India: Maoist Persistence In Madhya Pradesh – Analysis
By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On March 17, 2023, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres put up banners and distributed pamphlets on Lanji Bhilai Marg near the Kandrighat Forest under the Sitapala Police outpost in Balaghat District. One of the banners contain a slogan urging people to keep desist from informing the Police about the Maoists’ movements. In another banner, the Maoists appealed to the Police to stop the special squad from monitoring their movements. The Maoist pamphlets circulated contained slogans against the Government.
On February 19, 2023, Security Forces recovered Naxal [Left Wing Extremism, LWE] literature and other items, along with some explosives, during patrolling, from a Maoist hideout situated on the road from Alakpur to Sariapatera under Birsa Police Station limits in Balaghat District.
These are the two Maoist-linked incidents recorded in the State in 2023, thus far (data till March 26, 2023).
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were at least nine Maoist-linked incidents in 2022, as against 14 recorded in 2021. Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on LWE, a total of 95 such incidents have been documented.
Out of nine incidents in 2022, at least five were incidents of killing, resulting in eight fatalities (two civilians and six Maoists). In 2021, out of 14 incidents, three were killing incidents, resulting in five fatalities (three civilians and two Maoists). Since March 6, 2000, the state has recorded a total of 23 incidents of killing resulting in 32 deaths [15 Maoists, 13 civilians, and four Security Force (SF) personnel].
On year-on-year basis, the overall fatalities tally 2022 was the highest since March 6, 2000. The previous high of five was recorded in 2021.
The higher fatalities in these two years were primarily accounted for by the number of Maoists killed. Of the 15 Maoists killed in the state since March 6, 2000, eight were killed in just these two years. All 15 Maoist killings were reported between 2012 and 2022. On the other hand, the last of the total four SF fatalities in the State was recorded on September 22, 2010, when a Madhya Pradesh Police’s Hawk Force trooper was killed in a Maoist ambush near Sitapala in Balaghat District.
Meanwhile, no Maoists were arrested in 2022, though SFs arrested four Maoists in 2021. A total of 71 Maoists has been arrested in the State since March 6, 2000. No Maoist surrender was recorded in 2022 or in 2021, but at least 15 Maoists have surrendered in the State since March 6, 2000.
Despite the complete SF dominance on the ground in their fight against the rebels, civilians continue to remain under threat. Of the 13 civilians killed in the state, 11 have been killed after 2010.
Further, according to a May 25, 2022, report, the inviolate core-zone of the Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) situated in the state, is under the control of CPI-Maoist cadres. The presence and regular movement of armed Maoists in four of the six zones of KTR have been confirmed, as stated by S.K. Singh, the Reserve’s Field Director. Two tiger reserves, Indravati in Chhattisgarh and Palamu in Jharkhand, are already dominated by the Maoists. The plan of the CPI-Maoist leadership is to extend their influence to Amarkantak in the Anuppur District of Madhya Pradesh, through KTR.
Moreover, on November 30, 2022, a number of CPI-Maoist documents were recovered following an encounter with Naxalites (Left Wing Extremists) in the Supkhar Forest area of Balaghat District. The documents included calls to
Get recruited in large numbers in PLGA [People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army]. [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi’s counter-revolutionary solution 2017-2022: Down with the political attack, intensify the people’s war by joining PGLA to demolish the system full of exploitation and oppression.
Maoist pamphlets found on trees in the forest areas sought to mislead the youth and instigated them to join PLGA, citing unemployment.
Furthermore, according to a December 9, 2022, report, the Darrekasa Dalam (armed squad) of CPI-Maoist and Malajkhand Dalam, were operating in the Maoist-hit areas of Madhya Pradesh. The CPI-Maoist Vistaar Platoon-2 and Vistaar Platoon-3 at Kawardha-Balaghat were working to set up a corridor from Kawardha to Dindori, via the Balaghat and Mandla Districts.
In its classification list released on June 19, 2021, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) included the Balaghat District of Madhya Pradesh among the ‘25 Most Affected Districts’ across eight Indian states. In addition, Mandla was identified as one among the ‘Districts of Concern’ among eight districts from six states. Moreover, Balaghat, Dindori, and Mandla Districts are covered under the ‘Security Related Expenditure (SRE)’ scheme, which funds focused operations against the extremists in 70 LWE-affected districts in 10 states across the country.
An analysis of the underground and overground activities of the Maoists in 2022, according to the SATP database, categorized Balaghat District as ‘moderately affected’. In 2021, Balaghat and Mandla were in the moderately affected category. Madhya Pradesh has a total of 52 districts.
Meanwhile, according to a July 28, 2022, report, in order to bring the Naxalites into the ‘mainstream,’ the state government formulated a surrender and rehabilitation policy for Maoists which includes provisions for a one-year parole for jailed Maoists who provide information on their comrades. It also offers INR 500,000 as a one-time reward and INR 6,000 monthly for 36 months, as well as professional training to restart their lives. The policy also provides for unmarried Maoists, who will get INR 25,000 for weddings. They will also be given health insurance under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, a house under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, and rations under the food security scheme.
According to a December 8, 2022, report, in order to contain Naxalite activities in residential areas in three Naxal-affected Police Stations – Samnapur, Bajag and Karanjia in Dindori District – which fall along the borders of neighbouring Chhattisgarh State, Special Squads will be formed. After executing attacks in Chhattisgarh, Naxalites flee into the Dindori District’s relatively inaccessible forest areas in search of safe hide-outs. The District Police Force has invited applications from eligible youth for this Special Squad.
On February 20, 2023, the State Government issued orders that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan would be the Chairman of the Unified Command Committee, which would deal with Naxalites. According to the order, a core development group and divisional level sub-group committees have also been formed.
An area of concern, however, was the shortage of Police personnel in the state. According to Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) data (as on January 1, 2021), Madhya Pradesh had 106.25 Police personnel per 100,000 population, significantly below the inadequate national average of 152.51. More worryingly, the Police/Area Ratio (number of policemen per 100 square kilometres) was just 28.97, as against the national average of 62.96. Both the State and national averages on the Police/Area ratio were well below the sanctioned strength, at 37.69 and 80.07, respectively. The sanctioned strength for the States’ Police was 116,184, while just 89,293 personnel were in position, creating a deficit of 23.14 per cent against a significantly deficient sanctioned strength. Moreover, the sanctioned strength of the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in the State was 305, but just 261 officers were in position, a deficit of 14.42 per cent. These critical security gaps in capacities and deployment in the State need urgent attention.
Despite the Maoists’ disappointment with the failure of their efforts to expand and strengthen their cadres in Madhya Pradesh, their surviving operational capacities cannot simply be disregarded. Rather, preemptive action is necessary to thwart the residual Maoist threat in the state.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management