Archive for the ‘Naxals’ Category

The Rising Naxal Menace

Well, this article in Asia Times on the Naxal menance  by Neeta Lal was an eye opener! Could not help but publish it here in its entirety for the benefit of our readers!  So take a deeper look at the functioning and growing of the naxals in India as they grow silently  in deep pockets of forests in Indian heartland! Unhindered!

As India’s Maoists continue to strike terror in the hearts of civilians by looting and kidnapping with impunity – they are now estimated to control a staggering one-third of the country’s districts – more disquieting facts about their modus operandi are surfacing.

According to the latest interrogations of arrested top Maoist leaders by Indian intelligence, the rebels have succeeded in raising a army of their own right in the heart of the country that is fortified with AK- 47 assault rifles and an array of deadly weapons and arms. The strategy that has been employed by the terrorists in building their army paints them as a much deadlier adversary than was previously assumed. Conversant with the techniques of modern warfare, this force is far from a ragtag bunch of confused soldiers inhabiting swathes of jungle.

The new intelligence has found that the Maoist army has three components: the main force, a secondary force and a base force. The main force – armed with ammunition looted mostly from security forces – has companies, platoons and special action teams besides an intelligence unit. The secondary force comprises special guerilla squads, while the base force is made up of the jan militia. The lower-most Maoist cadre use double-barrel and single-barrel guns, homemade weapons and claymore landmines to blow up vehicles.

The government has now officially pegged the figure of the armed cadres at a staggering 46,600. Of these, the hardcore Maoists number around 8,600 while the jan militia numbers around 38,000, with the latter carrying rudimentary arms and providing logistics support to the core group of the People Liberation Guerilla Army of the CPI (Maoist).

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as “the biggest internal security challenge since Independence”, and there is believed to be a “red corridor” stretching from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to the central state of Chhattisgarh and into West Bengal, bordering Nepal and Bhutan.

Naxals Training in Forest

Naxals Training in Forest

The insurgents started their armed struggle in 1967 with a peasant revolt in Naxalbari village in West Bengal, hence the oft-used moniker of the “Naxals”. Regrouping in the 1980s, the group recruited thousands of poor villagers and armed them with rifles snatched from police, with their Maoist cause resonating among a poor population who’ve felt little of the benefits of India’s socio-economic progress.

However, the Naxals have been charged with running an extortion economy under the garb of a popular revolution. They extract enormous sums of money from mining companies, police say. According to a Reuters report, the rebels extort about US$300 million from companies in India every year to fund their movement.
Enlightening as the new facts about the Maoists are, it is also intriguing why the government has chosen now to release details of the Maoist army and its militia in the public domain. After all, doesn’t the disclosure underscore the Maoists’ strength and their acumen while highlighting the government’s continued failure to control them?

Many feel the disclosures will help the agencies better understand their puzzling adversary, as it seems their appeal cannot be diminished by slogans of development and governance alone. Also, as a newspaper editorial put it, the information reveals that the Maoists are working to ensure the state cannot bring the benefits of democratic governance to the vast tracts they control through fear.

Ministry figures reveal that to battle the Maoists, the government has had to deploy 94,000 paramilitary personnel in nine states. In addition, nearly 100,000 policemen are tackling the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand – two of the worst-hit states. Over 78 battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Sashastra Seema Bal and Indo-Tibetan Border Police are stationed in other states to fight the Naxal terror.

Despite the heavy investment of financial and military resources, the Naxals have succeeded in killing 483 security men while losing only 286 from their own cadre since 2010. “The Maoists continue to have an edge because of the topography of their hideouts in deep forests,” revealed Minister of State in the Home Ministry Jitendra Singh in a written reply to the Lok Sabha (lower house) this week.

There is increasing concern in the security establishment over the dramatic upward spiral in the fatalities of the security forces at the hands of the Maoists. Ultras killed 52 security personnel in the first three months of this year until March 31. The CPI (Maoist) – spearheading the Naxal violence across the country – accounts for 95% of the incidents perpetrated by the Maoists in the affected states.

