By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On September 2, 2018, at least four cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), including a Local Organization Squad (LOS) ‘commander’, were killed in an encounter with District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel in a forest near the Gumiyabeda village under Maad Police Station limits in Narayanpur District. During a subsequent search of the spot, four bodies, including one of a woman cadre, were recovered, of which two were identified; one of the these as Somlu, the Nelnar ‘area committee member (ACM)’; the other, a woman cadre, identified as Ratti, the ‘commander’ of the Jhara LOS. DRG personnel recovered four weapons, including one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle, one .303 rifle and two 12-bore guns.
On August 26, 2018, a Maoist cadre was killed in an exchange of fire between Security Forces (SFs) and the Maoists in a forest near Kalepal village under Benoor Police Station limits in Narayanpur District. Acting on information about the presence of rebels between Chinari and Kalepal villages, around 350 kilometers from State capital Raipur, a team of DRG personnel had been sent to the spot, which came under fire from the Maoists near Kalepal leading to a gun battle, Superintendent of Police (SP), Jitendra Shukla disclosed. After a brief exchange of fire, the Maoists fled and the body of Soma Vadde, a member of the CPI-Maoist’s Bayanar LOS, was recovered from the spot, along with a country-made gun.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least seven Maoists have been killed in Narayanpur District thus far in 2018 (data till September 9). During the corresponding period in 2017, 15 Maoists had been eliminated; a total of 21 Maoists fatalities were recorded through 2017. 16 Maoists fatalities were recorded in 2016, while three were registered in 2015; five in 2014; five in 2013; three in 2012; 12 in 2011; and 15 in 2010.
In addition, operations launched against the rebels have resulted in the arrest of at least 57 Maoists in Narayanpur District in 2018, thus far (data till September 9). During the corresponding period in 2017, at least 25 Maoists were arrested, and a total of 42 were arrested through 2017. Another at least 32 Maoists were arrested in 2016; there were no arrests in 2015; 73 in 2014; 34 in 2013; 14 in 2012; 43 in 2011; and 25 in 2010. Some of the significant arrests this year include: a militia ‘commander’ identified as Guddu Ram Wadde (29), carrying a reward of INR 100,000 on his head, was arrested along with four other cadres from the forests of Balebeda village in the District on July 12, 2018; and two CPI-Maoist cadres identified as Sukhram Usendi (40), who was active as head of the Aderbeda Janatana Sarkar (‘people’s government’) squad of CPI-Maoist, carrying a reward of INR 100,000 on his head, and Janila Mandavi (30), who was working as the head of the Toyameta Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Majdoor Sangathan (DAKMS), a frontal organisation of CPI-Maoist, also carrying a reward of INR 100,000 on her head, were arrested along with 14 other cadres at the villages of Musnar, Toyameta, Pugarpal and Irpanar in the Chhotedongar Police Station area in the District on June 13, 2018.
Besides, mounting SF pressure also led to the surrender of 75 Maoists in 2018 (till September 9), according to SATP data. During the corresponding period in 2017, 215 Maoists had surrendered, and a total of 218 through 2017. In the current year, importantly, on June 30, 2018, Santu Ram Vadde aka Karan (21), ‘deputy commander’ of the CPI-Maoist Dandakaranya communication team, carrying a reward of INR 500,000 on his head, surrendered before Vivekanand Sinha, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Bastar range, and officials of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), along with nine other cadres in Narayanpur District; and on April 26, 2018, Sukhraj Kawachi (22), Sannu Ram Potai (18) and Jaisu Vadda (25), all Jan Militia (‘people’s army’) ‘commanders’, surrendered before IGP, Bastar Range, Vivekanand Sinha and ITBP officials at Narayanpur Police Station along with 57 other cadres, claiming that they were frustrated with exploitation, atrocities and violence at the hands of senior Maoist leaders, and wanted to see development reach their areas.
Meanwhile, according to SATP data, at least four SF personnel were killed in Narayanpur District in 2018 (till September 9), as against a single fatality, during the corresponding period, in 2017; the same lone fatality remained through 2017. Total SF fatalities in 2017 were the lowest recorded in this category in the District. Just one fatality in this category in the District was also recorded in 2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. A high of 27 fatalities in this category was recorded in the District in 2010.
SFs have managed to secure a positive kill ratio over the Maoists, since 2011, when the SF:Maoist ratio was 1:2. In subsequent years, the ratio has been: 1:3 in 2012; 1:5 in 2013; 1:5 in 2014; 1:1.5 in 2015; 1:16 in 2016; 1:21 in 2017; and 1:1.75 in 2018 [till September 9]. The overall SF:Maoist ratio in Narayanpur, since its creation in May 11, 2007 averages out at 1:1.54.
