeta Chuan under the Mohammadganj Police Station in Palamau District. One of the dead was identified as ‘zonal commander’ Ajay Yadav, carried a reward of INR 500,000 on his head. The other two were identified as ‘area commanders’ Krishna Kharwar and Ravindra Mahto. Police recovered one AK-47 rifle, one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle, one semi automatic rifle, one .303 rifle, along with 630 live bullets, 23 magazines, 11 cell phones, several Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 50 meters of Codex wire, and six back packs.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), out of a total of 15 LWEs killed during the current year, at least 13 were killed in fratricidal incidents (data till May 28, 2017). During the corresponding period of 2016, out of a total of 14 LWEs killed, at least six deaths occurred in such incidents. Through 2016, fratricidal incidents were responsible for 18 out of a total of 40 LWE cadre deaths.
Indeed, since 2010 in Jharkhand fratricidal killings have been a major trend. Out of a total of 309 LWE fatalities, at least 133 were killed in such incidents, a staggering 43.04 per cent. More worryingly, the number of such killings witnessed a surge in 2016, even as the overall percentage also increased – accounting for 29.72 per cent in 2015, 45.0 per cent in 2016, and 86.66 per cent in 2017 (data till May 28).
These internecine clashes have also affected the overall LWE situation in the State. According to the SATP database, there were a total of 35 deaths [18 civilians, two Security Force (SF) personnel, and 15 LWEs] in LWE-violence related deaths in the current year, as compared to 33 (nine civilians, seven SF personnel, and 17 LWEs) during the corresponding period of the previous year. Overall fatalities in such violence stood at 81 (31 civilians, 10 SF personnel, and 40 LWEs) through 2016, as compared to 58 (16 civilians, five SF personnel, and 37 LWEs) in 2015, an increase of 39.65 per cent.
Significantly, civilian fatalities, which had declined considerably from 48 in 2014 to an all time low of 16 in 2015, almost doubled and at 31 in 2016. During the first four months and 26 days of the current year, the State has already recorded 18 civilian deaths in such violence. Significantly, splinter groups of the CPI-Maoist have been responsible for the larger proportion of this increase, rather than the parent formation. While all 16 civilians’ fatalities were inflicted by CPI-Maoist cadres in 2015, splinter groups were responsible for 18 of 31 civilian deaths recorded in 2016, while 13 were killed by CPI-Maoist cadres. In the current year, splinter groups have already killed five of the 18 civilian victims of such violence.
Civilians killed by CPI-Maoist (1)
Civilians killed by splinter groups (2)
Total Civilians killed by LWEs (1+2)4
Source: SATP, *Data till May 28, 2017.
Moreover, out of 18 major incidents (each involving three or more killings) of civilian killings recorded in the State since 2010, splinter groups have been responsible for at least seven. The most prominent among those included:
September 26, 2016: Three persons were killed and four were injured when People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI, a CPI-Maoist splinter) cadres, opened random fire at a gathering in a village in Khunti District.
March 17, 2016: At least four persons working on a road construction site were killed allegedly by PLFI cadres in a village under the Basia Police Station limits of Gumla District.
November 3, 2014: Suspected PLFI cadres gunned down seven persons, reportedly members of Shanti Sena, a local outfit formed to maintain peace and brotherhood in Gumla District.
May 16, 2011: Four persons of a family were killed by PLFI cadres at Dakeya village in Okba panchayat (village level local self government institution) under Basia Police Station in Gumla District. The PLFI cadres tied their hands and took them to Karisokra Forest where their throats were slit.
There are around 19 LWE groups operating in the State, including CPI-Maoist, PLFI, TPC, Tritiya Prastuti Committee-1 (TPC-1), a breakaway group of TPC, Jharkhand Janmukti Parishad (JJMP), Jharkhand Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (JSJMM), and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). PLFI is among the largest splinter groups of CPI-Maoist in Jharkhand. A group of dissidents claimed that the Maoists were unfair to cadres, and had parted ways to form the PLFI in 2006. Likewise, TPC was formed in 2002 after a number of CPI-Maoist cadres had walked out of their parent outfit complaining of the domination of the Yadav caste in the decision-making process of CPI-Maoist.
Among all these splinter groups PLFI is the biggest threat. Indeed, subsequent to the encounter on November 29, 2016, in which the founder and chief of PLFI, Dinesh Gope, was injured on Pangur-Bintuka road in Simdega District, Superintendent of Police (SP), Rajiv Ranjan Singh, on December 1, 2016, observed, “PLFI is one among the last LWE groups active in the region and the Tuesday (November 29, 2016) encounter comes as a huge blow to their morale here (in Simdega).”
At a time when LWE violence in the State is witnessing a surge, with the major group, CPI-Maoist, also escalating activities, the menace of splinter groups and the resultant turf-war are alarming. Meanwhile, in a major blow to the CPI-Maoist, on May 14, 2017, the group’s Jharkhand ‘regional committee secretary’, Kundan Pahan, surrendered before the Police in Ranchi District. Pahan carried a reward of INR 1.5 million on his head and was facing a total of 128 cases.
State Chief Minister Raghubar Das called for more sharing of intelligence among LWE-affected States at the meeting between the Centre and the States affected by Left-Wing Extremism in New Delhi on May 8, 2017. Detailing the challenges before Jharkhand, Das further noted that the Government had mounted pressure on the Maoists and their splinter proliferating splinters. This is an objective that must be sustained with continuous operational pressures to ensure that Jharkhand, for along among the worst LWE afflicted States, does not see a resurgence of Maoist violence and the vicious trend of extortion and criminality by proliferating splinter formations.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
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