Alarmingly, from traditional guerrilla hit-and-run tactics, the Naxals have moved seamlessly to terror tactics of kidnap and ransom.

Last month, a group of 15 extremists, disguised as villagers, kidnapped a 32-year-old official in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district. As his pregnant wife pleaded for mercy and asked the government to ensure his safe release, the Maoists radioed to a reporter a list of five demands for his freedom that included the release of many Naxal leaders.

This incident was part of a series of abductions that the Maoists have engineered over the past two years in Chhattisgarh and neighboring Orissa.

Their first major success was Malkangiri district collector R Vineel Krishna in Orissa in February last year, followed by two Italians and politician Jhina Hikaka. The tactic proved effective, with the Orissa government accepting most of their 13 demands, including halting combing operations in the state, to secure Krishna’s release. It had also facilitated the bail of five Maoist leaders.

The kidnap ploy was not limited to two states. After West Bengal Police officer Attindranath Dutta was held hostage in 2009, the state government released 22 imprisoned women with alleged Maoist links for his freedom.

Then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya termed the swap deal an “exception” and not all abducted officials have been so lucky because the government has no policy to deal with the situation. Overall, according to the Home Ministry, out of the 1,554 people abducted by Maoists in the past four years, 328 were killed.

“There has definitely been a shift in tactics. Since the abduction of Krishna last year, the rebels have realized that it is a more effective way of bringing the government to its knees. We can expect more kidnappings. It’s a dangerous trend,” former Orissa director general of police Gopal Nanda told the media.

Union Home Ministry figures reveal that the Maoists have consciously whittled down the number of direct confrontations with security forces over the past couple of years – from 309 in 2009 to 272 in 2010 and just 223 in 2011. As a consequence, Naxalite casualties also plummeted from 219 in 2009 to 99 last year.

The government’s continued failure to contain the Maoists, resulted earlier this year in Delhi handing over major incidents perpetrated by the Naxals to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) “for a swift probe and to bring the culprits to book in time”.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has indicated that Naxal violence could be treated on par with terror attacks and the investigation of such cases may be given to the NIA.

The move to hand over the Maoist attack cases to the NIA, say experts, is a part of the government’s multi-pronged strategy to deal with ultra-left extremism.

Political analysts say the Maoists are able to leverage the situation because of a policy vacuum in Delhi on dealing with Naxalite kidnappings. The government has been dealing with this kind of terror by releasing captured Maoist cadre to get back hostages, thinking they can arrest them again. But clearly this tactic hasn’t worked and a rethink is in order.

However, many are optimistic that the problem isn’t intractable. “Though we are fighting a mini-army, its strength is not so daunting that it cannot be overwhelmed. It is possible to disintegrate it if there is the political will to do so,” says an ex-Border Security Force chief.

So far, however, that “will” seems totally missing.

 

The original article was published in atimes.com and can be read at http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/NE12Df02.html

Fighting the Naxal Menace

After West Bengal’s Jangalmahal was cleared of Maoist insurgents last December, it was widely believed that the Maoists menace was virtually over. But the enthusiasms with which the Maoists have enhanced their activities in the Chattisgarh and Orissa in the past couple of weeks only demonstrate how weak both the centre and state government are against a handful of miasmic extremists. It also goes on to demonstrate that the civilian security preparedness is zilch compared to that of the extremists.

The abduction crisis that began last year with the abduction of Malkangiri Collector R Vineel Krishna has now culminated in the abduction of Sukma collector Mr Alex Paul Menon. One of the MLA’s of Orissa is already in their captivity for over a month now. The fact that Orissa and Chatisgarh would be targeted by the Maoists was anticipated after the fierce battle in Jangalmahal to flush out the extremists and later the killing of the Maoist leader Kishenji in an encounter. This battle forced the survivor members to flee the Jangalmahal region and take covers in Jharkhand-Chattisgarh-Orissa regions.

