By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On May 28, 2023, Police arrested six cadres of the Tritiya Sammelan Prastuti Committee/Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TSPC/TPC), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), along with weapons, near the Donki-Hesatu-Barwahi tri-junction under Herhanj Police Station limits in the Latehar District of Jharkhand.
The arrested cadres, who had had reportedly gathered near Donki-Hesatu-Barwahi, to carry out some attacks, were identified as Mukesh Yadav (20), dent of Hotai village; Mukesh Yadav (20), resident of Titlangi village; Awadhesh Yadav (23), resident of Cherry village; Prabhat Kumar Yadav alias Afzal alias Abhishek (22), resident of Bidra village; all in the Palamu District of Jharkhand; Bhim Paswan (26), resident of Donki village; and Nandu Sharma (28), resident of Janho village, both in Latehar District. Police recovered one country made rifle, one Katta (Country-made fire arm), six live cartridges, four mobiles of different companies and one motorcycle from the possession of the arrested cadres.
On May 27, 2023, Police arrested three cadres of the TSPC/TPC, including an ‘area commander’, Chhotan Turi alias Badal, and two others, Rakesh Singh and Mohammad Takir, who were demanding ‘levy’ (extortion money) in the Tandwa coalfield area of Chatra District in Jharkhand. Police disclosed that foreign weapons, including an Italian-made pistol, an American-made pistol, a country-made pistol, 17 cartridges, and documents were recovered from the possession of the arrested cadres. Superintendent of Police (SP), Rakesh Ranjan added that, with these arrests, the Police had solved the firing incident that took place on May 6, 2023, at the Purnadih Colliery in the Piparwar Police Station area of Chatra District, in which Vinod Giri, an employee of Maithon Power, sustained injuries.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 19 TSPC/TPC cadres have been arrested in Jharkhand since the beginning of 2023 (all data till June 4). During the corresponding period of 2022, 26 cadres of TSPC/TPC were arrested. A total of 50 cadres of TSPC/TPC were arrested through 2022. Since the formation of TSPC/TPC in 2002, at least 267 cadres of the group have been arrested.
Though no TSPC/TPC cadre has been killed in the current year, three cadres of its cadres were killed during the corresponding period of 2022. TSPC/TPC suffered no further fatal loss in 2022. Since the formation of the group in 2002, a total of 70 cadres have been killed.
Security Forces (SFs) exchanged fire with TSPC/TPC cadres on at least 33 occasions since 2002, including two incidents in 2022 and five in the current year. In the latest incident, on January 29, 2023, the Jharkhand Jaguars and Ranchi Police exchanged fire with TSPC/TPC cadres in the Sumu Forest of the Budhmu area in Ranchi District, Jharkhand, following information that a TSPC/TPC squad including, Vikram Mahto, and Gurudev, both ‘zonal commanders’, and Ranjit Mahto and Vinod Mahto alias Murari, both ‘area commanders’, and others, had come to collect ‘levy’ from the brick kiln operators in the area. Though the extremists managed to escape, Police recovered 777 cartridges, seven walkie-talkies, etc., from the encounter site.
Six incidents of arms and ammunitions recovery have been reported in the current year, in addition to three such incidents reported through 2022. A total of 81 such incidents have been reported since 2002.
Mounting SF pressure against the outfit has led to the surrender of at least nine TSPC/TPC cadres since 2002. This includes one surrender in the current year.
Importantly, since its formation in 2002, TSPC/TPC has not been involved in the killing of any SF trooper.
On the other hand, the outfit has been involved in the killing of 22 civilians since its formation. However, the last TSPC/TPC-linked civilian killing was reported on March 17, 2017, when the group’s ‘zonal commander’ Anil Kushwaha alias Rakesh Mishra and 10 other cadres killed Jitendra Kharwar (18) over a delay in serving them food in the Rohtas District of Bihar.
Founded by Brajesh Ganjhu alias Sardar ji, a former CPI-Maoist cadre in Lawalong area in Chatra in 2001, and formally constituted in 2002, the TSPC/TPC found its place one among the 18 Left Wing Extremist outfits operating in Jharkhand. It is widely believed that TSPC/TPC was originally formed as a state proxy, to help neutralize the activities and influence of the dominant CPI-Maoist. This is why the group avoided confrontations with SFs and engaged with them only if no other option was available. The group, however, engaged in extortion from contractors, businessmen, government employees and any one they could lay their hands on. Coal traders in Districts including Latehar are also specifically targeted for extortion by the outfit. There have been a number of incidents in which TSPC/TPC carried out violent attacks targeting construction equipment of contractors, and against their employees, when their extortion demands were not met.
Indeed, despite continuous weakening over the years, the group has not ended its activities, and continues, mainly, targeting contractors. Some recent incidents include:
March 20, 2023: A group of 40 armed cadres of the TSPC/TPC stormed a brick kiln at Kanda village under the Bisrampur Police Station in Palamu District and took several workers hostage. Then they set ablaze at least five tractors parked on the premises. Subsequently, they freed the workers. The armed cadres had their faces covered. The attack is believed to have been an attempt at extortion.
February 13, 2023: TSPC/TPC cadres created a disturbance at the Bhim Chulha tunnel construction site between the Mohammadganj and Satbahini stations of the East Central Railways in Palamu District. They opened fire at the officials present at the construction site and set vehicles ablaze. No casualty was reported. The TSPC/TPC cadres left leaflets in the name of Nishant ji at the construction site, in which a warning had been given to stop work. It was reported that the company had not met the ‘levy’ demands of the outfit.
Following the June 29 encounter (mentioned above) Ranchi’s SP (Rural) Naushad Alam disclosed, on February 13, 2023,
It is true that the extremist organization TPC is continuously trying to attack somewhere, but the police are fully alert. This is the reason why police had five encounters with TPC within the last one month. More than one thousand cartridges have been recovered by the police. Also, many weapons have been found. Many of their members have also been arrested. A massive operation is being carried out by Jharkhand Jaguar and District Police against TPC militants. It is hoped that soon this organization will be wiped out from Ranchi.
Though the SFs have substantially incapacitated the TSPC/TPC, a residual challenge remains, as is evident from recent incidents. Moreover, two ‘regional commanders’ of TSPC/TPC, Akraman Ganjhu, carrying a reward of INR 1.5 million, and Shashikant alias Arif, carrying a reward of INR one million; two ‘zonal commanders’, Vikram Mahto, and Gurudev; and two ‘area commanders’ Ranjit Mahto and Vinod Mahto alias Murari, continue to evade arrest.
SFs are, of course continuing with their targeted operations against the surviving cadres/leaders of the outfit in their efforts to completely neutralize the threat in the state as well as in the neighbouring areas.
- Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management