By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On October 20, 2018, Security Forces (SFs) killed at least three Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres during an encounter, which ensued when SFs launched a combing operation in the Madpal Forest of Bijapur District. SFs later recovered the bodies of the slainMaoists, a .303 rifle, live rounds, a tiffin bomb, cordex detonating cord, ‘revolutionary’ literature and other material from the encounter site. A day earlier, SFs had destroyed two Maoist camps in the Indravati National Park forest area in the District.
On October 13, 2018, SFs killed one CPI-Maoist cadre and injured another at a weekly market in the Cherpal area of Bijapur District. According to reports, Maoists carried out an attack targeting SFs in the market, injuring one Police constable. One Maoist was killed in the retaliatory fire,while another sustained a bullet injury, and was later arrested.
On August 3, 2018, one CPI-Maoist cadre was killed and two Policemen received injuries in an encounter at Basaguda village in Bijapur District. Ratan Lal Dangi,Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, South Bastar Range,disclosed that around five or six Maoists opened fire at a weekly market in Basaguda in which two Policemen sustained injuries. One Maoist was shot dead in retaliatory fire by the Police.
On July 19, 2018, SFs killed at least eight CPI-Maoist cadres, including three women, during an encounter near Timinar and Pusnar villages in Bijapur District. The gun battle between the Maoists and the SFs took place while SFs were out on an anti-Maoist operation. Sundarraj P., DIG (anti-Naxal operations), disclosed that two INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifles, two .303 rifles, one 12 bore gun and a few muzzle loading guns were recovered from the encounter site.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 38 Maoists have been killed in 12separate incidents in Bijapur District in 2018 (data till October 29, 2018). During the corresponding period in 2017, 12 Maoists had been killed in 10 incidents. A total of 19 Maoist cadres were killed in the District in 14 incidents through 2017.
There were at least 33 Maoist fatalities in 17 incidents in 2016; 17 in nine incidents in 2015; 20 in 12 incidents in 2014; 11 in seven incidents in 2013; 27 in seven incidents in 2012; 14 in seven incidents in 2011; 31 in eight incidents in 2010;41 in 12 incidents in 2009;44 in 11 incidents in 2008 and 10 in four incidents in 2007. Notably, the District of Bijapur was carved out from the erstwhile Dantewada District on May 11, 2007.
With still over two months to go in 2018, the year has recorded the second highest fatalities among the Maoists, on year on year basis, recorded since 2008, when the total was 44.
There has also been an increase in the number of SF fatalities in the current year. At least 12 SF personnel have died so far in the current year. During the corresponding period of 2017, Bijapur had accounted for seven SF fatalities. There were a total of seven fatalities in this category through 2017. A maximum of 23 fatalities was reportedin this category in 2007.
SFs have improved their kill ratio in the current year,at1:3.16 in 2018 (data till October 29). SFs had secured a positive kill ratio in 2017, at1:1.71; and 2016 at 1:3.85(data till October 29 for both years), as well. The ratio remained in favour of SFs through 2016 (1:3.66) and 2017 (1:2.71). The kill ratio has remained in favour of SFs since 2012.
Further, 56 Maoists have been arrested by SFs during combing operations in Bijapur District in 2018(data till October 29), according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal.During the corresponding period in 2017, at least 37 Maoists had been arrested, as against a total of 68 through 2017.
Moreover, at least 15 Maoists have surrendered in 2018, as a result of the pressure from the SFs. During the corresponding period in 2017, 11 Maoists had surrendered. There were no more surrenders in the remaining period of 2017.
Civilian fatalities, a crucial index of the security situation in an area, have also been on a decline since 2014, and touched its lowest at three in 2017. Though there has been an increase in the number of fatalities in this category, at five,in the current year, the last of these killings was recorded on May 16, 2018, when CPI-Maoist cadres killed an employee of a construction contractor and set four construction vehicles on fire in Bijapur District.At peak in 2009, Bijapur accounted for 28 civilian fatalities.
