India: Crumbling Haven In Jharkhand – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak*

On December 8, 2022, a cadre of the Tritiya Sammelan Prastuti Committee (TSPC), a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), identified as Raju Yadav alias Raju Ji, was arrested from Patratoli Forest near Nindir village in Latehar District. Yadav, a resident of Chetar village in the Chandwa area of the district, was the ‘area commander’ of the banned outfit and was wanted in nine criminal cases. A .303 rifle, 82 cartridges, two mobile phones and three SIM cards were recovered from his possession.

On November 29, 2022, two cadres of the Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), another splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, were arrested from an area near Tulbul Talab in Latehar District. The arrested cadres were identified as ‘sub-zonal commander’, Akash Singh alias Suraj Singh aliasSonu Singh, wanted in 10 cases in Ramgarh and Latehar Districts; and his associate Arun Kumar Prajapati. Police recovered a pistol, 12 bullets, an SUV vehicle and SIM cards from their possession.

On November 26, 2022, an ‘area commander’ of the TSPC, identified as Upendra Yadav, a resident of Bhadaibathan village under Manika Police Station area, was arrested in a raid in Jhabar village under the Balumath Police Station area of Latehar District. 

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 21 Naxalites (Left Wing Extremists) have been arrested in Latehar District since the beginning of the current year (data till December 18, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, 26 Naxalites had been arrested. No further arrests were made during the remaining days of 2021. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked incidents, to December 18, 2022; at least 239 Naxalites have been arrested in the district. 

Further, one Naxalite has surrendered in Latehar in the current year (data till December 18, 2022). No surrender took place in the corresponding period of 2021, as well as through 2021. One surrender took place in 2020. Since 2000, at least 20 Naxalite have surrendered in the district.

Fatalities in Latehar District and Jharkhand: 2001-2022

YearLATEHARJHARKHANDLatehar’s share in % of Total killing
Source: SATP, *Data till December 18, 2022

Meanwhile, a total of six Naxalites have been killed in Latehar in the current year (data till December 18, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, one Naxalite was killed, while no more Naxalites were killed in the remaining period of 2021. Since 2000, a total of 116 Naxalites have been killed in the district.  

No SF fatality has been recorded in the current year, thus far (data till December 18, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, one trooper was killed. No fatality in this category was added in the remaining period of 2021. However, since 2000, a total of 75 SF personnel have been killed in the district.  

An analysis of the trend in fatalities data in the district since March 6, 2000, till December 18, 2022, suggests that the overall SF: Maoist kill ratio is in favour of the SFs at 1:1.54. 

The last LWE-linked civilian killing was reported on March 12, 2021, when armed JJMP cadres shot dead a supervisor of a private firm, Vishnu Dev Singh, after he lodged a Police complaint against them for alleged extortion, near Bareini More in Latehar District. Strikingly, the trend in the civilian fatalities’ category has remained cyclical, and since 2011 has remained in single digits. A maximum of 17 such fatalities were recorded in 2011, while a low of one fatality was recorded on four occasions in 2005, 2015, 2018, and 2019. Since 2000, a total of 81 civilian fatalities have been recorded in the district.  

Though LWE activities have recorded a considerable decline, disruptive activities continue. 

Two major incidents (involving three or more killings) have already been reported in 2022. Six incidents of exchange of fire between Naxalitesand SFs have been recorded in 2022, the highest in year since 2016, when there were six incidents as well. 2013 also witnessed the same number of clashes. Of a total of 122 incidents of arms recovery recorded since 2000, 14 were reported in 2022. Two incidents of arson have also occurred in the current year.

On June 27, 2022, in a disturbing development, it was found that the Khalistani terrorist formation, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), was supplying arms to the Naxalites in Jharkhand. The development was established by the recovery of around 28 weapons during a combing operation in the Bulbul Forest on the Latehar-Lohardaga border. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has registered a case in this regard.

