ISSN 2330-717X

India: Diminishing Spell Of Maoists – Analysis

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By Deepak Kumar Nayak*

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On April 6, 2022, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres killed a former militia (Maoist People’s Army) member, identified as Korra Laxman, in the Bongajangi village under Pedabayalu Mandal (administrative sub division) in the Alluri Sitharama Raju District of Andhra Pradesh. Laxman had surrendered to the Police in 2018 and subsequently joined the mainstream.

On March 28, 2022, suspected Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists] shot dead the wife and three-year-old daughter of a former ‘commander’ of the Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a CPI-Maoist splinter group, identified as Amarjit Lakra aka Ashok, near Kanchan More in the Janawal village under Chainpur Police Station limits in the Gumla District of Jharkhand. Though Amarjit, who was injured in the attack, managed to escape along with his five-year-old son, he was later arrested by the Police along with weapons, including AK-56 rifles, from his house.

On March 27, 2022, suspected CPI-Maoist cadres killed Constable Lakheshwar Nag with a sharp weapon in Bodaras village under the Kukanar Police Station limits in Sukma District, Chhattisgarh.

On March 26, 2022, three cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a CPI-Maoist splinter group, were shot dead by Security Forces (SFs) in a forest area under the Manika Police Station area in the Latehar District of Jharkhand. The identity of the slain cadres is yet to be ascertained.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 49 persons have been killed in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence across the country in 2022, thus far (data till April 10). These included 19 civilians, seven Security Force (SF) personnel and 23 Naxalites. During the corresponding period of 2021, there were 83 such fatalities (18 civilians, 39 SF personnel and 26 Naxalites). There was a total of 237 fatalities in 2021, as against 239 fatalities recorded in 2020. Overall fatalities have been declining since 2019, when they fell to 302, from 412 in 2018. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on LWEs, a high of 1,180 fatalities were recorded in 2010.

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The 2019 – 2021 period, more importantly, has seen a continuous decline in civilian fatalities, from 108 in 2018; 99 in 2019; 61 in 2020; and 58 in 2021. The 2021 fatalities were the lowest in this category since March 6, 2000. The previous low was the 2020 figure of 61. A high of 630 civilian fatalities was recorded in 2010.

Though SF fatalities increased marginally from 44 in 2020 to 51 in 2021, the SF:Naxalite kill ratio remained quite strongly in favour of the SFs at 1:2.5, with 128 Naxalites killed. In 2020, the kill ratio was 1:3.04 (44 SF personnel, 134 Naxalites). The 2019 ratio was at 1:3.14 (49 SF personnel, 154 Naxalites. The ratio has remained continuously in favour of the SFs since 2011. In 2010, the ratio marginally favored the Naxalites at 1.007:1 (267 SF personnel, 265 Naxalites). Prior to 2010, the ratio had been in the Naxalites’ favour twice: in 2009 and 2007.

The SFs also arrested 409 Maoists in 2021, adding to 276 arrested in 2020. In the current year, as on April 10, 2022, the number of arrests stood at 88. Since March 6, 2000, a total of 15,564 Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) have been arrested. The mounting pressure on the Naxalites has also resulted in a large number of surrenders over the past few years. According to the SATP database, at least 533 Naxalites surrendered through 2021, in addition to 352 in 2020. During the current year, as on April 10, 2022, the number of surrenders had already touched 138. Since March 6, 2000, at least 13,767 Naxalites have surrendered.

At least 268 incidents of arms and ammunition recoveries from Naxalites were reported in 2021, adding to 217 such incidents in 2020. During the current year, as on April 10, 2022, 46 such incidents had already been recorded. Since March 6, 2000, at least 4,492 recoveries are on record.

These trends clearly indicate that SFs have established an upper hand on the ground in the fight against the Naxalites. Other parameters of violence provide further corroboration:

Overall incidents of killing fell from 138 in 2020 to 124 in 2021; major attacks (each involving three or more fatalities) declined from 16 in 2020 to 15 in 2021. Of the 15 major incidents in 2021, 10 were initiated by SFs, resulting in the death of 73 Naxalites. LWEs initiated five incidents, resulting in the killing of 41 persons – 30 SF personnel, seven civilians, and four Maoists. The Maoists had initiated seven of 16 such incidents in 2020, resulting in 64 deaths: nine civilians, 21 SF personnel and 34 Naxalites.

Maoist activities were reported from 79 Districts in 11 States in 2021, as against 77 Districts in 10 States in 2020. Meanwhile, such activities have already been recorded in 18 Districts of seven States in 2022, thus far (data till April 10). In 2021, incidents of killing were reported from 33 Districts in eight States, as against 36 Districts in nine States in 2020. Meanwhile, incidents 37 incidents of killing have already been recorded from 18 Districts in seven States in 2022, thus far (data till April 11).

