Monday, 25 May 2020

Behind The Maoist Menace

Updated: August 10, 2013 1:23 pm

On May 25, 2013 there was a dreadful ambush of a convoy of 40 vehicles which was moving from Sukma to Jagdalpur. Obviously, no Road Opening Party had been deployed on either side of the road to prevent an ambush from being laid. The ambush resulted in the death of twenty-four persons in the convoy and serious injuries to a number of persons. One of the persons in the convoy was Mahendra Karma, an Adivasi tribal from Chhattisgarh, who had raised a force called the Salwa Judum from among the tribals of the area to combat the tribals who had been motivated and led by the Communist Party of India Maoist, mostly of Andhra Pradesh origin. He was injured in the ambush and was captured by the CPI Maoist cadres and taken into the jungle and brutally murdered. He was a very high priority target for obvious reasons, hence his brutal and revengeful killing.

There was naturally a big hue and cry at this outrage. I was trying my best to ascertain the answers to numerous questions that naturally arose after such a terrible incident. Regrettably, I could not get clear answers from paramilitary and journalist sources. When flooded by several journalists from TV and print sources asking me where the failure was, I was at a loss to reply, till a veteran journalist friend from my period as Inspector General, BSF, in Kashmir, who had returned from the incident site gave me the details and I was able to piece the sequel of incidents and pinpoint the failures of the district police and the para-military force present there.

The questions mainly directed to me from the media were to pinpoint whose failure it was. Was it the BJP, the district police or the CRPF deployed there responsible?

I replied that the first failure of not giving security to the Congress party group that had come to his jurisdiction was of the District Superintendent of Police. If no police officer of the state informed him that a Congress party group consisting of a large number of vehicles was going to his jurisdiction, the moment they arrived in his district HQ’s, it was his business to know that such a group had arrived. His source should have been his police station in the District HQ’s or a subordinate from his Special Branch. He cannot take the plea that the Congress party did not inform him either of their coming to his jurisdiction, or their staying there or the route by which they were returning or going forward from his District HQ’s that such a large Congress party is a security risk is obvious and the Superintendent of Police on learning that this group was coming, should have alerted the adjacent police districts and police stations enroute and provided security at the place of accommodation. He should have then met the party and ascertained details of where they were staying and their onward or return route. Immediately, thereafter he should have told the party that they could return only after he had sanitised the return route, alerted the districts adjacent to his along the route. Then he should have called the CRPF commandant deployed in his district and given directions for guarding the Congress party group where they were staying, and to deploy a Road Opening Party along the exit route and then to conduct an antisabotage check of the road on which the convoy was to return. He should then have informed his DIG Range of action taken and asked for more troops in case he did not have sufficient strength for the tasks enumerated above. Lastly, he should have alerted the next district on the departure route of the Congress group and informed them of their expected time of departure and expected time of arrival in their district jurisdiction.

It is still not clear to me that the Suprintendent of Police was not informed by his Dy. Insp. General of Police or the State Special Branch that a party of 25 Congress persons led by high profile Security risks was moving into his area of jurisdiction and he should take adequate security precautions. If the Congress party group was moving through more than two districts, it was the responsibility of the Police HQs and the Special Branch HQs to alert the SP and also ask him if he needed more CRPF or other personnel to augment his security grid. If after this procedure was followed, the fact that the Congress group moved in a convoy of twenty odd vehicles on a road that was traversing a forest was allowed to proceed without a Road Opening Party being deployed along either side to a depth of at least a hundred to two hundred yards, occupying all knolls and low heights if any on either side of the road and thus denying the enemy of ambushing the convoy, and without an anti-sabotage check of the road shows the height of irresponsibility by the Supdt. of Police of the district. It is amasing that in a state where so many ambushes have been successful, because of either not clearing either flank by deploying Road Opening Parties on either flank, or not carrying out anti-sabotage checks of the road, the mistake has again been committed, I am afraid I have no words to express the miserable failure of the police.