It goes to the credit of the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee that after taking office she single mindedly pursued the agenda of decimating the Maoist infested Jangalmahal region from the insurgents through careful execution of well laid out strategies. But what worked out in favor of the West Bengal government was air of public resentment that blew against the Maoists.

What Mamata did in West Bengal needs a special mention here. After gaining power, she tried to communicate with the public of the affected about the various development programs that was being undertaken by the government there and tried to inculcate trust into them. She avouched her words by recruiting 10,000 youths from these regions into the police force. This gave a serious jolt to the extremist outfit. Mamata’s clever political move to curb the Maoist menace also helped the security forces in consolidating their defense. The local populace not only extended their support to the police forces, they constantly communicated with the police and informed them about the Maoists activities, which is a far cry in either Orissa , Chattisgarh or Jharkhand.

Naxal training deep in forests of orissa

Naxal training deep in forests of orissa

The Naxals, on the other hand have been busy giving contours to their carefully devised  strategies of targeting precisely those who have penchant for working for the welfare of the tribal in these regions. Both the collector of Malkangiri and Sukma were quiet popular among tribal and so is the abducted MLA Mr. Jhikaka. But what astounds the fact is the reach and clasp of these outfits among the masses in the area. While MLA Jhikaka was abducted while on a tour, the Sukma Collector was abducted from a meeting which he himself had organized! But then when the home minister Mr. Chidambaram himself admits that the government has no instant measures to check these abductions, why blame lesser mortals?

Why the Naxals are now full of zing is not difficult to understand. There has been a constant strategizing and re-strategizing of their future course of action and everything is done with clear objective. May be they want to re-emerge as a stronger organization after the death of Kishenji or maybe they want to assert their relevance before the Maoist party congress to be held this year. Whatever it is, they have been on a rampage unprecedented in magnitude and which does not seem abating. On the contrary the government’s strategy to counter the Maosit moves has fallen flat on nose.

The kidnap of the two Italians, an MLA and two collectors go well beyond normal understandings to prove that Naxals have discovered a new found weapon in abductions which they are using smartly for fulfilling their requirements. Not only have they constantly been able to release dreaded Maoists from prisons, their bargaining powers too remains constantly on the upper side. What happened in Orissa has become a pattern everywhere else in the Moist dominated state. The Orissa government’s olive branch to the Naxals has been one of the worst lines of attack in recent times and has made them smarter!

Rescuing those who have been abducted is no doubt an uphill task, but it should also be ensured that the Maoists donor get buoyant by such activities. It is after all the duty of the government to boost the morale of the security guards! Giving in to the Naxal demands every time ossifies into demoralizing defeats for the security forces. While there should not be anymore impediments in laying out well thought out policy to tackle the Naxal movement, it should be ensured that development of the tribal dominated area is hastened. Only then should we be able to free the lands from the clutches of the Naxals.!

Where Red Rules…

“The ultras are watching. They note every step…after all they rule this place,” Villagers warn you! A sense of fear and suspicion resonate their words. They think every move here is more or less an exercise to dominate the jungle. It seems like a battle of attrition for control. For them this is a lawless land, which is distinctly governed with iron hand.

naxalites in Orissa

Red Army in orissa

A fluttering flag right outside the village Alamanda just on the borders of Orissa- Andhra Pradesh, welcomes you to the land where the Reds rule. The porous border between the two states is believed to be the home for 10,000 Maoists – armed and deadly. The administration on both the sides is yet to admit that the land has been seized. But the situation is far more evident, with the state losing its ground at a fast pace. The kidnapping of the BJD legislator Jhina Hikaka from Laxmipur indicates the same.

