India: Maoists’ Desperate Measures – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak

On June 2, 2024, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres dragged a 45-year-old man, Shaluram Potai, out of his house in Maspur village in the Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh and killed him. The ‘Kutul area committee’ of the Maoists left pamphlets at the spot in which they claimed Potai was a ‘Police informer’. However, Police denied the allegation and stated that the Maoists were trying to strike terror among villagers and disrupt the construction of a road that started two days earlier. 

On May 26, 2024, a 25-year-old tribal man, Metla Rohit, was allegedly abducted and killed by CPI-Maoist cadres of the ‘Bansadhara-Ghumusar-Nagabali (BGN) division’ in Baripanga village under Kotgarh Police Station limits in the Kandhamal District of Odisha. The Maoists suspected that the deceased, Rohit, was a ‘police informer’, which they mentioned in the pamphlets they left near his body, which was found near an anganwadi (child care) centre in the village. A group of 12 to 15 armed Maoists abducted Rohit from his home and took him to the nearby forest. After killing him, the ultras dumped the body in the village and fled. 

On May 25, 2024, a father and son were killed on charges of being ‘police informers’ by the cadres of the Tritiya Sammelan Prastuti Committee (TSPC), a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, in Hindikala village of the Kunda Police Station area in the Chatra District of Jharkhand. According to reports, the militants barged into the home of Chhedi Birhor (48), accusing him and his son Pankaj Birhor (30) of collaborating with the police. The duo was subjected to a severe beating before being fatally shot.

These are the most recent incidents of civilian killings in which the Naxalites have killed civilians on the pretext that they are ‘police informers’. 

According to partial data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Naxalites (Left Wing Extremists) have executed at least 17 civilians, (10 in Chhattisgarh, five in Jharkhand, one each in Maharashtra and Odisha), branding, or accusing them of being, ‘police informers’, out of the 37 civilians killed in Naxal [Left Wing Extremism, LWE]-related incidents across the country, in 2024 (all data till June 21). In the corresponding period of 2023, at least 14 civilians were executed (11 in Chhattisgarh, one each in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra) as a ‘police informers’. In the remaining period of 2023, another 20 civilians were executed (10 in Chhattisgarh, five Jharkhand, four Maharashtra, and one in Madhya Pradesh). A total of 61 civilians were killed in Naxal-related incidents across the country through 2023, of which 34 were executions. 

Meanwhile, on June 7, 2024, a 35-year-old man, Dinesh Mandavi, was shot dead by CPI-Maoist cadres in Timdi village under Dhanora Police Station limits in Kondagaon District in the Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh. According to the Police, Dinesh did, in fact, work as an informer for the Special Intelligence Branch of the Police. 

With the increasing combing operation against the Maoists in recent times and Maoists struggling to maintain their sway in their areas of dominance and strongholds, Maoists believe that their ‘movement’ has been compromised by the leakage of information by ‘moles’, ‘secret agents’ and ‘informers’, and that has resulted in the eradication of their leaders and the depletion of their cadre strength. Through merciless killings, the Naxalites hope to instill fear among civilians and effectively check potential collaborators with the Security Forces (SFs) from passing on information on their activities, movements, and presence. 

Indeed, on June 10, 2024, a wanted CPI-Maoist cadre, Kishor alias Mukesh Kannake (37), carrying an INR 200,000 reward on his head, who surrendered in the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra, in his statement to the Police, revealed that many senior Maoist leaders not only exploited the tribal youth but also killed them, suspecting them to be ‘police informers.’ 

In most of the civilian killings, the Maoists, through a letters/leaflets/pamphlets, warn the villagers not to communicate or collaborate with the Police, or face death as punishment. For instance, on April 16, 2024, after hacking to death a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-affiliated deputy Sarpanch (head of the Panchayat, a village-level local self-government institution), Pancham Das Manikpuri, accusing him of working for the Police in Dandvan village in Farasgaon under Narayanpur Tehsil (revenue unit) in the Narayanpur District of Chhattisgarh, the Maoists left after stringing up a Maoist banner near the house. In the banner, the Maoists of the ‘west Bastar division committee’ claimed responsibility for the killing and said Pancham didn’t heed repeated warnings, “which is why he was killed in front of his family members.”

The Maoists have killed thousands of innocent civilians and adivasis (tribals), whose so called ‘cause’ they profess to espouse. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started documenting LWE-linked violence in the country, an analysis of LWE-linked fatalities suggests that, out of 4,039 civilians killed by the Naxalites in different parts of the country, as many as 880 were branded as alleged ‘police informers’ (all data till June 21, 2024). The first such incident of killing was documented by SATP on March 28, 2000, when Naxalites of the People’s War Group (PWG) killed a former activist of the Radical Youth League (RYL) in the Nizamabad District of Andhra Pradesh. A closer look at the number of such killings indicates that a maximum of 76 such killings were registered in 2010, while a low of five such killings were registered in 2002.   

In the interim, the topographical dispersal of such killings suggests that Chhattisgarh recorded 233 such killings and topped the list as the worst among the 11 states from which such killings have been registered since March 6, 2000. Odisha ranked second, 166 such killings; Andhra Pradesh ranked third, with 156; Jharkhand fourth, with 141; Maharashtra, fifth, with 85; Bihar, sixth, with 49; West Bengal, seventh, with 27; Madhya Pradesh, eighth, with 11; Telangana, ninth, with nine; and with two each, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh ranked a joint tenth.  

With the recent aggressive SF consolidation against the Maoists, the suspicions of the Maoists have fallen increasingly on civilians. With a hope to safeguard what remains of their movement, the Maoists are on tenterhooks to neutralise assumed ‘moles’, ‘secret agents’ and ‘informers’. As a result, after a continuous decline between 2017 and 2021 [2017 (57), 2018 (51), 2019 (50), 2020 (39), and 2021 (27)], the punitive killings are once again on a rise: 2022 – 32; 2023 – 34; 2024 – 17, (data till June 21, 2024). Indeed, there has been a perceptible rise of 21.42 per cent in the current year (17) as compared with the corresponding period of 2023 (14).

The rising number of punitive killings is an index of the mounting pressure on the Maoists, and their struggle to retain their influence in their rapidly diminishing strongholds, even at the cost of their own mass base. The rebels’ desperation, and the vulnerability of civilians to such punitive attacks, an only rise as SF pressure mounts in the last remaining safe havens of the Maoist movement.

  • 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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