On the contrary, how did the Maoists know of the visit of the Congress group to the area? Also, how did they know that the group would take the route they did, through a forest ideally suited for an ambush? They also probably knew that no ROP had been laid. This they could have found by sending a reconnaissance patrol to the area. Obviously, the intelligence net of the Maoists was excellent, another factor that the state police and intelligence agencies both state and centre should introspect about.

All I can say is that a high level enquiry should be conducted, that should thoroughly enquire into all the points raised and pinpoint the failures at all levels and the strictest disciplinary actions should be taken against the delinquents.

I now come to the larger issue. This is to understand what has caused the Maoists to organise the Adivasis as their foot soldiers and fight the government in a guerilla war. For this we must travel back several thousand years to the time when this subcontinent was inhabited by Dravidian people and then waves of migration of Aryans from Central Asia into the Gangetic plain took place. They probably displaced the Dravidian inhabitants for the new migrants were pastoral people who had large herds of horses and cattle. The original Dravidian inhabitants were pushed into the forests and became forest dwellers, while the Aryan migrants changed from a pastoral to an agricultural people, occupying the fertile valleys of the Indus, Ganges and other rivers. These new dwellers had developed a classification of caste groups among themselves. The group who controlled governance were the Brahmins who were also the religious leaders, followed by the Kshatriyas who were the soldiers and the policemen of the new society. Below were the Vaisyas who were the traders and below that the Shudras who did all the menial work for the three upper castes. Even below them were the original Dravidian inhabitants of this sub-continent who had been pushed into the forests. We have to jump several thousand years to come to the period of the British, who had come to trade but then took over as rulers of this sub-continent. It was during their period that revolutions took place in Russia and then in China-the Communist revolution. In both these countries there was no caste system as fine-tuned in India, but there were classes-nobles and royalty and rich classes who owned vast areas of land as estates where the common people worked to cultivate grain to feed all the people of their countries. The striking factor in both Russia and China was the vast distance between the nobles and the common people. The nobles owned thousands of acres of land and the common people slaved on this land cultivating crops.

This unequal distribution of land and wealth gave birth to a new political philosophy communism. This led to a big revolution in Russia and the position of the nobles at the top and the peasents at the bottom was reversed once and for all. The Communists who now were in power began to export their revolution to other countries. China was groaning under the weight of a cruel royalty and soon a new Communist party of China was fighting a revolution there, that they won by 1949.

In India, the caste system had brought about a situation akin to what was obtaining in Russia and China before their Communist revolution leveled things. In India, the interesting development was that the upper castes had seen to it that ownership of cultivable land remained in the hands of the upper castes, while the lower castes were made to farm the lands of the upper castes at a pittance of a wage of one-fifth of the crop that was cultivated as their wages. When the British East India Company took over the governance of the country in 1857, this is what they found. Regrettably, they did not try to correct this obviously unequal distribution of cultivable land. The British also found that the Dravidians were consigned to the forests and had become hunter gatherers. They would bring forest produce like tamarind, honey and other forest produce to the markets held weekly in clearings at the edge of the jungle, where the Vaisya trader would buy these goods at a pittance and sell them for a huge profit in the towns keeping the tribals impoverished permanently. Regrettably, the British did not do much to rectify these grossly unfair practices. However, communism had by now been exported by Russia and the Indian Communist party was formed. Incidentally all those who became Communists in India were not from the lowest castes but from upper castes. This trend continues till today.

In two parts of the country in North Bengal and in Telengana area of what was then the Nizam’s country the Communist party of India started movements by taking the law into their own hands and organising the scheduled tribes and castes into local militias, forcing the landlords living in interior areas to part with their cultivable land that they then distributed to all the landless scheduled castes and tribes making crude papers of ownerships. Since the actions of the Communists were always in the interiors, it took some time for the owners to get to the police stations and fight back. Invariably, most of the lands snatched by the lowest classes were forcibly returned to the landlords and the capitalist situations restored. These two movements were known as the Tebagha and Telengana movements respectively.

It is in this background that we should see how the Constitution was framed by the Constituent Assembly in 1950, after India became independent. The members of the Constituent Assembly were sensible people who wanted an equitable and just system of governance to be established.