Police stations in the region resemble haunted homes and no one dares to go out in “khaki”. Officials are terrified and the woods turn wild after sunset. The cops refuse to stand guards to the legislator when they venture to visit these places. It is thus hardly surprising that legislators hardly visit their constituencies! What’s more shocking is what even local legislators admit in hushed tones – “projects cannot be sanctioned in the region without the prior consent of the ultras. “

Though the police donot refuse the presence of Ultras, they scoff at suggestions of the land being taken and claim that the atrocities are projected way beyond exaggeration. However subordinates in the force give a more practical picture. A subordinate explained the situation by recounting an incident that happened recently. In a shrill voice he explained – “This happened last week. We received information that nearly 80 armed ultras were shifting base and we knew the precise location of their whereabouts. Yet we could not send raiding party. All that we could do is alert the officials to steer clear of that particular stretch and avoid any contact with them.”

And though the Central government has launched the “Operation Green Hunt” to steer clear the naxalite movement, hardly anybody in the village has seen any combing operations in the area! Villagers claim that the forces do not dare to venture deep into the forest. In fact it seems there is lot more politics involved around the naxalites and the operation green hunt than is evident. The way the MLA abduction case is being handled by the Centre and state government makes the difference seem even more apparent!

To put it squarely, the people of Mundiguda, a tiny hamlet  say that both the centre and state are shrugging away from responsibility of reclaiming the place from naxalites. They further explain that while the Reds strike personal bond with the locals; help them in aspects of justice, the government and its machinery are nowhere to be seen! An elderly man who has seen the apathy of the government says – “Here we let the dogs loose. They are free to switch sides. But, we prefer the hands that feed.”

 

 

Kidnapping of Italian Tourists in Orissa: The government should not blow the entire issue out of proportion

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

The abduction of two Italian tourists has turned the spotlight on the Maoists operating in Orissa. Never before in their over a decade long operations in Orissa, did they bother to target foreign tourists. The timing and the message they send out of this is clearly well thought of and premeditated.  More than anything else the sole idea behind such an act seem to be nothing but  gaining more media publicity to their cause. Anything that involves foreign nationals gets you as easy spot spot in the media not only in India but also of that of the victim’s country.  The unfortunate killing of two fishermen off the Kerala coast by an Italian ship and the diplomatic flurry that followed earlier this month, is still fresh in everybody’s memory.  So, if the Naxals have planned and executed this operation with a greater purpose in mind, well, then they have achieved it.

Italy is already on with stupendous efforts to have its nationals released, unharmed. It was not only the state chief minister Mr. Naveen Patnaik but also the center that responded positively  by calling  on the security forces to stop all actions that are being carried on against the rebels.

So how the situation should be dealt with?  Well any answer to this question first calls for understanding the reasons behind the premeditated effort. Gone long back is the era when the majority of the rebels constituted of the locals who were hard pressed against being left out of the development plan by the government.  Most of the cadres of the Maoist group in Orissa are now constituted of non-oriyas. Against this backdrop, there have been reports of acrimonious coups within the naxalite cadre for taking the leadership position. Thus it is with the survival instinct in mind that the leaders are pinning their hopes on negotiations. The government should therefore desist from falling into their trap.

There is another reason for the government to act strong in this issue. The way the Italian nationals went on a tour to the Ganjam- Kandhmal border areas without seeking the permission of the administration is an indication of their own disdain for the laws of the land. Following the recent international sensation created by  video shooting by foreign tourists involving the nude Jarawa tribal , the Orissa government had issued strict guidelines regarding tourist activities in the tribal dominated areas of the state. Unfortunately, the kidnapped seem to have shown utter disrespect for the law in traveling to a sensitive area. The consequences are now there for everyone to see.

Last year, the abduction of the then Malkangiri District Collector Mr. Vineel Krishna had elicited extensive media coverage. The Maoists at that time had put forth multilateral demands which included forcing the government to agree on an irrigation project in their area. Clearly it was a ploy by the Maoists to flex their muscle as well as publicizing themselves as people- centric idealists. The way the bureaucratic machinery bent backwards to concede to the demands to save one of their own, meant that the Maoists have learned the tricks of trade fast. It is far more effective to abduct IAS, IPS officer or a VIP and get your demands fulfilled.  Another big fallout of the Vineel Krishna abduction was the realization by the Maoists that antagonizing the bureaucracy repeatedly would simply defeat their own purpose, for no government  can do anything if the bureaucrats do not rally against it.

