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News & Views on the Revolutionary Left



Lurching Towards A Crisis



The killing of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Member of Parliament (MP) Sunil Mahato on March 4 bore all the elements of a typical Maoist 'surprise attack'. As the 38-year old MP watched a football match organised to mark the Holi festival at Bakuria village in Jharkhand's East Singhbhum district, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) numbering around 40-45, including women members, who were already present among the spectators, suddenly overpowered the bodyguards, snatched their weapons and fired at the MP, his associates and his bodyguards. The MP was killed on the spot along with one of his party colleagues and two bodyguards, while another party colleague succumbed to his injuries subsequently. The Naxalites raised slogans before leaving with four INSAS rifles and ammunition looted from the guards.


The CPI-Maoist on March 6 claimed responsibility for the killing by putting up handwritten posters in the villages of Hadia and Lango areas under the jurisdiction of Ghorabandh police station in Dhanbad district, far from the site of the killings, thus arousing suspicions that Mahato could have been the victim of his personal rivalry with the Mafia, not the Maoists. The posters, however, claimed that Mahato had instigated villagers at Lango to kill 11 Maoists, and further that Mahato was killed for two reasons: for telling contractors not to pay 'tax' to the Maoists; and, for supporting the anti-Maoist movement being led by the Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (Citizens Defence Committee) in East Singhbhum and West Singhbhum districts. The posters declared: "He instigated innocent tribals. He asked them to kill us with arrows. We killed him with bullets."


Unlike the Jharkhand government, which preferred an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the killing, the union government was convinced of the fact that the act was the handiwork of the Maoists. Union home secretary, V.K. Duggal, stated on March 5, "Apparently, it looks like retaliatory action because as a key functionary of the Nagarik Suraksha Samiti, Mahato had been raising his voice against Naxals." The union minister of home affairs, Shivraj Patil, in a suo moto statement in the Rajya Sabha on May 6, before the Maoist posters claimed responsibility for the killing, provided a vivid description of Mahato's assassination. He also spoke of the customary reinforcements, 'sealing' of borders and combing operations to nab the culprits.


It was, however, nobody's belief that Mahato's killers would actually be caught. There is even less faith that the unlikely event of their arrest could dent the reign of the Maoists in Jharkhand. While the ministry of home affairs (MHA) maintains that Left Wing extremism in the country has declined by 6.15 percent from 1,608 incidents in 2005 to 1,509 in 2006, fatalities in Jharkhand have actually risen from 119 in 2005 to 124 in 2006, though this rise is marginal. According to an estimate in August 2006, as many as 21 of the 22 districts of Jharkhand were affected (highly affected - 12, moderately affected - 4, marginally affected - 5) by Left Wing extremism. [There are wide variations in these estimates. While the MHA maintains that only 16 districts are affected, the Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda in December 2006 stated that 18 of the state's districts are affected.]


Interestingly, the East Singhbhum district, where Mahato was killed, was in the 'moderately affected' category. Intelligence inputs indicate that most districts affected by the Maoist movement are in the "mass mobilization" stage, but pockets in the state are now in the advanced "guerrilla warfare stage". Jharkhand is the part of the CPI-Maoist's Eastern regional bureau that looks after Assam, West Bengal, Jharkhand and the Coastal belt.


The state is also an integral part of the Compact Revolutionary Zone (CRZ) and the 'Red Corridor' that runs along India's eastern board, from Andhra Pradesh to the border with Nepal.

Mahato's killing was preceded by several operations by the Maoists in the state, in the first two
months of 2007 alone. On February 5, a group of 200 CPI-Maoist cadres attempted to overrun
a Police picket at Lawalong in the Chatra district. In the ensuing encounter a civilian was killed
and two others were injured. On February 27, CPI-Maoist cadres detonated an explosive device
and destroyed an under-construction building of the state Tourism Department at Madhuvan in Giridih district. The Maoists had warned against the construction, but the government had chosen to go ahead. Earlier, on January 23, a consignment containing spares for arms, including assemblies for mortars, sent from Indore in Madhya Pradesh to the CPI-Maoist 'area commander' Rajendra Oraon, was seized from a private transport firm in Ranchi. A man, identified as Prabhu Sao, was arrested in this connection.

The preceding year, too, was no exception. Major attacks by the Maoists in Jharkhand in 2006 included the following.

June 1: At least 12 police personnel were killed when CPI-Maoist cadres triggered a landmine explosion in the West Singhbhum district.

