Eleven persons - 10 Policemen and an eight years old boy - were killed when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres triggered a landmine blast, targeting the convoy of Member of Parliament (MP) Inder Singh Namdhari, at Ladu More in the Latehar District of Jharkhand on December 3, 2011.
The incident occurred just hours before the two-day Bharat bandh (all India shut down strike) called by the Maoists on December 4-5, to protest the killing of Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishanji in West Bengal on November 24, 2011. Though Namdhari escaped unhurt, the Maoists decamped with 10 weapons, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and one wireless set.
Indeed, Jharkhand witnessed the highest level of retaliatory violence in the wake of Kishanji's killing among Maoist-affected States, both during the Jharkhand bandh of November 28 and Bharat bandh of December 4-5. In these three days, in addition to the attack on Namdhari, Maoists blew up two (mobile) telecom towers, one Block Development Office, one school building, railway tracks at two places and one tractor carrying rations for troops, across the State. They also attacked two Police Stations, which were, however, successfully defended, with no loss of life. Further, the transportation of minerals was heavily affected.
Retaliatory violence in other affected States during the same period included: the abduction of two persons and setting ablaze of three vehicles in Andhra Pradesh; the killing of a sarpanch (head of panchayat, village level local-self Government institution), an encounter between the Police and Maoists, and the burning of a cell phone tower and a three-wheeler in Bihar; the burning down of five gram panchayat offices in Maharashtra; and the destruction of three cell phone towers, a truck and a school building in Odisha; no retaliatory violence was reported from Chhattisgarh and West Bengal on these days.
As 2011 came to an end, Jharkhand earned the dubious distinction of recording the highest civilian fatalities among all Maoist-affected States, with 79 civilian, 30 Security Force (SF), and 48 Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) killed, as against 71 civilian, 27 SF and 49 LWE fatalities in 2010. As total fatalities rose to 157 in 2011 against 147 in 2010, Jharkhand was one of just two States - the other being Maharashtra - which bucked the overall trend of declining Maoist violence across India in 2011.
In 2011, incidents of killing were reported from 16 Districts in the State - Latehar (44), Gumla (23), Khunti (21), Lohardaga, Palamu and West Singhbhum (11 each), Chatra (eight), Hazaribagh (six), Bokaro and Ranchi (five each), Saraikela-Kharsawan (four), East Singhbhum (three), Giridih (two), Dumka, Pakur, and Simdega (one each) - out of a total of 24 Districts in the State. In 2010 fatalities had been recorded in 18 Districts - West Singhbhum (29), Gumla (23), East Singhbhum (16), Latehar (13), Khunti (11), Simdega (10), Palamu (eight), Giridih (seven), Chatra and Ranchi (six) each, Garwah (five), Bokaro and Saraikela-Kharsawan (three) each, Dumka and Godda (two) each, Hazaribagh, Jamtara and Ramgarh (one) each.
According to SATP data, Jharkhand also recorded 14 incidents of 'swarming attacks' (involving more than 50 cadres and militia) in 2011, as against five in 2010. 22 incidents of explosions [landmines and Improvised Explosive Device (IED)] occurred in 2011, as against 20 in 2010. 22 incidents of arson were reported in 2011, as against 15 in 2010. Further, 21 incidents of abduction were reported in 2011 as against 18 in 2010. Maoist's attacks on economic assets rose from 23 in 2010, to 34 in 2011.
Jharkhand recorded 14 major incidents (resulting in three or more fatalities) in 2011, as against seven in 2010. In a notable civilian killing, though not a major incident, the Maoists killed a nun, Sister Valsa John, in Pakur District, on November 15, 2011. Around 45 people, including 30 Maoists, were present at the time of the nun´s murder. Sister Valsa John was working for the development of tribals in the area, and had earlier led a campaign against Panem Coal Mines Ltd., ensuring a fair compensation package for tribals. She was killed during her campaign to ensure the arrest of a rape accused. Police later arrested seven persons, including Ranjan Marandi, a person with known Maoist links.
In January 2012, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram was reported to have written to Jharkhand Chief Minister (CM) Arjun Munda, expressing concern over the increased Maoist activity in the State. On January 14, 2012, however, CM Munda dismissed these concerns, claiming that the number of Naxal (Left Wing Extremist)-related incidents had actually declined, and that his Government was doing its best to curb the menace.
An analysis by SATP of Maoist violence, as well as of overground and underground activities, through 2011, indicates that 16 Districts in the State - Bokaro, Chatra, Dumka, East Singhbhum, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Latehar, Lohardaga, Pakur, Palamu, Ranchi, Saraikela-Kharsawan, Simdega and West Singhbhum - remain in the 'highly affected' category. Another four Districts - Garhwa, Ramgarh, Dhanbad, and Jamtara - fall in the 'moderately affected' range. Pakur which was not among the 20 affected Districts in 2010, joined the 2011 list, while Godda dropped off. Garhwa, Jamtara and Ramgarh moved from 'highly affected' to the 'moderately affected' category. Lohardaga moved from the 'moderately affected' to the 'highly affected' category in 2011.
Another disturbing phenomenon was the fratricidal wars between various LWE groups in the State. These groups included the Swatantra Jan Sangharsh India Morcha (SJSIM), Sangharsh Janmukti Morcha (SJMM), Jharkhand Sangharsh Janmukti Morcha (JSJM), People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC) and Jharkhand Janmukti Parishad (JJP), in addition to the CPI-Maoist. A 50-member splinter group broke away from the CPI-Maoist, to form the Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP) on February 4, 2011. Police sources disclosed that the new outfit had organised an arms training camp for its members in the jungles bordering Latehar and Lohardaga Districts.