On April 8, 2018, Chief Minister Raman Singh claimed that “frustrated Maoists” are losing influence due to joint action of the State and Central Governments, which have put the Chhattisgarh on the path of development by building roads, schools and hospitals in remote and inaccessible areas, which were earlier hotbeds of Maoist activity. He, however, admitting the reality that many Districts in Chhattisgarh remained backward, including Bijapur, Dantewada, and Sukma, adding:
Naxalism can only be countered by development. Wherever we are constructing roads and working on development, the Maoists are losing their foothold. Now, we have reached very close and are moving ahead in an important direction to root out the menace.
In the relatively backward areas of the State, including Bijapur, the fight is far from over. An overview of fatalities since Bijapur’s creation on May 11, 2007, illustrates that the District has registered at least 622 Maoist-linked fatalities, including 305 Maoists, 156 SF personnel and 161 civilians, roughly 25.89 per cent of the total of 2,402 fatalities, including 921 Maoists, 906 SF personnel and 575 civilians, recorded in Chhattisgarh during this period (data till October 29, 2018).
Bijapur falls within the troubled Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, which remains the principal challenge for the State, and is the worst affected region in the country. Bijapur is also listed among the eight worst Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected Districts in Chhattisgarh and the 30 worst-affected Districts identified by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) across the country, in 2018. On August 1, 2018, UMHAdisclosed that Bijapur, along with seven other Districts (Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Rajnandgaon and Sukma) of Chhattisgarh are among 30 Districts in seven States which are most affected byLWE violence. These 30 Districts accounted for 88 per cent of violent incidents and 94 per cent of deaths in the countryin 2017. Nonetheless, UMHAasserted that resolute implementation of the National Policy and Action Plan (NPAP) by the Central and State Governments has resulted in considerable improvement of the situation both in terms of reduction of violence and geographical spread. The number of violent incidents declined to 908 in 2017 from a high of 2,258 in 2009 across the country. The geographical spread of violence has also shrunk considerably.
On October 8, 2018, intelligence units operating in Chhattisgarh warned of heightened Maoist activity in the State, especially in Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Sukma, in the run-up to the State Assembly elections, to be held in two phases State Assembly on November 12 and November 20, 2018. Significantly, the Maoists killed at least four Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured another two in an ambush on October 27, 2018, near the CRPF’s Murdana camp under Awapalli Police Station in Bijapur District.
The State and Central Governments have taken several measures, both for the operational containment of the Maoists, as well as for the developmental and administrative improvement of insurgency afflicted regions. A further consolidation and intensification of focused and intelligence-based operations is now inevitable.
According to an August 5, 2018, report, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has taken responsibility, for the first time, to ensure the completion of a 4.5-kilometres vital stretch of an RCC (Roller Compacted Concrete) road between Bhairamgarh and Keshkutul in southern Bijapur District. Sanjay Arora, CRPF Inspector General, Chhattisgarh, on July 23, 2018, disclosed,
We picked the bid as a contractor to build the road as no private contractor was coming forward to do the task due to the fear of Naxals. The task is almost complete and only a culvert at Permapara is to be built now…. It is held up due to the ongoing heavy monsoon rains and shall be completed soon.
Significant improvements in Police capacity are also on record in the District. According to a September 18, 2018, report, two Police Stations –Bhopalpatnam and Madded –in Bijapur have been found to be in accordance with the requirements of the Quality Management System International Standards Organisation (ISO) 9001:2015 certification [maintenance of law and order, prevention & detection of crime, establishing peace and tranquillity and achieving other policing activities]. Bastar range Inspector General of Police (IGP), Vivekanand Sinha disclosed,
This is indeed a historic achievement for the Bastar police. For the first time the two Police Stations in any left-wing extremism (LWE) area in the country got the ISO certificates. The people-centric approach and the initiatives taken under the community policing to win the heart and minds of masses by the Bastar police were equally instrumental in achieving the given aim and the people-friendly policing. Gradually we will see more Police Stations with such certification.
Without doubt, the Maoists are facing a severe threat in their erstwhile strongholds, including Bijapur, as well as across Chhattisgarh and India at large.The Maoists have, however, engineered several cycles of resurgencesin the past. Sustained efforts by SFs and other State agencies will be necessary if lasting peace is to be established in Bijapur and across the State.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management