By Deepak Kumar Nayak
On October 4, 2023, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, Sakki Yadav alias Sako alias Shankar Yadav and Kishan Yadav alias Krishna Yadav, were arrested by the Security Forces (SFs) from Barmoria, under Charka Patthar Police Station limits in the Jamui District of Bihar.
On October 3, 2023, a top Maoist cadre, Ravindra Hansda alias Nokha Hansda, was arrested in Jamui District. Hansda, was accused of brutally killing three people, including Harkhad Panchayat (village level local self-Government institution) head Gopal Saav and Saav’s brother, Shambhu Sao, on August 8, 2003. Hansda was also involved in the August 9, 2023, attack on the convoy of the then District Magistrate Gopal Prasad and Superintendent of Police Basmuddin Sah, who were going to the incident site of the Saav killing.
On September 15, 2023, the Jamui Police and the Charkapathar Unit of the Sashastra Seema Bal raided and arrested a Maoist ‘commander’, Kishore Soren alias Kishore Manjhi, in Jamui District. Kishore, a resident of Kachhua village under the Chakai Police Station area in Jamui District, had been active since 2010.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 24 Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists], including nine in Gaya, eight in Jamui, four in Aurangabad, and three in Lakhisarai, have been arrested in the ‘Axis’ region of Bihar covering Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, Jamui, Lakhisarai and Munger Districts, since the beginning of the current year (all data till October 15, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, 32 Naxalites (19 in Aurangabad, five each in Gaya and Jamui, two in Lakhisarai, and one in Munger) had been arrested. Another five arrests, (three in Lakhisarai and two in Gaya) were made during the remaining days of 2022. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on Left Ewing Extremism (LWE)-related incidents across the country, at least 1,121 Naxalites (370 in Gaya, 274 in Jamui, 223 in Aurangabad, 140 in Munger, 83 in Nawada, and 31 in Lakhisarai) have been arrested in the ‘Axis’ region.
At least 128 Naxalites (59 in Gaya, 17 in Aurangabad, 15 each in Munger, Jamui and Nawada, seven in Lakhisarai) have also been killed in the ‘Axis’ region since March 6, 2000. The last Naxal fatality was reported on June 8, 2022, when a suspected ‘zonal committee member’ of the CPI-Maoist, Matalu Turi alias Prakash Turi, was killed during an encounter with the SFs in the Giddheswar Forest range near Birgodia village under Khaira Police Station limits in Jamui District. One Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) assault rifle and several rounds of live ammunition were recovered from the possession of the slain Maoist.
Mounting SF pressure has also led to the surrender of 57 Naxalites (25 in Munger, 24 in Gaya, five in Aurangabad, and three in Jamui) since 2000, including the surrender of five Naxalites (three each in Aurangabad and Gaya).
Moreover, SFs have recovered arms and ammunition on at least 16 occasions (seven in Aurangabad, six in Gaya, one each in Lakhisarai, Munger and Jamui) in 2023, as compared to 11 such incidents (four in Gaya, three in Aurangabad, two in Munger, one each in Lakhisarai and Jamui) in the corresponding period of 2022, and another three (one each in Aurangabad, Gaya and Lakhisarai) in the remaining period of 2022. A total of 310 such incidents (135 in Gaya, 59 in Aurangabad, 47 in Jamui, 39 in Munger, 18 in Nawada and 12 in Lakhisarai) have been recorded since 2000.
Maoist orchestrated incidents of violence are also on a decline. Total incidents of violence decreased from 34 (10 each in Aurangabad and Gaya, six each in Lakhisarai and Jamui, and two in Munger) in 2022 (till October 15) to 32 (12 in Gaya, nine in Aurangabad, seven in Jamui, three in Lakhisarai, and one Munger) in 2023. Incidents of killing decreased from three (one each in Aurangabad, Lakhisarai and Jamui) in 2022 (till October 15) to nil in 2023.
Moreover, total fatalities declined from four [two Maoists (Lakhisarai) and one Maoist each (Aurangabad and Jamui) in 2022 (till October 15) to nil in 2023. No further fatalities were reported in the remaining period of 2022. Overall fatalities in 2022 were the lowest in a year since 2000, with a previous low of eight (five Gaya, two Munger and one Lakhisarai) in 2020. A high of 71 fatalities (19 in Munger, 16 in Jamui, 14 each in Aurangabad and Gaya, and eight in Lakhisarai) was recorded in 2010.
