By Indrajit Sharma*
On December 29, 2019, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed two civilians in two separate incidents after branding them as ‘police informers’ in the Lakhisarai District of Bihar. In one incident, the Maoists abducted Mughal Koda (50) from Baskund village under Chanan Police Station limits and shot him dead. In the second incident, Maoists abducted one Sanjay Koda (30) from Gobardaha village under the same Police Station limits and subsequently shot him dead. Maoist pamphlets recovered from both the incident sites warned local residents that they would meet the same fate if they dared to leak information about rebel activities to the Police.
On November 7, 2019, CPI-Maoist cadres killed a man, identified as Sunil Paswan (30), a resident of Pasiya Bhandari village under the Deo Police Station limits in Aurangabad District, again accusing him of being a ‘police informer’.
On October 12, 2019, Maoists killed one person, identified as Gorelal Koda (40), in Lethia Balchand village under the Piri Bazar Police Station limits in Lakhisarai District.
Disturbingly, the State has not been able to contain civilian fatalities, a key index of security in an area/region, as the year 2019 witnessed a surge in fatalities in this category. Civilian fatalities through 2019 stood at 13, compared to nine through 2018. After recording increases in two consecutive years – 2016 and 2017 – civilian fatalities in the State had declined in 2018.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Bihar recorded 21 fatalities, including 13 civilians, one Security Force (SF) trooper, and seven Maoists in 2019. There was a total of 14 fatalities, including nine civilians, three SF personnel, and two Maoists in 2018. Thus, a surge of 50 per cent was registered in terms of overall fatalities. The incidents of killing also increased from 12 in 2018 to 17 in 2019, i.e. an increase of 41.66 per cent. Moreover, fatalities were reported from seven Districts of the State in 2019 as against five in 2018.
Analysis of some other parameters of Maoist-linked violence in the State indicates a marginal increase in 2019 as compared to 2018. According to SATP, the number of explosions carried out by the rebels increased from two in 2018 to three in 2019. Incidents of arson increased from three in 2018 to four in 2019. The number of exchanges of fire between SFs and the Maoists increased from four in 2018 to five in 2019.
On the positive side, in the fight between SFs and Maoists, the SFs achieved a positive kill ratio of 1:7 in 2019 as against an adverse ratio of 1.5:1 in 2018. The overall kill ratio since March 6, 2000, favours the SFs, at 1:1.16. SFs arrested another 50 Maoists in 2019, including three ‘commanders’, in 36 incidents of arrest in 2019, in addition to 101 Maoists, including 13 ‘commanders’, in 55 such incidents in 2018. Further, mounting SF pressure resulted in the surrender of seven Maoists, including two ‘commanders’, in 2019, in addition to four, including one ‘commander’ in 2018.
Overall Maoist-linked incidents reduced from 81 in 2018 to 64 in 2019 and the geographical reach of Maoist-linked activities contracted from 15 Districts in 2018 to 13 in 2019.
Nevertheless, worries persist. Out of the State’s 38 Districts, 16 [Arwal, Aurangabad, Banka, East Champaran, Gaya, Jamui, Jehanabad, Kaimur, Lakhisarai, Munger, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Nawada, Rohtas, Vaishali, West Champaran] find place among the 90 Districts in 11 States listed as Left Wing Extremism [LWE]-affected by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on February 5, 2019.
At this juncture the Government, both at the Center and the State need to work in tandem. Regrettably, however, there seems to have been a lack of coordination in the approach to deal with the menace.
On August 26, 2019, Union Home Minister (UHM) Amit Shah, while reviewing the security situation in 10 LWE-affected States in New Delhi, stated that LWE cannot be eradicated without the vigilance and efficiency of the local Police, as well as the States’ use of central schemes and their own budgets for Police modernisation.
Flagging concerns, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, during the same meeting asserted that the “fight against LWE is a joint responsibility of Centre and State and therefore, the financial burden should also be shared by both.” He further warned, “stoppage of funding for Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS)” by the UMHA will “adversely affect the ongoing development work in the LWE-affected Districts,” and urged that the scheme should continue. No information about the current status of the implementation of SIS is available in open sources.
Much earlier, according to a May 5, 2019, report, the UMHA had proposed the withdrawal of two battalions of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) deployed in LWE affected areas in Bihar. Reacting to the proposal, the Bihar Government had observed,
The area covering the Districts – Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Bhojpur and Arwal on both sides of the border is highly inaccessible, hilly and covered with forests. As a result, CPI-Maoist remains a formidable threat along the Gaya-Aurangabad axis in southern Bihar and along the Jamui-Munger-Banka-Lakhisarai axis. Operations for area domination, cordon and search against extremists always require more boost on the ground. There is requirement of matching forces on this side of the border to counter influx of Naxalites from the areas of Jharkhand and to effectively combat them. This is possible only by filling the gaps in the existing deployment of security forces.
Meanwhile, according to the latest Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) data, as on January 1, 2018, Bihar continues to reel under significant deficits in the strength and quality of the State Police Force, the first line of defense against any kind of internal threat. The State’s police-population ratio (policemen per hundred thousand populations) stands at an abysmal 74.76, the lowest among States in the country, and far below the national average of 150.80, which itself is unacceptably lower than the United Nations prescribed standard of 222 for peacetime policing. In absolute terms, there is a vacancy of 50,291 personnel (39.20 per cent) against the sanctioned strength of 1,28,286 in Bihar. Moreover, of a sanctioned strength of 242 apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in the State, 54 posts (22.31 per cent) remained vacant, considerably weakening executive direction of the Force.
According to BPR&D data, of a total of 1,064 Police Stations in the State, 254 (23.87 per cent of the total) had no telephones and 87 Police Stations (8.17 per cent of the total) had no wireless/mobile connectivity.
According to a recent survey report titled, ‘The Status of Policing in India Report 2019’, published by Common Cause & Lokniti – Centre for the Study Developing Societies (CSDS),
On an average, the police stations in India have six computers perpolice station, but States like Bihar have an average of less than one computer per police station.
Maoists in Bihar, as in the other States across the country where they had significant presence, have weakened considerably. But they have also demonstrated their strength of hitting back again and again, across the country, and Bihar is not an exception. Governments, both at the Centre and the State, must realize this, and work in unison to prevent the Maoists from regrouping and regaining their strength.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management