By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On November 22, 2021, armed squad of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) blew up the Government Panchayat (village level local-self-Government institution) building located in Judahi under the South Umanga Panchayat of Aurangabad District. The Maoists also blew up a mobile tower located in the vicinity. The rebels put spikes on the roads leading to the spot, to delay Police and other vehicles reaching the location. Some 60 to 65 Maoists had crossed a canal to reached Judahi village and first abducted four or five villagers and forcibly took them across the canal. The Maoists also assaulted some people, giving them a clear warning that they should go to their homes quietly. For about half an hour, the Maoists roamed about the village and pasted posters. After all the villagers had gone into their respective homes, the Maoists first blew up the Panchayat building and then started searching for the guard of mobile the tower. The guard remained hidden in his house, but the tower was set on fire. Eventually the Maoists left, shouting slogans, ‘Lal Salaam Zindabad’, ‘Jo hamse takrayega Choor Choor Ho Jayega.’
On November 13, 2021, about 25 CPI-Maoist cadres killed at least four persons of a family, including two women, and later hung their bodies in a cowshed in Manubar village under the Dumaria Police Station limits of Gaya District. The incident occurred barely 100 metres away from a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Chakarbandha. The Maoists shot dead the villagers after holding a ‘Jan Adalat’ (a kangaroo court) in which they branded the deceased as ‘Police informers.’ The Maoists also blew up their houses with dynamite and set a motorcycle on fire. A note posted on the wall of the house accused the family of being responsible for the death of four Maoists who were killed on March 16, 2021. Manas, the CPI-Maoist spokesperson for Bihar, Jharkhand, North Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh (BJNCUP) Simant Regional Committee, declared, in a press statement,
We do not remorse (sic) the loss of lives if the supreme sacrifice is made in war field, but they were killed by betrayal in cold blood which warranted revenge. We have avenged the betrayal and this would be the fate of anyone who backstabs our men.
On March 16, 2021, four CPI-Maoist cadres, identified as ‘zonal commander’ Amresh Singh aka Tuntun Bhokta (Gaya), and ‘sub-zonal commander’ Shivpujan Yadav aka Pramod, Uday Paswan and Sita Bhuiyan (all three from Aurangabad District), were killed in an exchange of fire with the Security Forces (SFs) in the forests of Manubar village under Dumaria Police Station limits in Gaya District.
On August 25, 2021, around 10 to 15 armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist killed two members of a family, identified as Chatur aka Chapoy Hembram (60) and his son Arjun Hembram (28), at Bajnor Tola in the Chakai Police Station area in Jamui District. They were brutally assaulted with wooden sticks before being gunned down. The Maoists first held a ‘jan adalat’ in which they accused the deceased of being ‘Police informers’.
According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 26 Maoist-linked incidents have been recorded in the ‘Axis region’ of Bihar, covering Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Lakhisarai and Munger Districts, in the current year (data till December 5, 2021). In the corresponding period of 2020, there were 34 such incidents. Through 2020, the region accounted for 39 such incidents. There have been 1,086 such incidents in the region since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-related incidents in India.
Of 26 Maoist-linked incidents in 2021, five were incidents of killing, which resulted in 12 fatalities, including six civilians and six Maoists (data till December 5, 2021). In the corresponding period of 2020, there were four incidents of killing, resulting in eight fatalities (seven civilians and one Maoist). There were no further incidents of killing in 2020. Since March 6, 2000, the ‘Axis region’ has recorded 586 fatalities (266 civilians, 170 SF personnel, 124 Maoists, and 26 Not Specified) in 248 incidents of killing.
Between March 6, 2000 and December 5, 2021, Bihar has recorded a total of 1,180 fatalities (495 civilians, 271 SF personnel, 326 Maoists, and 88 Not Specified) in 456 incidents of killing. Thus, the ‘Axis region’ accounted for 49.66 per cent of the total fatalities in such violence in the State, since March 6, 2000. It accounted for 100 per cent of the overall fatalities in Bihar in 2021 (12 of 12). Prior to 2021, the region last accounted for 100 per cent of total fatalities in the State in 2016 (36 of 36). Since then, however, the region accounted for 91.66 per cent of total fatalities in the State in 2017, 92.85 per cent in 2018, 90.47 per cent in 2019, and 53.33 per cent in 2020.