Meanwhile, civilian fatalities, a crucial index of the security situation in an area, have dropped to just one in the current year, thus far (data till September 9, 2018). During the corresponding period in 2017, at least three civilians were killed in the District; and this remained the total number in this category through 2017. There has been a great improvement with regard to the civilian fatalities in the current year as compared to a peak of six fatalities in this category in 2007. Civilian fatalities have seen a cyclical trend in the District and the low of a single fatality was registered in the current year as well as in 2008, 2011, and 2014.Narayanpur District, one of Chhattisgarh’s 27 Districts, was created on May 11, 2007, having been carved out from the erstwhile Bastar District. This District comprises of 366 villages, and has an area of 6,640 square kilometres. Narayanpur abuts Bijapur and Dantewada Districts in the south; Bastar in the East; Kanker District in the North; and the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra in the west. Surrounded with dense forests, hills, streams, waterfalls and natural caves, the forest cover of 2,116.915 square kilometres accounts for 32.87 per cent of the Narayanpur’s total area. As a result of the difficult terrain and natural protection it offers, Narayanpur has immense ‘geo-strategic importance’ for the Maoists, and has long served as a major transit route for the rebels to cross into the Naxalite affected areas of the neighbouring State of Maharashtra, creating opportunities to orchestrate violence on both sides of the State borders.
On July 30, 2018, in an interview, DM Awasthi, Special Director General, anti-Naxal Operations, who also heads the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) dealing with Left Wing Extremist (LWE), while sharing details on the present scenario, plans and strategy, for Chhattisgarh, thus discloses;
A large swathe of the hilly and forested terrain of Abujhmaad in the Narayanpur District, which shares a border with Maharashtra, is under Maoist control. Our ultimate target is to breach this core area in Abujhmaad, which is still inaccessible to a large extent.
On the other hand, other parameters of violence suggest that the Maoists are struggling to recover in their previous area of dominance, with Maoists-related incidents recording a declining trend. The Maoists were involved in at least nine incidents of exchange of fire with SFs in 2018, as compared to 10 such incidents over the same period in 2017. Through 2017 the number totalled 12 such incidents. The Maoists engineered one incident of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the current year, and one in the same period of 2017. However, there were three such incidents through 2017. SFs recovered arms on at least three occasions in 2018, whereas, at least seven incidents of recovery of arms are on record in the corresponding period of 2017; a total of eight such incidents were recorded through 2017.
The Maoists also were involved in incidents of arson on at least three occasions in 2017, and damaged at least one under-construction primary school in 2017. No such incidents have been recorded in the current year.
To fight the Maoists through development programmes in the region, Chief Minister Raman Singh announced during his visit to Narayanpur District on May 14, 2018, that a District and Sessions Court would soon be opened in Narayanpur. In addition, other developmental initiatives announced include:
- Sanction of INR Five million for Ambedkar Park;
- Permission for widening of three kilometres long main road of Narayanpur District headquarters and starting of bus service from capital city Raipur to Orchha (Abujhmaad);
- Laying of the foundation stone for 77 different development and construction works worth nearly INR 2.2334 billion for development of the District;
- Laying of the foundation of 175 kilometre-long roads worth nearly INR 900 million under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) scheme;
- Kendriya Vidyalaya building in the District;
- Livelihood College building in Orchha block headquarters;
- Power sub-station of 33 KV capacity at Nelvada;
- Power sub-station of 33/11 KV capacity in Akabeda and Orchha.
- Building of Orchha Tehsil (revenue district) Office and Girls Hostel.
Narayanpur, along with seven other Districts (Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada, Kanker, Kondagaon, Rajnandgaon and Sukma) of Chhattisgarh, are worst Maoist-afflicted Districts, and are listed among the 30 Districts across seven States which the worst affected by LWE violence. These 30 Districts accounted for 88 per cent to all violent incidents and 94 per cent to all Maoist-linked deaths in 2017, according to the Union Home Ministry (UHM) on August 1, 2018. UHM further disclosed;
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 the geographical spread. The number of violent incidents has come down to 908 in 2017 from a high of 2,258 in 2009. The geographical spread of violence has also shrunk considerably.
The Maoists are taking a beating in the State and across the country. It is imperative at this juncture, that the Maoist heartland areas of Abujhmaad in Narayanpur and beyond, have to be brought under control through augmenting SF pressure on the rebels, and effective, time-bound implementation of the developmental policies by the both the State and Union Governments.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management