June 3: Maoists killed three civilians in the Hadian village under the Ghorabandha Police Station of East Singhbhum district.

June 26: At least 400 Maoists attacked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp, killing one CRPF man in the Hazaribagh district.

December 2: Fourteen police personnel belonging to the Special Task Force of the Jharkhand Police were killed and three injured in a landmine blast detonated by suspected CPI-Maoist cadres at Kanchkir in the Bokaro district.

December 10: CPI-Maoist cadres stopped the 346 Tata-Kharagpur passenger train near the Kanimouli Station on the Gidhni-Chakulia line in the East Singhbhum district bordering West Bengal for about two hours. Maoists also looted two rifles and cash from the Railway Protection Force personnel escorting the train, and snatched walkie-talkie sets from the guard and driver of the train.

Mahato's killing could just be the starting point for the escalation of the Maoist 'people's war' through out the country, which appeared to have weakened temporarily. Premonitions of such a trend were provided by a statement released by the CPI-Maoist on February 19, 2007, to mark the successful completion of the outfit's 'Unity Congress' in January-February 2007 at an unspecified location (widely speculated to be in Jharkhand). The statement declared:

The Unity Congress… resolved to advance the people's war throughout the country, further strengthen the people's army, deepen the mass base of the party and wage a broad-based militant mass movement against the neo-liberal policies of globalization, liberalization, privatization pursued by the reactionary ruling classes under the dictates of imperialism.

The conclave, attended by 100 senior Maoist leaders from 16 states, re-elected Muppala Lakshman Rao @ Ganapathi as the 'General Secretary' of the Party. Ganapathi is reported to have remarked: "No more hit and run. Now time has come to spread in the towns and identify specific targets, hit them precisely and with impunity." There is overwhelming apprehension that the Maoists have started finalizing plans for executing hits involving high-profile targets.


Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, on March 6, indicated that the state was exploring options of adopting the 'Andhra Pradesh model' to tackle the Maoists, and also to "review the surrender policy for extremists." Only a day later, on March 7, the Union Home Minister made a statement in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) noting that Andhra Pradesh had achieved "note-worthy success in controlling the problem through Special Forces, namely, Greyhounds, and other measures". However, given Jharkhand's past record, replicating the 'Andhra model' is easier said than done.

Reports indicate that Jharkhand has not being following the directions laid down by the union government for Left Wing extremism-affected states. The Jharkhand Police has an alarming vacancy rate of 29 per cent and there has been little attempt by the state government to recruit additional personnel. The state also has a poor police-population ratio of 85 per 100,000, compared to the national average of 122. Similarly, the density of police personnel (policemen per 100 square kilometre area) in Jharkhand is 30.8 against an all India average of 42.4. Given the fact that nearly 30 per cent of the state's geographical area of 79,714 square kilometres is forested and consequently virtually un-policed, such a profile of the state's Police Force can hardly make the task of countering the Maoists easier.

In addition, the state government is known to have failed to utilize the central funds released under the Police modernization scheme. According to the MHA, Rs 1.827 billion were provided to Jharkhand in six financial years between 2000 and 2006 under the scheme. Utilization has, however, been abysmal. In 2004-05, for instance, the utilization of the Rs 220 million released was a minuscule 7.33 per cent.

Jharkhand appears to have faltered miserably in executing the development schemes that the union government supports in the Left Wing extremism affected districts. The state has an unutilised balance of Rs 2.4 billion allotted to it under the Backwards districts Initiative (BDI) component of the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) and other schemes to fill in the critical gaps in physical and social development. Under the BDI Scheme, an amount of Rs 150 million per year is sanctioned for each Maoist affected district for three years. The state government shares 25 percent of the expense on BDI. There have also been allegations of widespread corruption in the implementation of schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Interestingly, lack of finance has never been cited as a reason for the poor implementation of projects by the Jharkhand government.

In a way, Jharkhand represents all that's currently lacking in most of the states affected by Maoist activities. Union home minister Patil, on March 6 informed the Rajya Sabha that a strong mechanism for 'monitoring' Left Wing extremist activities had been put in place. However, as the Maoists bid to intensify the peoples' war throughout the country, there appears to be little hope that a comparable mechanism will emerge that goes beyond a role that simply 'monitors' to one that effectively counters the extremist depredations.


Bibhu Prasad Routray is Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal

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posted by Resistance 3/16/2007 09:39:00 AM,

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