Various Maoist groups are losing popularity, perhaps because it has become increasingly  difficult for them to provide  to the people at the grassroots level the kind of justice they profess. Under such circumstance, it would only help if they reassert their presence through statements and opinions in the media. This is where the abduction gives them mileage. And with foreign nationals being involved, the incident has got the potential to create stir at international level too.

The Maoists cannot run the risk of killing the kidnapped. Riding on the wave of publicity gathered, the incident can help as a catalyst for triggering development in their regions. Again this is something which falls completely out of the ideology of the Maoists. So the only intention behind such daredevil act is simple – The Maoists want to find a place in the wagon instead of going on to pull the rein.

Obviously detaining the abducted for long would tarnish their image. So the best way for the government to deal with the situation would be to act dispassionately. If the foreign governments want to be involved, their co-operation should be solicited on conditions of not hyping the issue beyond propotion. And the moment, the Italians are released, they should be arrested and tried for trespass and also for running a travel agency in the country without necessary permits, flouting all norms.

Rebels of Destiny: Child Soldiers of Maoists in Orissa

As if the menace created by naxalites was not enough, police and security personnel in Orissa have been baffled by recent surge in the arrest of children soldiers from the ranks of Naxalites.

The outlawed outfit is increasingly using minors, some of them as young as six years of age, to swell its ranks and also as shields to circumvent the state’s attacks. A report suggeststhat the CPI (Maoist) has recruited nearly 400 children in the past three months for itschildren’s wing, Bal Sangathan. These children are inducted into the cadres of naxalites to use them as a shield against security forces and police during anti-Maoist operations.

The growing number of children who are getting entangled in the nets of Naxalites is baffling. Officials say the number of children who surrendered, were arrested or killed during the past six months in the state of Orissa could be over a dozen. A senior official of the state intelligence department said that around 700 hardcore Maoists are operating in Orissa, with at least 100 of them being juveniles. Though some of the children who laid down arms recently said they were forced to join the left-wing extremists , its mostlymoney that is used to lure the parent of such children to send them into the naxalites rank.

Children Being Trained in Camps

Children Being Trained in Camps

For the naxalites, hiring juveniles is a matter of compulsion rather than that of choice.The Maoists need to build up their depleting ranks fast, in order to maintain their hold over the 12 districts where their movements run. Since 2007, six of its 14 politburo members have been killed or arrested, and its base force has taken a severe blow in terms of cadre strength.

Once hired into the cadre, children are trained and assigned different roles. The roles are delegated keeping in mind their age and efficiency. A complete training program is in place to train the children. The new entrants, aged from six to 12, are initially used as spies and couriers. They are also trained in basic drills and armed with .303 rifles. Children above 12 are used as fighters. They are trained to make and plant landmines and bombs, gather intelligence and for sentry duty. Young girls participate in the same drills as the boys. They are trained to lead operations from the front. Trained in battle and field craft, explosives and intelligence, they can work with RDX cables and detonators.

 

Juvenile Naxalite Soldiers

Juvenile Naxalite Soldiers

Though these juvenile soldiers are yet to understand the intricacies or fallouts of their joining the naxalite movement, they are kept amused by the naxalites by letting them play, dance and mix freely with other children. And for children who dissent, itsbrute force that is used to retain them in the cadre. The recent arrest of a juvenile soldier is a pointer to the fact.”I thought it would be fun, but now I realize that I should go back to school…I was tortured in the Maoist camp,” said 12-year-old Rajani Mota Majhi, who surrendered before police in Orissa.

Child rights activists have meanwhile expressed their shock at the recent cases of arrest and surrender of juveniles. They have sought the government’s help in stopping the children from being used and abused by the naxals. Many have claimed the governments direct intervention to provide a protective environment to the children so that they are not exposed to violence anymore.