Moreover, this region accounted for 53.73 per cent of total civilian fatalities recorded in the State (266 out of 495 fatalities) since March 6, 2000. In 2021, the region has accounted all six of six civilian fatalities recorded in the State.
Despite recent losses, the overall SF:Maoist kill ratio in the ‘Axis region’, since March 6, 2000, remains in favour of the Maoists at 1.37:1. However, during the same period, when the whole of Bihar is taken into consideration, the ratio favours the SFs at 1:1.20.
Moreover, five of these six Districts, with the exception of Lakhisarai, share borders with Maoist-affected Jharkhand, which is considered a ‘safe zone’ of the Maoist rebels due to its topography, thus adding to their susceptibility.
Indeed, three of these six Districts (Gaya, Jamui and Lakhisarai) are listed among the ‘25 Most (LWE) Affected Districts’ in eight States of the country, and Aurangabad has been classified as a ‘District of Concern’. The new category of the ‘Districts of Concern’ has been added to counter Naxal [left Wing Extremism] spread to new areas and to prevent any resurgence in areas where CPI-Maoist-led violence is waning. The move has been taken to address resource gaps and consolidate gains in these areas.
Meanwhile, the six most affected Districts – Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Lakhisarai and Munger – along with four others – Banka, Kaimur, Rohtas and West Champaran – find place in the list of the 70 districts to be covered across the country under the ‘Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme’ that funds focused operations against Left-Wing Extremists.
Further, four of these six Districts – Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Nawada – are among the most underdeveloped areas of the State and are listed among the ‘101 Aspirational Districts’ across the country, included in the ‘Aspirational Districts Programme’. Health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, skill development and basic infrastructure are the developmental parameters that were taken into consideration for the ranking. The ‘Aspirational Districts Programme’, was launched in January 2018, and aims to transform districts that have shown relatively poor progress in key social areas.
The ‘Axis region; remains the ‘epicentre’ of Maoist violence in Bihar. However, overall Maoist violence in the State has declined dramatically. Bihar recorded a total of 12 fatalities (six civilians and six Maoists) in five incidents of killing in the current year, thus far (data till December 5, 2021). In the corresponding period of 2020, there were six incidents of killing and 15 fatalities (10 civilians and five Maoists), with no further such incident in the remaining period of 2020. Since March 6, 2000, the State has recorded 1,180 fatalities (495 civilians, 271 SF personnel, 326 Maoists, and 88 Not Specified) in 456 incidents of killing. The last SF fatality in the ‘Axis region’ was reported on February 14, 2019, when a trooper was killed in a landmine blast in the Langurahi Forest of Gaya District.
Since March 6, 2000, SFs have arrested at least 1,056 Maoists in the ‘Axis’ region, and mounting pressure resulted in the surrender of another 49 (data till December 5, 2021).
Indeed, according to a July 29, 2021, report, ADG (Operations) Sushil Mansingh Khopde disclosed that armed Maoist cadres were only concentrated in the hills of Chakarbandha on the Gaya-Aurangabad border near Jharkhand and in the hilly areas of Jamui and Lakhisarai-Munger. Their combined strength in the area was estimated at about 100.
The Maoists, meanwhile, continue to make efforts to revive their movement – both through violent operations and strategic programmes. According to a September 1, 2021, report, the Maoists pasted posters demanding reduction in bus fares. The posters also urged the Bihar Government to bring down the State component of fuel taxes to reduce their prices. These demands are expected to garner the support of the common man.
The Maoists are fighting for their existence in their erstwhile areas of influence and command, and have suffered major reverses. Sustained efforts of the State’s Police machinery will curtail and contain the Maoist menace, creating the possibilities of an enduring peace in the ‘Axis region,’ specifically, and the State at large.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management