The members of the Constituent Assembly enacted two schedules that concern us, the Fifth and Nineth schedules.

The Fifth Schedule concerned the Scheduled tribes, the Adivasis who lived in the forests as hunter gatherers. This states that all Scheduled areas in the country, except for the North-East, (catered for by the Sixth Schedule), is to be administered by the Governor of the states, by appointing a Tribes Advisory Council from among the Scheduled tribes living in those Scheduled areas. Scheduled areas are the reserved forests of the state. In the event of a tribal living in a Scheduled area was also an MLA, he should also be included in the Tribal Advisory Council. Regrettably no Governor of any State has ever appointed a Tribal Advisory Council. Till date, all forest areas have been given for mining to mining companies, either government or private by the state government and the tribals living there have been evicted by the state government. These actions are plainly illegal and have violated the rights of the tribals guaranteed under the Fifth Schedule. In the vacant space created by the government in allotting forest areas to mining companies, the Communist party of India (Maoist) has entered and organised the tribals as their foot soldiers. Initially, in Andhra Pradesh, they operated by taking the weapons of the Andhra Pradesh special police, who had no idea of guerilla warfare and kept blundering in the forest handicapped by lack of knowledge of field craft and good leadership got ambushed on several occasions. Later they purchased some AK-47 rifles from the LTTE sheltering in Tamil Nadu. They also made some indigenous rocket launchers in a motor vehicle repair shop in Vijayawada. Then they developed links with the Maoists in Nepal and managed some weapons from there. They also developed links with the PLA, an insurgent Communist group in Manipur and probably got some weapons from them. They also managed to loot weapons from two Police armories , one in Jehanabad in Bihar and one from Orissa. They took away several hundred rifles and ammunition from these two armories. They have successfully ambushed para-military forces from time to time and taken away the weapons from the dead and injured personnel from the ambushes.

Today, despite deployment of the CRPF, BSF, ITBP, and the State Armed Police battalions, a considerable area of the forests in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa are liberated areas. The Ninth Schedule talks of the unequal ownership of irrigated cultivable land, with all the three upper castes owning large chunks of irrigated land denying ownership to the lower castes and forcing them to work in the fields of the upper classes. As per the Ninth Schedule Land ceiling laws have been legislated in all states, but never implemented except for three states-Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Kerala. None of the other states have touched it.

What is surprising is that the central government or the state governments do not talk of the causes of this insurgency. They do not talk of the two Schedules the Fifth and the Ninth Schedules that the governments of the states affected have blithely ignored in giving rights to the lower caste peasents and the tribals. They only talk of a military solution to the problem.


 LEFT-WING EXTREMISM


By definition, terrorism is the use of force or violence to intimidate. Maoism is terrorism draped in a fig leaf of virtuous intent, in Marxist-Leninist ideology. It was in November 2004 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first declared Maoism as the biggest threat to India. For nine years Maoists have been “enemy number one” and grown without fear of retribution. We should not make mistake of sympathising with the Maoists. In India, nearly 3o per cent population is below poverty line and it is the result of policy paralysis of the government. Maoists have flourished in the country due to the vote bank politics of some parties. Abject poverty cannot be an alibi for violence, nor a justification of terror. People who present poverty and oppression as justification for stroking terror are, ideologically, at a loss.

Recent killing of a Superintendent of Police in Jharkhand and also, killing of Congress party people in Chhattisgarh, were the most brazen attack by the Maoists in recent times. On June 10, 2013, naxalites have attacked a passenger train in Bihar, and killed three people. Maoists have also kidnapped and killed bureaucrats, to force their demands on government. It is impossible to predict the exact number of people killed in Maoist attacks, but the government data project it as 8,000 during 2001 and 2012. Here is some data showing the exact nature of Maoist killing in the first half of this year:

Maoists have been at loggerheads with government from many decades, but the killing of political campaigners, that too civilian population marks a shift in the strategy of the Maoists. Analysts are struggling to find the answer to what Maoists hope to get through this new form of bloodshed. It may represent an effort by the Maoists to prove, in the face of their apparently declining military effectiveness in recent years, and some successes by the Special Forces, that they remain a potent force. Another theory is that a younger generation within the larger and relatively disciplined cadre of the Maoists perpetrated the massacre to demonstrate its ruthlessness to elder leaders.

