ISSN 2330-717X

India: The Colour Of Fratricide In Latehar – Analysis

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By Deepak Kumar Nayak

Latehar District, which falls under the Palamu Division of Jharkhand State, is one of four Districts in the Division, where a number of Naxalite (Left Wing Extremist) groups are fighting for dominance. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Deputy Inspector General Bhanu Pratap Singh, stationed in the Palamau region, noted that 60 per cent of Naxalite incidents in Jharkhand were reported from Palamau, Latehar, Chatra and Garhwa: “The reason is that many splinter groups are active in the area and they are fighting a battle of supremacy with each other.”

The bodies of two villagers, identified as Harbar Singh and Chetu Singh, executed by a kangaroo court of Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, were recovered at Baresand village in the Latehar District of Jharkhand on April 12, 2011. The victims, accused by the Maoists of collecting levy in the name of the Maoists, had earlier been abducted from their homes on April 10.

A day later, on April 13, 2011, two former CPI-Maoist cadres were executed by the Maoists and their bodies dumped near the railway crossing in the Atikheta forest of the Latehar District. Superintendent of Police (SP) Kuldip Diwedi disclosed that the deceased, Nirmal Singh and Birendra Singh Kharwar, had been members of a Maoist ‘firing squad’ till 2008, before parting ways to join the Jharkhand Janmukti Parishad (JJP), a CPI-Maoist splinter group.

These are just the most recent incidents in a Maoist struggle for undisputed dominance in their strongholds in this mineral rich region. After a particularly daring attack on March 4, 2011, in which over 50 Maoist cadres tried unsuccessfully to overrun a Police Base Camp at Amrawadih village under Balumath Police Station, SP Kuldip Diwedi noted, “The Maoists have formed a new guerrilla company called Company-6 and are trying to regain lost ground in the bordering areas of the two districts [Latehar and Chatra], where a splinter group, Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), has gained influence.”

Carved out of the old Palamu District, Latehar was created on April 4, 2001, with Palamu to its North, Chatra at its East, Lohardaga and Gumla Districts in the South, Garhwa at its North West, and Surguja, in Chhattisgarh, to its South West. Spread across an area of 4,211.25 square kilometres, of which nearly half (2010.22 square kilometres) is under dense forest, Latehar’s hilly terrain makes it a perfect destination for the creation of a Maoist hub. Terror also reigns supreme in Latehar due to its proximity with other Maoist-hit Districts of Jharkhand, as well as its proximity to Chhattisgarh, the State currently ranked second among those worst afflicted by Left Wing extremism (LWE).

The Maoist terror in Latehar, listed among the 34 worst Naxal-affected Districts by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, is immense. After the hijack of the 627Up Barkakana-Dehri-Mughalsarai (BDM) passenger train on April 22, 2009, a report had noted that the Railway Protection Force (RPF) contingent, which arrived at the Latehar Railway Station to sanitise the railway route at around 11.30 AM, remained there, unwilling to move to the location of the hijacked passenger train. An unidentified RPF trooper had stated, “There is no use entering the train hijack zone as the hijack drama was over. Moreover, it is risky given that the Maoists target people like us who are in uniform.” The train had been overpowered by the local villagers and a group of armed Maoists at around 7.30 AM the same day, at Hehegara Railway Station and was ‘released’ at 11.50 AM. The report further noted that Police officers, including the SP, preferred to work from their residences or some location other than their offices, fearing Maoist attacks.

School children did not hoist the national flag on Republic Day (January 26, 2011) following a Maoist threat. Instead, Maoists hoisted black flags and put up posters with anti-Government slogans and threats.

According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 176 persons, including 56 civilians, 50 Security Force (SF) personnel and 70 extremists have been killed in the District since its creation in 2001. Jharkhand State recorded a total of 1,284 fatalities during this period. Though no definite trend in fatalities has been established, the sway of Maoist violence in the District is inescapable. The District recorded the third highest number (29) of Maoist related incidents in 2010, after Ranchi (44) and East Singhbhum (34).

Fatalities in LWE Violence in Latehar District: 2001-2011

Years
Civilians
SFs
LWEs
Total
2001*
6
2
0
8
2002
4
8
1
13
2003
8
4
4
16
2004
3
2
8
13
2005
4
0
8
12
2006
2
2
0
4
2007
6
0
22
28
2008
3
0
3
6
2009
9
27
6
42
2010
6
5
7
18
2011**
5
0
11
16
Total
56
50
70
176
*Data from April 4, 2001, ** Data till April 24, 2011
Source: SATP

Latehar has also recorded 14 major incidents (involving three or more killings) since April 2001. The most prominent among these include:

July 16, 2010: Five Police personnel were killed and five were injured in a Maoist landmine blast targeting a patrol van carrying Jharkhand Jaguar Force personnel at Kutmu More.