On July 23, 2022, 40 mm High Explosive Grenades was recovered by the Special Investigation Team from the Seerum Forest area in Balumath in Latehar. Superintendent of Police Anjani Anjan stated after the recovery, 

These 40 mm HE [High Explosive] grenades are highly state of the art. It is the most advanced version of the grenades. They are not even with the CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force]. But we recovered them from the dump of the banned Naxal outfit TSPC. This is very strange. 

Naxalites have long found Latehar a perfect location for a safe haven, as the district is under dense forest cover and its hilly terrain, covering an area of 3,651.59 square kilometres, with a forest cover of 2,245 square kilometres (approximately 61.48 per cent of its total area). Latehar shares borders with Palamu to its North, Chatra to its East, Lohardaga and Gumla Districts to the South, Garhwa to its North West – all Districts of Jharkhand; to its South West lies Surguja in Chhattisgarh. Naxalites find the district optimal for exploitation due to its proximity with other LWE-affected areas of Jharkhand, such as Chatra, Garhwa, Gumla, Lohardaga and Palamu, as well as to conflict areas in Chhattisgarh, the State currently the worst affected by LWE. 

On November 11, 2022, the NIA filed a charge sheet against 11 persons, including two who had been arrested and nine absconding, in a case pertaining to the recovery of 13 rounds of 7.62 mm SLR (Self Loading Rifles), Naxal Literatures and other incriminating materials from a CPI-Maoist camp at Rud village in the hilly and forested area of Latehar District on September 1, 2017. The case was initially registered at Garu Latehar Police Station in Jharkhand before the NIA took over the probe in 2021. The NIA charge sheeted Prabhu Sao alias Prabhu Prasad Sao and Balram Oraon alias Balram, along with nine absconding accused identified as Chhotu Kherwar alias Sujit Kherwar, Ravinder Ganjhu aliasMukesh Ganjhu, Niraj Singh Kherwar, Mrityunjay Bhuiya, Pradeep Singh Kherwar alias Chero, Muneswar Ganjhu alias Munshi, Kajesh Ganjhu, Aghnu Ganjhu alias Aghnu, and Lajim Ansari alias Lajim Miya. The NIA noted, 

Investigation has established that the accused persons, who are supporters and members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), a banned organisation, had conspired to carry out terror acts to wage war against the state with the intention to threaten the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India, and to strike terror in the minds of the general public. In furtherance of the conspiracy, they procured arms, ammunition and explosive materials and raised funds for the banned outfit.

Meanwhile, SFs are taking further steps to counter the residual threat from Naxalites in Latehar and surrounding areas. 

On September 5, 2022, the Jharkhand Police’s domination over the CPI-Maoist stronghold of Burha Pahar, located in Latehar along the Garhwa District, was established after continuous operations against the extremists at various levels over the past two years. Operations included cutting off the LWEs financial flows and disrupting their supply chain. Burha Pahar was considered one of the impregnable fortresses of the Maoists, with its command remaining in the hands of top Maoists, including ‘central committee’ members Arvind Ji, Sudhakaran and Mithlesh Mehta, over the years. Police said the Maoist think tank used to gather at this location, to chalk out disruptive activities and also train squads to execute their plans in different States, including Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. A strong contingent of Maoists used to be present to take on the Police force conducting operations in this area. Significantly, the Naxalites are once again planning to make Burha Pahar a formidable launching pad of their violence in Latehar, Garhwa etc., as this Pahar (hill) is an interstate link between Latehar (Jharkhand) and Chhattisgarh. Indeed, on November 18, 2022, SFs engaged in anti-Naxalite operation detected 120 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted by Naxalites in the Burha Pahar area in Latehar District. The IEDs were defused.

SF consolidation in Latehar, especially in the Burha Pahar area, their erstwhile safe haven, has been a big blow to the rebels. However, LWE elements with much of their operational capacity intact, are also making efforts to regain their areas of influence. It is, perhaps, time to explore opportunities of political resolution, along with increasing security pressure, to end the continuing battle in the region.

*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management


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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