By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On July 6, 2018, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed a civilian, identified as Raiju Wadde, accusing him of being a ‘police informer’, at Tiralgarh village under the Bande Police Station area in the Kanker District of Chhattisgarh. Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Jaiprakash Badhai disclosed that CPI-Maoist cadres raided Wadde’s house, dragged him out on to the streets and assaulted him. Subsequently, the Maoist conducted a ‘jan adalat’ (people’s/ praja/ kangaroo court) in the village and shot Wadde dead.
On June 28, 2018, cadres of the CPI-Maoist killed a civilian, identified as Sukra Muduli, suspecting him to be a ‘police informer’, at Jantri village in the “cut-off” region of Chitrakonda in Malkangiri District in Odisha. CPI-Maoist cadres conducted a ‘jan adalat’ in the village and killed Muduli. Earlier, the Maoists had warned Muduli to stop working for the Police and had given him a death threat.
On June 20, 2018, CPI-Maoist cadres killed a civilian identified as Hirachand Yadav aka Bogga, slitting his throat at Useli village under Ambeda Police Station limits in the Kanker District of Chhattisgarh. Hirachand and his brother Bhujanlal Yadav were both produced in a ‘jan adalat’ at the village weekly bazaar (market). Nearly 50 CPI-Maoist cadres were present during the ‘jan adalat’. A Maoist poster recovered by the Police alleged that Hirachand was working as a ‘police informer’ and was poisoning food to kill Maoists.
On May 27, 2018, a 25-year-old villager was abducted and beaten to death by CPI-Maoist cadres in a forest area under Kuakonda Police Station limits in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. Budhram Podiyam, the victim, along with some other villagers, was abducted from Budarikarka village under Kuakonda Police Station in Dantewada District, and was beaten to death after Maoists held a ‘jan adalat’ in a nearby forest. The other villagers, who were assaulted and then set free, told Police that Podiyam was killed as Maoists had accused him of being a ‘police informer’.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, the Maoists have executed at least nine civilians, branding them ‘police informer’, in nine ‘jan adalats’ (six held in Chhattisgarh and three in Odisha), so far in 2018 (all data till July 8, 2018). Meanwhile, at least 64 civilians have been killed in Naxal (Left Wing Extremism, LWE)-related incidents this year across the country, out of which 39 were accused of being ‘police informers’.
In the corresponding period of 2017, at least one civilian was executed in four ‘jan adalats’ (one held each in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand; and two in Odisha) as a ‘police informer’. In the remaining period of 2017, another three civilians were executed in seven ‘jan adalats’ (two in Chhattisgarh and five in Odisha). A total of 109 civilians were killed in Naxal-related incidents across the country through 2017, of which 59 were accused of being ‘police informers’.
In order to create terror among civilians in the Naxal affected areas, the Naxalites (Left Wing Extremists), in their ‘jan adalats’ also called ‘praja courts’, execute various sentences against civilians allegedly loyal to the State or who do not subscribe to their ideology in areas of Maoist dominance. According to partial data compiled by SATP, since September 21, 2004, at least 97 such ‘jan adalats’ have been held by LWE cadres in eight Naxal affected States: Andhra Pradesh (eight), Bihar (12), Chhattisgarh (24), Jharkhand (16), Madhya Pradesh (one), Maharashtra (one), Odisha (26) and West Bengal (nine).
Worryingly, the number of such ‘jan adalats’ increased to nine in the current year 2018 (data till July 8, 2018) as compared to four in the corresponding period of 2017. However, there were 11 such ‘jan adalats’ through 2017. Persons killed due to ‘jan adalat’ directives have also increased to eight this year, as compared to one in the corresponding period of 2017. The number of persons killed due to ‘jan adalat’ directives stood at four through 2017.
Meanwhile, a total of 677 alleged ‘Police informers’ have been killed by the Maoists since the formation of the group in September 21, 2004.
A cursory look at the table indicates that since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, Odisha has registered at least 151 fatalities of civilians branded as ‘police informer’, and is ranked 1st among a total of 11 States where such fatalities have been recorded over this period. Chhattisgarh, with 145 such fatalities ranked 2nd; Jharkhand with 126, ranked 3rd; Andhra Pradesh with 86 ranked 4th; Maharashtra with 72 ranked 5th; West Bengal with 53 ranked 6th; Bihar with 34 ranked 7th; Telangana with five ranked 8th; Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh with two each, ranked 9th; and Karnataka with one such fatality ranked 10th.
Overall fatalities indicate that the civilian population is safer today than was the case a few years ago. In terms of civilian fatalities, Maoist violence in the country peaked in 2010, when 626 civilians were killed. In 2015, till July 8, a low of 48 fatalities in this category was recorded, going up to 93 through the whole of 2015. There was a spike in 2016 with 123 civilian fatalities. Civilian fatalities declined to 109 in 2017. 64 fatalities have been recorded in this category in the current year, thus far (data till July 8).
The declining trend in civilian fatalities is also confirmed by the data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA). UMHA data indicates that 524 civilian fatalities were recorded in 2005, rising to 720 in 2010. Thereafter, 469 civilians were killed in 2011; 301 in 2012; 282 in 2013; 222 in 2014; and 171 in 2015. Civilian fatalities rose to 213 in 2016, to decline again to 188 in 2017; and 66 in the current year, up to May 15.
With the Maoists losing ground across all their areas of erstwhile dominance and activity, the killing of alleged ‘police informers’ is likely to continue or even increase. A strong operational response by the SFs, and measures to enhance protection to civilians, will be needed as the Maoists weaken further.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management