April 16, 2009: Maoists blew up a Border Security Force (BSF) bus ferrying personnel from Ladhup to Arah, killing seven BSF personnel, one helper and the civilian driver of the bus.

April 15, 2009: Maoists triggered a landmine blast at Varnia Ghati in the hilly tracts of Barwadih, blowing up a bus ferrying CRPF personnel. In the resulting exchange of fire with the SFs, two CRPF personnel, a civilian driver and five Maoists were killed.

January 17, 2009: Six Policemen were killed in a landmine blast triggered by Maoists at Do-Pahani village.

October 28, 2007: Five people were abducted from Boda village and killed by Maoists in the nearby forest. They had been accused of supporting the TPC, a breakaway Maoist faction.

May 29, 2007: Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) cadres shot dead four TPC supporters, identified as Arjun Ganjhu aka Tasala Ganjhu, Jahru Ganjhu, Sukhan Ganjhu and Paras Ganjhu, at Barwa Toli near Salechnawa village under the Balumath Police Station area.

April 9, 2007: Eight TPC cadres were killed in a clash with 100 Maoist cadres near Bhadgao in the Balumath Police area. One Maoist cadre was also killed and several others were injured in the gun battle.

January 23, 2005: Six Naxalites were killed during an armed clash between members of the CPI-Maoist and the Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (SJMM) in Boda village.

The internal frictions between various rival LWE groups in Latehar are the principal reason for current violence in the District. The various groups engaged in this fratricidal struggle include the Swatantra Jan Sangharsh India Morcha (SJSIM), SJMM, Jharkhand Sangharsh Janmukti Morcha (JSJM), People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), TPC, Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), JJP, JLT, Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand Simant Committee (CJSC) and Bal-Dasta (Children’s Strike Force), in addition to the CPI-Maoist. Most recently, a 50-member splinter group, Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), was formed on February 6, 2011, with its cadres trained in operating sophisticated weapons. Police sources disclosed that the new outfit had organised a training camp for its members in the jungles bordering Latehar and Lohardaga Districts.

The CRPF has 13 Battalions and two Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) units in the State, but the Force is far from sufficient to contain the troubles. CRPF Inspector-General Alok Raj noted, on April 18, 2011, “While we have strengthened our base, the same has been done by rebels in Chatra, Latehar, Palamau, Khunti and Dumka. So, the need is to raise more Battalions.”

Earlier, on July 17, 2010, Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) Neyaz Ahmed, while admitting to the Maoist menace, declared, “The anti-Maoist operations in Latehar District will be intensified and combing operations are in progress in different areas.” There are, however, no significant indicators of such ‘intensified’ campaign on ground though, in one encounter, the SFs killed nine Maoists at the Luhur forest on January 28, 2011.

The reality is that SF capacities in Jharkhand are far from what is required to confront the Maoist threat, and this, rather than incidental lapses on the part of SF personnel, is the principal case of the progressive Maoist dominance since 2007.

Some tentative steps are, however, being initiated by authorities. Locals in Latehar have raised anti-Maoist village defence committees with the help of the Police, to patrol the highway by night and to give protection to vehicles. These Committees, provided with spears, shoes, raincoats, whistles, etc. for patrolling, are hardly a foil for the Maoists, but do cut into their recruitment base, since villagers get some employment and are paid daily wages. Further, in a recruitment drive that ended on March 2011, the SP, Latehar, along with the SPs of neighbouring Garhwa and Palamu Districts has also recruited some 850 Police troopers.

Jharkhand has had a particularly poor record of fighting the Maoists, with efforts constantly undermined by political ambivalence and a lack of effective Police capacities. Unsurprisingly, the extremist consolidation in the State continues apace, and the only significant check on this has been the internecine violence between a multiplicity of Maoist factions. This, however, can only provide cold comfort; inevitably, one or the other factions will come to dominate – most likely the CPI-Maoist. Unless the State is infinitely better prepared than it currently is, to confront that inevitable challenge, Latehar, the wider Palamu region, and Jharkhand, can only sink deeper into a Maoist consolidation.

Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP

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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