By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On December 15, 2022, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres killed a villager, Jairam, and threw his body on the Barsoor-Narayanpur Road near Malewahi Chowk under Malewahi Police Station limits in Dantewada District. A Naxalite [Left Wing Extremist, LWE] pamphlet found near the body stated that Jairam has been killed for being a ‘Police informer’.
On November 22, 2022, a CPI-Maoist cadre, Deva aka Tirri Madkami, carrying bounty of INR 800,000 on his head, was found dead, with a 12-bore gun next to him, in the Jiakorta Forest area near the Bhusaras Valley under Kuakonda Police Station limits in Dantewada District. Madkami, wanted in nine Maoist-related incidents, was a member of the CPI-Maoist ‘Katekalyan Area Committee’, which has been instrumental in executing several major attacks. Inspector General of Police (IGP), Bastar Range, Sundarraj P, disclosed that the organisation had been engaged in infighting and had been confronting a recruitment crises for several months. Prima facie, the Police suspect that infighting within the Maoist group on these issues or over Madkami’s anti-people activities, may have resulted in his killing.
On August 23, 2022, CPI-Maoist cadres killed a young tribal man, Katte Kalyan, on the pretext of his being a ‘police informer’, in Dantewada District. According to details, armed Maoists went to Katte Kalyan’s house and forced him out. A ‘Praja Court’ (people’s kangaroo court held by Maoists) was held at some distance from the village, where he was accused of collaborating with the Police. He was then killed by the Maoists. A Maoist poster left near his dead body declared that Kalyan had been passing on information to the Police over the past few years.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 14 fatalities (five civilians and nine Maoists) have been registered in Dantewada District in 12 incidents of killing in the current year, thus far (data till December 25, 2022). During the corresponding period of 2021, at least 23 fatalities (four civilians, one trooper and 18 Maoists) were recorded in 16 incidents of killing. No further fatalities were occurred in the remaining eight days of 2021. Fatalities in Dantewada District and Chhattisgarh: 2001-2022*
|Year||DANTEWADA||CHHATTISGARH||Dantewada’s share in % of Total killing|
Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on Left Wing Extremism-linked violence, Dantewada has recorded 1,185 fatalities (350 civilians, 411 SF personnel, 418 Naxalites, and six ‘unspecified’ killings) in such violence, accounting for 33.51 per cent of the overall fatalities recorded in the State.
Remarkably, for the first time since 2002, SFs did not lose a single trooper in a year in the district, while they neutralised nine Maoists in the current year. In fact after facing a reversal in 2018, when the SF:Maoist kill ratio was in favour of the Maoists at 2.4:1, the SFs have achieved a positive ratio in the four years: 1:2.8 in 2019, 1:7 in 2020 and 1:18 in 2021. Ironically, Dantewada is the place where the SFs faced Death by Delusion, in which 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and one Policeman of the Chhattisgarh Police were killed at Chintalnad in the Dantewada District. Since March 6, 2000, the overall SF:Maoist kill ratio has averaged 1:1.01.
Meanwhile, search operations and combing raids have yielded the arrest of 585 Maoists in the District since March 6, 2000, including 18 arrests recorded in the current year (data till December 25, 2022). Mounting SF pressure has also led to the surrender of 622 Maoists since 2000, including 19 in 2022.
Not surprisingly, the security situation in the district has improved dramatically over the past several years, with a variety of parameters supporting such an assessment. No major incident (resulting in three or more fatalities) has been recorded in the current year, as compared to two such incidents in 2021. A total of 102 such incidents are on record since 2000. The Maoists have triggered an explosion on one occasion in the current year, as compared to three such incidents in 2021. A total of 110 such explosions have been recorded since 2000. Five incidents of the recovery of arms have been recorded in the current year, as compared to 18 such incidents in 2021. A total of 135 incidents of the recovery of arms have been recorded since 2000. Maoists exchanged fire with SFs on six occasions in 2022, as compared to 15 in 2021. A total of 160 such incidents have been recorded since 2000.
The impact of stabilization is visible in several positive developments at the micro level in the district. Some of the local initiatives include:
According to a September 11, 2022, report, a group of tribal women in Dantewada has taken up a path-breaking enterprise of operating an eatery, ‘Manva Dhaba’ (My Dhaba), in a region infamous for Maoist violence, to ensure a sustainable livelihood for their families. The eatery was started in May 2022, in the Bade Karli village on the Geedam-Bijapur Road, as part of livelihood generation activities initiated by the district administration, which provided funds to set up the enterprise on 3,000 square feet of land next to a gauthan (cattle shelter), six kilometres from Geedam town.
According to an October 19, 2022, report, in order to provide employment-oriented opportunities to the people in Dantewada, the Poona Madakalcell has been formed at all the block levels of the district to provide opportunities of self-employment and employment.
According to a June 11, 2022, report, emphasis is now being given to garment manufacturing, and a garment factory in Haram, Dannex or ‘Dantewada Next’, has emerged as a hub of activity. Three other Dannex factories have been set up since 2021, at Katekalyan, Karli and Barsoor, where rural women, mostly Adivasis, have been employed, each earning between INR 7,000 and INR 12,000 per month. All the four units together employ 749 women.
According to a June 26, 2021, report, a decision was taken to build around 556 houses in the district, under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana’ scheme.
In another positive intervention to weed out Left Wing Extremism, a long-awaited recruitment drive has begun in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), to select 400 candidates from three districts of South Chhattisgarh – Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma – to strengthen its ‘Bastariya Battalion’, a specialised unit with expertise in jungle warfare tactics. The drive was organised from October 10 to October 20.
However, problems remain. Five civilians have been killed, the last one on December 15 in the current year. This is the highest fatality figure recorded in a year in this category since 2018, when there were 16 such fatalities.
Indeed, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) includes Dantewada, in its list, issued on June 19, 2021, of ‘25 Most Affected Districts’ from eight States across India. Additionally, Dantewada, along with six other Districts of the Chhattisgarh (Bastar, Bijapur, Sukma, Kanker, Narayanpur, and Rajnandgaon), is also included among the 70 Naxal-affected Districts in 10 States across India, covered under the Centre’s Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, which funds focused operations against the insurgents.
The Maoists terror is has receded before the aggressive SF consolidation in the district, in the State, as well as across the country. Nevertheless, the rebels continue with their sustained efforts to regain their hegemony in their erstwhile regions of dominance, though with little current success. However, sustained SF operations remain an imperative, to bring the threat from the rebels to an end, so that an enduring peace can be established in Dantewada, and the wider and troubled Bastar Division of Chhattisgarh, which remains the principal area of Maoist active in the State and the country at large.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management