Intelligence reports indicate that the Maoists in Jharkhand have provided cadres with training in manufacturing as well as handling of rocket launchers, mortars and grenades. At least 19 Maoists were provided such training under the guidance of seven experts, led by Prakash alias Gaganna from Andhra Pradesh (AP). During the training, they allegedly manufactured 110 rocket-launchers, 120 mortars and 200 grenades, which are now in their possession. The necessary raw-materials had been procured from Indore and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. Maoists had been providing such training since 2006, for which mobile-camps were established at various locations, including Saranda, Baliwa, Tirilposhi and Saryu in Jharkhand. Over the past five years, the Jharkhand Police has also received intelligence on these activities, and arrested at least one Maoist cadre, Nalla Bhikshapathi, in Chaibasa on October 9, 2010, in this connection.
DGP Rath, on June 26, 2011, also disclosed details of opium cultivation in the State under the patronage of Maoists. The Organized Crime Cell of Jharkhand Police has made efforts to dismantle the opium cultivation in different Districts. Based on satellite imagery provided by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the Jharkhand Police launched a crackdown and destroyed opium cultivation on about 208 acres in the State. The NCB teams also carried out raids in Latehar, Hazaribagh, Chatra, Khunti, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Palamu, Ranchi and Lohardaga Districts, and destroyed opium plantations, NCB Joint Director (Bihar/Jharkhand), P.K. Ghosh, stated on June 26, 2011.
In the face of increasing Maoist activity, the State Police have taken some steps to increase the pressure on the Maoists. 'Operation Monsoon'- the month long anti-Maoist campaign executed in the Saranda Forest by joint Forces from Jharkhand, Odisha and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), between August 1 and August 31, resulted in the arrest of 33 Maoists, and the recovery of 179 landmines, three pistols, and some ammunition, in addition to INR 433,000 in cash. Documents seized during the operation confirmed that the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), the political wing of the Manipur-based People's Liberation Army (PLA), was supporting the training and technical upgrade programme of the Maoists in the Saranda Forest. With the claimed establishment of 'civil administration' in the area, the Saranda Forest operation is being projected as a test case of the 'clear, hold and develop' strategy. Three battalions of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) have been stationed in Saranda, and another two battalions are to join them in February 2012. A 'Saranda Action Plan' for development has been drafted and is being implemented in the area.
During 'Operation Monsoon', the Police also launched 'Operation Hills' in the Ganeshur and Saryu forest areas in Latehar District. Police recovered a 'large number' of 'cane bombs', connected with codex wire (34), semi-prepared pressure cane bomb, quantities of codex wire, cartridges and detonators.
A three-day 'Operation Thunder´ in Garhwa District by Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh Security Forces (SF's) was executed over October 16-18, 2011. A four-day 'Operation Up Hills' in Lohardaga and Gumla Districts was launched between September 13 - 16, 2011. Further, following the killing of Kishanji in West Bengal, more than 500 Police and CRPF personnel, along with the District Police, launched an anti-Maoist operation from November 25, with the aim of flushing out rebels hiding in Gomia, Jhumra, Nawadih, Parasnath, Madhuban and Vishnugarh areas of the State. Each of these campaigns met with, at best, limited success.
The SFs did manage to inflict some losses on the LWE leadership in the State, including the killing of one 'Zonal Commander', four 'sub-zonal commanders' and three 'area commanders'. In addition, nine 'Zonal Commanders', six 'sub-zonal Commanders' and three 'area commanders' were arrested; and another 'Zonal Commander' and one 'sub-zonal commander' surrendered in 2011. DGP Rath, however, lamented that, had the West Bengal Government not wavered in its anti-Maoist operations, the number and quality of arrests in Jharkhand could have been better. However, as Maoists took refuge in West Bengal during the 'ceasefire' period, the Jharkhand operations met with lesser success. In total, the SFs in Jharkhand arrested 248 LWE cadres in 2011, as against 189 in 2010, while 15 LWEs surrendered in the State, as against 18 in the previous year.
According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Jharkhand has raised its Police-Population ratio to 151, as on December 31, 2010, as against an all-India average of 133. On April 17, Chief Minister Arjun Munda stated, "to tackle the Maoist menace, the manpower in all the 118 Police Stations of the Naxalite-affected areas has been doubled." He added, further, that 13,000 additional personnel had been appointed in the Police Stations. Nevertheless, Rath asserted, on January 3, 2012, that the Jharkhand Police continued to face an acute manpower shortage, and roughly 16,000 additional personnel, from constable to Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, were still required. He promised to see that all vacancies were filled up and personnel were properly trained by end of the current year. The vacancies include 35 IPS officers, 4,000 Assistant Sub-inspectors, 2,000 Sub-inspectors and Deputy Superintendents of Police and about 10,000 constables. The DGP conceded that they were yet to raise the sixth battalion of Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB): "We have so far raised five IRB battalions, three of them are functional. One of the remaining two has completed training, while the fifth will end its classes at the Police Training College in Hazaribagh by the end of this month." Further, the Special Task Force (STF) of Jharkhand Police, the 'Jharkhand Jaguars' (JJ), had a sanctioned strength of 40 Assault Groups (AGs), so far, only 22 AGs were functional. As on April 18, 2011, the CRPF had 13 battalions and two units of Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) in the State.
Despite SF efforts to contain the Maoists in Jharkhand, the rebels appear to have held, and even extended, their influence in the State.
(The writer Deepak Kumar Nayak is Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management)
(The view expressed in the article is of the author and not India Blooms News Service)