The last civilian fatality was recorded on December 23, 2021, when Maoists killed newly-elected Mukhiya (village head) Parmanand Tuddu by slitting his throat with a sharp-edged weapon for allegedly defying their diktats in the Panchayat (village level local-self Government institution) polls in Azimganj under Dharhara Police Station limits in Munger District. A total of 267 civilian fatalities, including a high of 30 civilian fatalities (22 in Aurangabad, six in Gaya and two in Nawada) in 2000, have been recorded since March 6, 2000.
The last SF fatality was reported in 2019. On February 14, 2019, a sub-inspector of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was killed in a landmine blast triggered by CPI-Maoist cadres during a combing operation in the Langurahi Forest in Gaya District. 170 SF fatalities (57 in Gaya, 34 Aurangabad, 30 in Jamui, 21 in Nawada, 17 in Munger and 11 in Lakhisarai) have been reported since March 6, 2000.
The ‘Axis’ region accounted for all four fatalities in Bihar in 2022. The state has recorded no fatality in 2023. Since March 6, 2000, the ‘Axis’ region has recorded 49.87 per cent of the overall fatalities in the state (591 out of 1,185) and has long been the epicentre of Maoist violence in Bihar.
Despite the significant improvement, all the six Districts within the ‘Axis region’ are among the 70 Naxal-affected districts in 10 states across the country, covered under the Centre’s Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, which funds focused operations against the Naxalites. Moreover, based on the severity of activities, Gaya, Jamui, and Lakhisarai has been classified among the 25 districts ‘Most Affected LWE Districts’ in eight States across the country, while Aurangabad is classified as a ‘District of Concern’ among eight districts in six states in the country, by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA).
The Maoists continue to struggle to revive their activities in the ‘Axis region’ as well as the state, following the heavy crackdown in the extremely inaccessible forested areas of Chakrabandha, scattered across Gaya and Aurangabad Districts; and Bhimabandh, located in the south west of Munger District of Bihar. Maoist efforts can be gauged from the recovery of a huge cache of arms and ammunitions on August 30, 2023, when SFs seized 13,800 detonators, three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), one .303 rifle and 100 bullets, along with other incriminating materials, during raids on alleged CPI-Maoist hideouts in the Pandara Hills area under Lutua Police Station in Gaya District.
Meanwhile, according to reports, to choke the flow of funds to Naxalites in the ‘Axis region’ as well as the state, the Bihar Police intensified the crackdown on the cultivation of illegal poppy in Gaya, Aurangabad and Jamui districts. Divulging further details on the development, Sushil Mansingh Khopde, Additional Director General, Special Task Force, stated, on July 16, 2023,
Now the Bihar Police in coordination with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and other concerned wings of the government, have intensified crackdown on cultivation of illegal poppy in Gaya, Aurangabad and Jamui districts in the state. Inputs also suggest that Maoists have been using opium cultivation as a source of revenue in these areas. They levy a ‘tax’ on poppy cultivators and small enterprises. Law enforcement agencies destroyed around 600 acres of poppy plantation in these areas in 2021 and in 2022 around 1200 acres were destroyed. The concerned district police and other agencies have been instructed to keep a vigil on clandestine opium poppy cultivation in specific areas in the district…
He added, further,
Some armed cadres are only concentrated on the hills of Chakarbandha on the Gaya-Aurangabad border near Jharkhand and in the hilly areas of Jamui and Lakhisarai-Munger. The STF and Central forces have confined them there. We will soon make these areas Naxal-free..
A report on October 10, 2023, revealed that the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of Bihar Police, in association with other agencies, was carrying out a special drive against illegal opium cultivation in Gaya District, especially in the Barachatti and Dhangai blocks, which are located in the remote areas near the Jharkhand border and are Maoist-affected regions, known for opium farming. Elaborating on the special drive, Nayyer Hasnain Khan, Additional Director General of Police, EOU, noted,
Maoist groups have some influence in Gaya district, especially in the remote forest areas located near the Jharkhand border. We are using drones to keep an eye on opium cultivation in the region. We were also taking satellite images to destroy opium cultivation. The seeding of opium farming kicks off in September and the final production takes place in March. So, we are concentrating this time to destroy as many areas as possible in the beginning of farming.
The Maoists reverses are quite visible in the ‘Axis region’. At the same time their continued efforts to revive their movement are also evident. Coordinated operations by SFs are, consequently, essential to consolidate the relative peace that has been established in this long-troubled region.
- Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management