By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On June 23, 2019, a Policeman was killed by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres at a weekly market in the Mirtur village area of Bijapur District in Chhattisgarh. The incident took place when the assistant constable Chaitu Kadti had gone to the market with his family, when a Maoist ‘small action team’ (typically comprising four or five rebels) suddenly stabbed Kadti with knives, killing him on the spot, and fled. The rebels did not a family member of Kadti, who was also posted at Mirtur Police Station.
On June 14, 2019, CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead five Police personnel who were patrolling the area near Kukru Bazaar under the Tiruldih Police Station limits in the Seraikela-Kharsawan District of Jharkhand. Confirming the attack, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Murari Lal Meena disclosed that the Maoists had encircled the Policemen and shot them dead. The Maoists took away the weapons [two pistols and three INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifles] of the slain Police personnel.
On June 2, 2019, a trooper was killed and another four were injured in an encounter between the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and CPI-Maoist cadres in the Taldangal forest in the Dumka District of Jharkhand. Superintendent of Police (SP), Y.S. Ramesh stated that a search operation was going on when Maoists opened fire on the troopers, killing one of them. At least five Maoists received bullet injuries though they managed to retreat into the forest.
On April 27, 2019, two Security Force (SF) personnel were killed when CPI-Maoist cadres fired at a District Reserve Guards (DRG) team near the Tenguda Police camp in the Pamed area of Bijapur District in Chhattisgarh. A Maoist ‘small action team’ first opened indiscriminate fire at them and later attacked them with sharp edged weapons, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIGP), anti-Naxal [Left Wing Extremism, LWE] operations, Sundarraj P, added that the Maoists later fled into the nearby forest area.
On April 15, 2019, one Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper and three CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter at Bhutakulha under the Bhelwaghati Police Station limits in the Giridih District of Jharkhand. An AK-47 rifle, three magazines and four pipe bombs were recovered from the site. The CRPF trooper who died has been identified as Biswajit Chouhan. It was further disclosed that he shot down two Maoists in retaliatory fire before being killed in the gun battle. The identity of the Maoists killed in the encounter is yet to be established.
On April 5, 2019, a CRPF trooper was killed and another injured in an encounter with Maoists in the forest under the Saleghat area near Chameda village in the Dhamtari District of Chhattisgarh. The encounter took place a joint team of CRPF’s 211 battalion and the District Force was out on an anti-Naxal operation.
On April 4, 2019, four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed and another two were injured in an encounter with CPI-Maoist cadres in a dense forest area near Mahla village in the Kanker District of Chhattisgarh. The encounter took place around noon, when a joint team of BSF’s 114th Battalion and the District Force was out on a search operation.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Maoists have killed at least 36 SF personnel across India in 2019 (data till June 23). Of these, at least 15 were killed in gunfights, i.e. 41.66 per cent. The number of SF personnel killed in gunfights in 2018 was 35 out of a total of 73 SF personnel killed, i.e. 47.94 per cent.
SFs Fatalities 2010 – 2019*
|Year||Total SFs Killed||SFs killed in Gunfights||Percentage of SFs killed in Gunfights|
Source: SATP, * Data till June 23, 2019
Out of a total of 1,001 SF personnel killed by Maoists since 2010, at least 552 were killed in gunfights, i.e. 55.14 per cent.
The percentage of SF personnel killed in gunfights has always been high. A May 2, 2019, report, however, noted that there has been a change in Maoist strategy after the elevation of Nambala Keshava Rao aka Basavaraj (63) to the post of General Secretary of CPI-Maoist:
The Maoists have changed their strategy after Rao took charge. They are focusing on IEDs and not engaging themselves in gunfights. Since last year, every major attack was carried out using IEDs because they are safe and we have no strategy to contain them. The only way to stop IED blasts is to follow the rules of the road in the jungle, which was not followed in Gadchiroli’s case.
Muppala Lakshmana Rao aka Ganapathy, the 71-year-old ‘general secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist, was replaced on November 5, 2018, by his ‘second-in-command’ Basavaraj. The latter is an expert in explosives and military techniques and has a good network with arms traders. The Maoists are, however, not restricted to IED attacks and continue to engage in significant numbers of direct encounters as well.
Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister (UHM) Amit Shah, in a high-level meeting on June 6, 2019, discussed the possibilities of initiating action to choke off the Maoists’ funding sources and to seize the assets of their leaders, in order to contain Maoist activities and movements. It was noted that the Maoists remain a major challenge for the Home Ministry, as a resurgent threat was visible as a result of a regrouping of the rebels in four States — Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
According to the SATP database, the number of LWE-affected Districts which stood at a maximum of 195 in 2008, had reduced to 81 in 2018. Similarly, the number of fatalities, which peaked at 1,012 in 2009, dropped to 412 in 2018. Meanwhile, according to the latest data made available by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), on February 5, 2019, at least 90 Districts in 11 States remained affected by LWE violence. The same list had been released earlier on April 16, 2018, by UMHA. Significantly, on January 20, 2012, replying to a Right to Information (RTI) response to the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), the MHA had stated that 196 Districts in 20 States were affected by LWE violence in 2010.
The Maoists are certainly losing their areas of influence across the country, but they continue to look out for every possible opportunity to fight back.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management