India: Terror Interrupted In Jharkhand – Analysis


By Deepak Kumaar Nayak

On August 19, 2023, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres killed a 65-year-old man by slitting his throat, and dumped his body near Gitilipi village under the Goilkera Police Station area in West Singhbhum District, Jharkhand. A couple of leaflets were found beside the body that stated that the man was killed as he was a ‘police informer’. Also, the posters carried a stern message, warning Special Police Officers and ‘police informers’ to cease their alleged espionage activities and instead embrace a life of laborious work. The posters conveyed that ‘police informers’ had a chance of redemption only if they surrendered to the CPI-Maoist group.

On August 15, 2023, two Police personnel were killed in a gunfight with cadres of the CPI-Maoist in a forest between Tumbahaka and Sarjomburu villages under Tonto Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District, Jharkhand. Acting on a tip-off about the presence of top Maoists in the area, a combined team of Security Forces (SFs) launched a massive search operation, and on spotting the approaching SF personnel, the Maoists opened fire on them, resulting in a gunfight in which the two Jharkhand Jaguar Force personnel were killed.

On August 11, 2023, one Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed and another was injured in an encounter with cadres of the CPI-Maoist in a forest in the Tonto area near Husipi village under the Goilkera Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District. The encounter broke out when a combined team of SFs were carrying out a joint search operation against Maoists in West Singhbhum. 

On August 11, 2023, Ganesh Lohra (35), a ‘zonal commander’, and Santosh Yadav (32), a ‘commander’, of the Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, were killed when a fight broke out among the Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists] over possession of an AK-47 and distribution of the money collected as ‘levy’ (extortion money), in the Hotai Forest area under Panki Police Station limits in Palamu District. Palamu Superintendent of Police (SP) Reeshma Ramesan disclosed, “We are investigating to ascertain the reason that triggered the infight. Two ultras, including one carrying a cash award of Rs. 5 lakhs [INR 500,000], were killed in firing.” 

On July 19, 2023, CPI-Maoist cadres caught a villager, Dev Kumar Prajapati, brought him near the village school, tied his hands and feet with a rope, and thrashed him, in Dawna village under the Netarhat Police Station area in the Latehar District. Prajapati later died of the injuries sustained during beating. 

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 23 Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked fatalities (nine civilians, three SF personnel, and 11 Naxalites) have been registered in Jharkhand in 2023, thus far (data till August 20). During the corresponding period in 2022, 13 fatalities (five civilians, two SF personnel, and six Naxalites) were recorded, and in the remaining period of 2022, another eight fatalities (one civilian, and seven Naxalites) occurred.

There is, thus, a spike of 76.92 per cent in fatalities in the state in 2023, as compared to the first seven months and 20 days of 2022. The number of civilian fatalities, a key index of security in a region, increased from five in 2022 to eight in 2023. Moreover, the number of SF fatalities increased from two in 2022 to three in 2023. 

On the other hand, the total number of Naxalites fatalities recorded in 2022 was 13, which decreased to 11 in 2023 (data till August 20).

Along with an increase in fatalities in LWE-linked violence, other parameters of violence in the state have also recorded a surge. Importantly, according to the SATP database, 17 incidents of killing have already been reported in the current year, as compared to nine in the corresponding period of 2022 and another five in the remaining period of 2022. At least 16 exchanges of fire between SFs and Naxalites have been reported in the state in the current year, as against 14 such encounters in the corresponding period of 2022 and another nine in the remaining period of 2022. Further, there have been at least 19 incidents of explosion in the current year, yielding six civilian fatalities, as compared to 10 such incidents in the corresponding period of 2022, with one civilian fatality, and another two such incidents with one civilian fatality in the remaining period of 2022.  

Search operations and combing raids have resulted in the recovery of arms on at least 47 occasions in 2023, compared to 43 such incident in the corresponding period of 2022, and another 44 such incidents recorded in the remaining period of 2022. 

Significantly, according to an August 12, 2023, report, the Jharkhand Police and the CRPF are engaged in a battle in the hills and jungles of the Kolhan division (which comprises West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, and Seraikela-Kharsawan districts) in the state, engaging with the top Maoist leaders and ‘commanders’, some of whom have bounties of over INR 40 million on their heads. Police divulged that the top three Maoist leaders – Misir Besra aka Bhaskar aka Sunirmal-ji, a ‘politburo’ and ‘Central Military Commission’ member of the CPI-Maoist, the ‘supreme commander’ of the ‘Eastern Regional Bureau’ of the CPI-Maoist (comprising Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Eastern India, with headquarter located in Saranda); ‘central committee (CC)’ members Asim Mondal aka Akash aka Timir and Patiram Majhi aka Anal-da aka Ramesh – have taken refuge in the dense terrain that traverses the boundaries of the strategic tri-junction of the three districts, West Singhbhum, Seraikela-Kharsawan, and Khunti. The trijunction serves as a pivotal point, and the Maoist operatives are capitalising on the intricate network of jungles and village roads to facilitate cross-border movements. Ashutosh Shekhar, SP for West Singhbhum, observed, 

For 5-6 years, Misir Besra, Patiram Majhi, and Prashant Bose aka Kishan-da aka Nirbhay aka Kajal aka Buddha aka Maneesh have sought refuge in the Kokhan region. On the other hand, Asim Mondal joined their ranks after the year 2017. Following the setback of Kishan-da’s apprehension [arrested from the Kandra area in Seraikela Kharsawan District of Jharkhand on November 12, 2021], they refocused their efforts on the jungles of Kuchai, Tonto, Goilkera, and the encompassing areas. 