Nityanand Rai, Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) on April 5, 2022, stated,

Incidents of LWE violence have reduced by 77 percent from all time high of 2,258 in 2009 to 509 in 2021. Similarly, resultant deaths (Civilians+ Security Forces) have reduced by 85 percent from all time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 147 in 2021. The number of Districts reporting LWE violence has also reduced by 48 percent [this should be 52.08 per cent according to the Government’s own data] from 96 in 2010 to 46 in 2021.

In the meantime, in a major setback to the CPI-Maoist’s plan to expand their base in Assam in general, and in the Northeast in particular, the Assam Police, on March 6, 2022, arrested the Maoist’s ‘central committee’ member, Arun Kumar Bhattachatjee aka Jyotish aka Kabir aka Kanak aka Kanchan da, along with his associate Akash Orang aka Kakjal Orang aka Bablu aka Babul aka Saqay aka Sumon, who is a member of Assam State Organizing Committee of Maoist, from the Patimara Tea Garden under Udarband Police Station limits in the Cachar District of Assam. During a subsequent search, an amount of INR 360,000 in cash and incriminating documents connected with the Maoists, were seized. An FIR against six persons – Kanchan da, from Howrah, West Bengal; Akash Orang and Rima Orang, both from Cachar District, Assam; Amiruddin Laskar of Dhubri District, Assam; Nirmala Devi of West Bengal and Joy of Kamrup District – were registered on the same day. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the case on March 16, 2022, conducted searches at 17 locations in Assam in Cachar, Karimganj, Dibrugarh and Dhubri Districts on April 3, 2022, and arrested one absconding accused, Reema Orang from Dibrugarh District. According to the investigation so far, “there has been a lot of funds flow from the Eastern Regional Bureau to further their activities in Assam and… Kanchan da… has been assigned the task to take the command of CPI (Maoist) Assam and Northern Eastern Region.” Guwahati (Assam) Police Commissioner, Harmeet Singh, noted,

He [Arun Kumar Bhattacharjee] is a big catch… Efforts to set up a network of Maoist cadres in Assam were at a ‘nascent stage’ and those had been ‘nipped in the bud’.

Despite facing an increasingly hostile environment, the Maoists continue to make efforts to stage a comeback, constantly evolving new strategies and looking for new fighting equipment.

Maoists have started using arrow-Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) while launching attacks on SFs. On April 4, 2022, Maoists used an arrow-IED while launching an attack on an under-construction Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Bharnia under the Toklo thana (Police Station) limits in the West Singhbhum District of Jharkhand. SF personnel seized five arrow IEDs from nearby areas. Elaborating on the new explosive device, Superintendent of Police Ajay Linda stated that the Maoists rarely used such devices:

An arrow IED is shot from a bow and meant to cause huge fire at any infrastructure. Such device is made of explosives of very low intensity and has a range of maximum 100 metres.

However, Linda also pointed out that the Maoists had failed to inflict any significant harm at the under-construction camp with the arrow-IED, as they had remained at a greater distance than was necessary to effectively target the camp.

Meanwhile, according to the latest data made available by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), as on January 1, 2020, none of the Maoist-affected States had achieved its sanctioned Police strength. For instance, Chhattisgarh, the worst LWE-affected State in terms of fatalities in 2021, had a police-population-ratio (policemen per hundred thousand population) of 220.53, against the sanctioned strength of 261.38. At the bottom end among Maoist affected States, Bihar had a ratio of 76.20, as against a sanction of a low 115.26. Similarly, the Police-area ratio (policemen per 100 square kilometers) remains poor. However, among the Maoist affected States, Bihar had the best Police-area ratio at 97.56 (though much lower than the sanctioned strength of 147.57), while Andhra Pradesh had the worst, at 36.55 (against the sanctioned strength of 45.36). More disturbingly, there is an acute shortage at the level of the Police leadership. Among Maoist-affected states, Odisha, had 123 Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in position, as against the sanctioned strength of 195 – a deficit of 36.92 per cent; followed by Kerala, with a deficit of 26.74 per cent; Telangana, 24.46 per cent; Andhra Pradesh, 20.13 per cent; Chhattisgarh, 19.71 per cent; Jharkhand, 18.79 per cent; Maharashtra, 18.29 per cent; Karnataka, 17.20 per cent; West Bengal, 15.85 per cent; Madhya Pradesh, 14.42 per cent; Tamil Nadu, 14.13 per cent; and Bihar, 10.33 per cent.

It is undeniable that the Maoist insurgency across the country has been successfully overwhelmed with strong action by Central and State Police Forces on the ground. It is imperative, however, that remaining pockets of activity should also be contained and that existing deficits in the fighting force, particularly the State Police, be urgently addressed – both in terms of quality and the quantity, so that SFs are able to further consolidate their operations on the ground. The Maoists have demonstrated their intent to fight to the end, and sustained action is necessary to prevent any regrouping on their part.

*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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