A Relatively Event Free Independence Day In India’s Naxal Heartland – Analysis


On August 15, 2011, the day India celebrated its 65th Independence Day, the left-wing extremists, purportedly fighting for the cause of the tribals, did attempt to indulge in some acts of sabotage and violence, although the activity reported on the day did not match the anticipations of the government. The Home Ministry had earlier alerted the governments of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh about possible attempts by the Maoists to trigger violence.

The Centre’s directive had followed Maoist warnings to villagers, school teachers and Panchayat members to observe the Independence Day as ‘black day’. However, such threats and warnings were mostly local and were reported from states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and West Bengal.

On August 15, actual acts of violence were reported from two states- Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

In Maharashtra, an 18 year old boy was injured in an explosion when he tried pulling out a Maoist banner in Mumgaon at Dhanora taluka in Gadchiroli district. Maoists had camouflaged an explosive in the banner, which was obviously intended at the security forces, who normally clear out such posters.

In Jharkhand, Maoists fired on a camp belonging to the para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soon after the flag hoisting ceremony at Rania in Khunti district. The security forces retaliated, although the incident is not believed to have caused any casualty. Khunti incidentally borders the state capital Ranchi district.

In Orissa, Maoists hoisted black flags at some places in Koraput and Malkangiri districts. Black flags and posters were found in Ramgiri, Lamtaput and Baipariguda areas of Koraput district and Kalimela area of Malkangiri district, even as the state government launched special schemes for backward KBK region and Kandhamal district.

It is convenient to link the absence of much violence with the assumed weakness among the Maoists. In recent times, the Home Ministry has attempted to present data indicating that Maoist violence has dipped in the first seven months of 2011, compared to the corresponding period of 2010. (See: Achievements delusional in anti-naxal operations)

However, this does not indicate a weakness among the Maoists. The CPI-Maoist retains significant strength and is capable of orchestrating violence in its held areas. Its base areas in Chhattisgarh remain intact and it appears to be finding an additional safe haven in West Bengal. The absence of violence on August 15 is possibly linked with the onset of Monsoon during which Maoists are known to abandon forests and take shelter in villages. To avoid the attention of the security forces, extremists avoid indulging in wanton violence during this rainy season.

This is reflected in the significant reduction of violence in the current month. In the first 15 days of August 2011, only eight civilians have been killed across the affected states in extremist violence. Compared to this, in July 2011 at least 44 civilians and two security forces were killed. The fact that fatalities even in the Maoist ranks too have dipped point at a tactical self-preservation mode adopted by the Maoists, for the time being.

There is no time for the security forces to take it easy. It is a trend on part of the Maoists to hit back when it is the least expected.

This article was also posted at http://warantiwar.blogspot.com/2011/08/relatively-event-free-independence-day.html

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray served as a Deputy Director in the National Security Council Secretariat, Government of India and Director of the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM)’s Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati, Assam. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at the South Asia programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore between 2010 and 2012. Routray specialises in decision-making, governance, counter-terrorism, force modernisation, intelligence reforms, foreign policy and dissent articulation issues in South and South East Asia. His writings, based on his projects and extensive field based research in Indian conflict theatres of the Northeastern states and the left-wing extremism affected areas, have appeared in a wide range of academic as well policy journals, websites and magazines.

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