By Deepak Kumar Nayak
On August 22, 2023, a villager, Supai Murkan (48), was killed by cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on suspicion of being a ‘police informer’, near Rengrahatu village under Tonto Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District, Jharkhand. Superintendent of Police (SP) Ashutosh Shekhar stated that a group of Maoists killed Supai, though he had nothing to do with the Police.
On August 19, 2023, Maoists killed a 65-year-old man by slitting his throat, and dumped his body near Gitilipi village under the Goilkera Police Station area in West Singhbhum District, Jharkhand. A couple of leaflets were found beside the body that stated that the man was killed as he was a ‘police informer’.
On August 12, 2023, a village officer, identified as Dharamdas Baghel, was abducted and killed by the CPI-Maoist cadres in Rengagondi village under Bayanar Police Station limits in Kondagaon District, Chhattisgarh. Police received information that about 20 Maoists reached the village in the night of August 12 and took Kotwar with them. Kotwar’s body was recovered from a field outside the village the next morning. Police found a pamphlet near the body in which Kotwar was accused of being a ‘police informer’.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 21 civilians (15 in Chhattisgarh; three in Jharkhand, one each in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha) have been killed by the Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists] after being accused, branded, or suspected of being ‘police informers’, since the beginning of the current year (till August 27, 2023). During the corresponding period in 2022, at least 27 civilians (18 in Chhattisgarh; three in Maharashtra; two each in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha; one each in Andhra Pradesh, and Jharkhand) were killed, while another at least eight civilians (four in Chhattisgarh; two each in Odisha and Telangana) were killed, on the same pretext, in the remaining period of 2022.
Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started documenting Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence in the country, the Naxalites have killed at least 3,980 civilians across the country (till August 27, 2023). According to SATP, of these, as many as 845 civilians were killed after being labeled as ‘police informers’. The first such incident was recorded on the SATP database was on March 28, 2000, when the erstwhile People’s War Group (PWG) killed a former activist of the Radical Youth League in the Nizamabad District of Andhra Pradesh, suspecting him to be a ‘police informer’. Significantly, in 2010, a maximum of 76 such killings were reported from the country.
An analysis of Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) statistics indicates that the Maoists have killed civilians for a variety of reasons. In the first instance, they kill those who do not subscribe to their ideology, in their areas of dominance; such targets they are usually branded as ‘police informers’. They also target individuals to create a power and governance vacuum in rural areas. So-called ‘class enemies’ are also selectively killed. All these murders result in a chain of circumstances within which the kin of the victims can potentially turn against the Maoists.
The Maoists believe that their ‘movement’ has been compromised by the leakage of information by ‘police informers’, and that this has resulted in an increased number of deaths among their leaders/cadres over the years. Through punitive killings, the Naxalites seek to instill a sense of fear among civilians, to strengthen their position against the Security Forces (SFs) on the ground, to eliminate important sources, which the state has sometimes painstakingly cultured, and effectively stop entire villages from communicating with the state authorities.
Not surprisingly, in most of the civilian killings, the Maoists leave a letter/leaflet/pamphlet, warning villagers not to help the Police, or face death.
For instance, in the killing incident in Gitilata Chowk in the West Singhbhum District of Jharkhand on August 19, 2023, the Maoists left a poster near the body, warning that this would be the fate of people who work as “police informers and special police officers (SPOs)”. The poster read,
|Engage in labour, farming, agriculture, etc., but do not collaborate as SPOs or informers. If such individuals surrender to us, we will pardon them.|
Further, the posters conveyed that ‘police informers’ had a possibility of redemption only if they surrendered to the CPI-Maoist group.
According to an earlier report on December 10, 2020, intelligence reports suggested that, at the Maoists’ tactical counter-offensive campaign (TCOC) meeting, the general consensus was to come down heavily on ‘police informers’. The top Maoist leaders came to the conclusion that they were unable to carry out effective operations against the forces because their cadre had been infiltrated. A zero-tolerance policy was adopted, after which death penalties were handed out even for small infractions.
Indeed, on November 28, 2022, Madvi Muya (20), a Dalam (armed squad) member of the Chadranna Dalam from Chhattisgarh, and Ravva Deva (22), Kovasi Ganga (25), and Vando Dule (20), all ‘Jan Militia’ (people’s army of the Maoists) members from Cherla Mandal (administrative sub division) of Telangana’s Bhadrachalam Agency, who surrendered before SP G. Vineeth in the Bhadradri Kothagudem District of Telangana, disclosed that they all were distressed at the ill-treatment of innocent tribals by Maoist leaders and decided to come out of the party and distance themselves from their violent acts. The Naxalite leaders were extorting INR 500 from each family of hardworking adivasis and forcibly collecting essential commodities. When the tribals failed to attend Maoist meetings, they were compelled to pay fines. If the adivasis refused to cooperate with the Maoists, they were branded as ‘police informers’ and killed.
Interestingly, however, on May 6, 2022, in Andhra Pradesh, the Director General of Police (DGP), K.V. Rajendranath Reddy, asserted that the killing of tribal people after branding them as ‘police informers’ and the harassment and suppression of Dalam members hailing from various tribal groups, are the prime reasons behind the CPI-Maoist losing their base in Andhra Pradesh and the neighboring States.
As Maoists face the heat of SF consolidation in their erstwhile strongholds, they have increased their crusade against assumed ‘police informers’, and have acted harshly to eliminate purported ‘infiltrators’ or ‘emissaries’. Further SF consolidation on the ground is needed to create a secure security environment for civilians.
- Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management