Moreover, officials involved in the operation disclosed that squads led by Ajay Mahato aka Tiger, Anmol-da aka Lalchand Hembram, and Chaman akaLambu aka Karamchand Hansda, each carrying a reward of INR 2.5 million, are strategically positioned. This arrangement is complemented by ‘special zonal committee members’ Mochu aka Mehnat aka Bibhisan, and Amit Munda, both carrying a reward of INR 1.5 million. Additionally, ‘area commanders’ Kande, Sagen Angariya, and Ashwini, each carrying an INR 200,000 reward, collaborate to form a security perimeter around the top Maoist leaders. Furthermore, all approach paths have been heavily fortified with landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

An earlier report, on July 27, 2023, indicated that, while the Police and Central Armed Police Forces were trying to flush out the CPI-Maoist with special operations from the Kolhan and Porahat Forest Divisions in West Singhbhum District, the Maoists had resorted to poster campaigns in the district. Posters were found stuck on a wall and on trees at Jorapokhar village along the Sonua-Lonjo Road under the Sonua local Police Station area, about 130 kilometres from Jamshedpur. The posters read that the ‘boobytraps’ in the form of IEDs would not be removed from the Kolhan and Porahat Forest Divisions as long as the administration does not withdraw forward camps of Paramilitary Forces from the area. The posters also declared that the CPI-Maoist would observe a “martyrs’ week” from July 28 to August 3. Significantly, no fatality was recorded during this period. 

In its June 19, 2021, review of categorization of districts affected by Left Wing Extremism, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) classified eight Jharkhand’s districts [Chatra, Giridih, Gumla, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Saraikela-Kharsawan West Singhbhum] among the ‘25 Most Affected Districts’  from eight States across the country. Additionally, Garhwa District was classified as a ‘District of Concern’. Further, at least 16 districts [Bokaro, Chatra, Dhanbad, Dumka, East Singhbhum, Garhwa, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Palamu, Ranchi, Saraikela-Kharsawan, and West Singhbhum] are included among the 70 LWE-affected Districts in 10 States across India covered under the Centre’s Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, which funds focused operations against the insurgents. 

Nevertheless, on February 26, 2023, Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) Ajay Kumar Singh stated that the LWE problem in the state was in its last stage, as the SFs had launched a coordinated assault to wipe out the menace. He asserted,

The Naxal [LWE] problem in Jharkhand is in its last stage. Whatever remains it needs to be tackled. We have enough manpower and expertise to do it and we will be able to reduce it further. A total of 31 Naxalites, including ‘regional committee members’, ‘zonal’, ‘sub-zonal’ and ‘area commanders’ were gunned down in the last three years, while 1,319 were arrested, including ‘politburo’ and ‘central committee (CC)’ members. As many as 44 new Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) were set up in core areas impacted by Naxalism. 

Further, on June 21, 2023, Jharkhand Police, CRPF, and Jharkhand Jaguar Force personnel jointly demolished the CPI-Maoist ‘headquarters’ at Sarjomburu village/hamlet under the Tonto Block in West Singhbhum District. According to Police officials, Sarjomburu has been the Maoist ‘headquarters’ since 2017–18. The Jharkhand Police had reached there for the first time. Due to this, the Maoists were forced to retreat and fled there.

Further, on June 28, 2023, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed its first supplementary chargesheet at a NIA Special Court in Ranchi, Jharkhand, against 22-year-old Abhinav aka Gaurav Kumar aka Bittu from Aurangabad District in Bihar in the CPI-Maoist terror financing case. The case relates to funding of the revival of the outfit’s Magadh Zone of Bihar. NIA investigations revealed that Abhinav, arrested on January 3, 2023, was part of the efforts to raise funds for the organisation. He was also found to have motivated ex-cadres of the CPI-Maoist to help revive the Magadh Zone and worked as a conduit between the outfit’s operatives and other stakeholders in the Magadh Zone in Jharkhand and Bihar. The NIA had arrested three other accused, Tarun Kumar, Pradyuman Sharma, and Anandi Paswan, along with Abhinav, in the case and had charge-sheeted two accused on January 20, 2023. 

Despite severe loses in the State as well as across the country, the Maoists continue with their efforts to recover their influence in their erstwhile areas of dominance, though with little success. Sustained SF operations have pushed the extremists to the margins, and their continuation will take the State closer to an enduring peace.

  • Deepak Kumaar 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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