ISSN 2330-717X

India: Crumbling Bastions In Chhattisgarh – Analysis

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By Mrinal Kanta Das*

A Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadre was killed by a joint squad of Security Forces (SFs), comprising of the 204th Battalion of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), District Reserve Group (DRG) and District Force, at Kurcholi village forest under the Basaguda Police Station limits in Bijapur District on November 25, 2015.

Again, on November 24, the DRG had killed a CPI-Maoist ‘commander’ of military “Platoon Number 13”, identified as Padia, in an encounter near a weekly market at Faraspal in Dantewada District. His body was recovered along with a 303 rifle, nine rounds, a .315 bore revolver and six live rounds, while other Maoists fled into the forest. In this encounter, SFs had disguised themselves as local villagers and waited for the Maoists.

On November 22, four woman cadres of the CPI-Maoist were killed in an encounter with SFs in Sukma District. The encounter took place at Nagalguda Hills under Gadiras Police Station limits on the Sukma–Dantewada border. SFs also neutralized a camp of the Maoists’ Malangir ‘area committee’. Bastar Police recovered four bodies of uniformed Maoists, along with a .303 service rifle and two 12-bore rifles. Police also claimed that Ayatu, the ‘divisional committee’ member of the Maoists’ ‘Darbha division’, was shot from close range and sustained multiple bullet injuries during the encounter. However, he managed to flee, leaving behind a truck load of camp items at the spot.

In a separate incident on November 19, two CPI-Maoist cadres, including a woman ‘commander’, were killed in an encounter with a joint team of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the District Police near the Kolayiguda Forest in Sukma District. The two dead bodies were recovered from the encounter spot. The woman Maoist carried a reward of INR 500,000 on her head. In this incident the SFs led the Maoists into a trap, disguising themselves as tribals.

Over the past 38 days, between October 23 and November 29, the Maoists also set ablaze 92 vehicles in the Bastar region. SFs recovered three Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in two separate incidents in Sukma District on November 23. Meanwhile, two security personnel, one of them belonging to the CoBRA Force, were injured in a pressure bomb blast triggered by the Maoists in Bijapur District on November 24.

Between November 3, 2015, and November 25, 2015, 16 Maoists have been killed in encounters in seven separate incidents in Chhattisgarh, while one civilian was killed by the Maoists in Narayanpur District. Significantly, there have been no SF casualties, so far, in November 2015.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 112 people including 29 civilians, 40 SF personnel and 43 Maoists have been killed in LWE-related incidents in Chhattisgarh in 2015, as of November 29. Though a little over a month still remains in the year, Maoist fatalities have crossed last year’s figure, while SF fatalities have fallen to 40 as against 55 in 2014. Further, Maoist fatalities in Chhattisgarh are higher than any of the other States. At second rank, Jharkhand has had 35 LW extremists killed, including 27 from the CPI-Maoist, while the others are drawn from splinters such as People’s Liberation Front of India and Tritiya Prastuti Committee. On the SF fatalities index, Jharkhand is a distant second, with five fatalities. Chhattisgarh alone accounts for 40 of the total of 56 SF fatalities in LWE related incidents across the country.

Significantly, all major incidents that have occurred in Chhattisgarh this year have occurred in the Bastar Division – including the seven southern districts of the State – Bijapur, Sukma, Dantewada, Bastar, Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Kanker – of Chhattisgarh. Despite mounting SF successes in this region, Bastar continues to be the ‘mainstay’ of the Maoist movement, and it is here that the battle against the Maoists would be won or lost. The largest proportion of current violence is reported from just three Districts in Bastar – Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada – which constitute the nucleus of the Maoist movement. Of these, Sukma shares its border with Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, while Bijapur shares its border with Maharashtra and Telangana. Dantewada abuts Narayanpur, Bijapur, Sukma and Bastar. Interestingly, in 2015 all the eight major incidents (each involving three or more than three fatalities) in Chhattisgarh, have been reported from these three Districts. Across India, a total of 14 major LWE-linked incidents have been reported in 2015, as of November 29.

Total fatalities in LWE-related violence in Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada Districts: 2012-2015

Year

Sukma
Bijapur
Dantewada
Chhattisgarh Total
% of Fatalities in Three Districts

2012

16
47
13
108
70.37

2013

56
36
5
128
75.78

2014

41
37
10
113
77.87

2015

36
36
15
112
79.67

Total

149
156
43
461
75.48
Source: SATP, * Data till November 29, 2015

The data indicates that, since 2012, there has been a gradual increase and concentration of fatalities in these three Districts, which have collectively contributed to 75.48 percent of the total fatalities in the State between 2012 and 2015.

Further, arrest (191) and surrender (130) data confirms that it is becoming progressively more difficult for the Maoists to operate freely even in this erstwhile stronghold, as SFs gradually penetrate into their spheres of dominance. The Maoists have also been hit hard by internal strife and mistrust as evident from several incidents of fratricide.

Tactically, SFs appear to be moving gradually towards specific intelligence based surgical strikes, rather than large scale mobilisation of forces for area domination. Interestingly, in both the Faraspal (November 24) and Kolayiguda (November 19) incidents, small action teams of SFs disguised as villagers successfully ambushed Maoist squads and recovered the bodies too. Better flows of intelligence from Maoist stronghold areas have enabled the tactical shift.

In a decisive step to encourage more Maoists to surrender, the Chhattisgarh Government has made significant additions to the “surrender and rehabilitation policy” for Maoists in the State. The additions range from the possibility of all previous cases being removed from the record to housing for surrendered Maoists, and compensation for ammunition apart from the weapons surrendered. “Anybody who now surrenders with a mortar will be given 2.5 lakh rupees, Rs 5,000 for a wireless set, Rs 3,000 for an IED, and Rs 5 per bullet or ammunition,” a senior official disclosed. It has also been decided that, upon surrender “the individual will be watched for six months, and if his behaviour is deemed to be good”, he will be liable for a government job. A Cabinet Subcommittee “may also take back criminal cases against him.”

The Maoists’ cumulative strategic errors since 2004, and progressive consolidation by SFs, have tremendously eroded Maoist capacities and capabilities across the country, and including their ‘heartland’ areas. It is in Chhattisgarh that they retain their last surviving bastions, and these are also crumbling rapidly.

*Mrinal Kanta Das
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP

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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