The recent attack shows a paradigm shift in the strategy of the Maoists. It is true that Maoism provides critical inputs for an alternative paradigm for development, relevant for transitional societies and that it is a still a powerful ideology for the poorer parts of the world, although its ideological appeal has declined internationally.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeatedly called Naxalism as the biggest internal security challenge. Government- both central and state, is fighting this problem at two levels: development of remote areas and security while law and order is a state subject, centre has one Naxal management division, which allocates funds, logistics and coordinates between states on the issue. But these mechanisms are not efficient to tackle the maoist problem. Maoists have marked a new move, which may signal more bloodshed to come.

By Nilabh Krishna


In all government meetings, there is no mention of implementing the Fifth Schedule and the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution. The only conclusion is a military solution to the issue. If the Fifth Schedule is implemented and the tribals get the rights to their forest land, it is they who will lease their land to mining companies, if they want to and they will get the compensation for the forest land. Very obviously, it is the lure of filthy lucre that is making the government take illegal and unlawful actions in not implementing the Fifth and Ninth Schedules. The upper castes want to keep control of irrigated land in hundreds of acres for each owner and also want to take away the rights of ownership of forests guaranteed to tribals in the Fifth Schedule and lease the forestland to mining companies and swallow all the profits. If this is not illegal and unlawful what is?

I am writing all this because of firsthand knowledge. I was posted in the Central Bureau of Investigation in Hyderabad in 1986-90 and was able to study the Naxalite insurgency. I found that the Andhra government had never enforced the Land Ceiling laws legislated by the state by 1955. Also, the various Governors of Andhra Pradesh had never enforced the Fifth Schedule by setting up Tribes Advisory Councils and allowing them to develop the reserved forests which are the Scheduled areas referred to in the Fifth Schedule. Instead of the Governors setting up Tribes Advisory Councils, it was the chief minister and the State government who signed deals with mining Companies, then illegally evicted the tribals from their forests where they had been living for thousands of years. This blatantly illegal and unlawful act was exploited by the CPI (ML) party operating in the Telengana region at that point of time called the Peoples War Group into organising the tribals of the area into dalams, training them and arming them who then started ambushing the APSP and declared an unofficial war on the state government. Regrettably the state armed police was handicapped by poor training and leadership and suffered a series of ambushes and were simply outclassed by the Maoist groups who were well trained in jungle craft and guerilla war. The standard reaction of the APSP to an ambush, where they suffered casualties, was for a senior officer to lead a convoy to the spot where the ambush had taken place and if five policemen were killed, they were asked to raid the nearest tribal village near the ambush site pick up any five tribals bring them to the ambush spot, line them up and shoot them down in cold blood as a retaliation for the ambush. The police officers who practiced this kind of retaliation did not know anything of guerilla warfare and did not realise that by killing five innocent tribals of a village near where the ambush had taken place, they had instantly driven the whole village into the arms of the Naxalites. The Andhra police by their ham handed actions soon lost control of the whole Telengana area. It is only in 1989, that they reemployed a veteran chief instructor in guerilla warfare of the SSB to raise a new force called the Greyhounds, that they were able to beat the PWG at their game by outclassing the PWG guerilla dalams in field craft and guerilla tactics. The new force was so good that the Maoists and their cadres, all Telugu speaking were forced to flee from Telengana area and went into the Bastar and Chattisgarh forests and there got a good hideout and began organising the Adivasis of the region into Maoist groups.


 BLOODBATH IN JHARKHAND


‘’We have to further aggravate the situation and create more difficulties to the enemy forces by expanding our guerrilla war to new areas on the one hand and intensifying the mass resistance in the existing areas so as to disperse the enemy forces over a sufficiently wider area; hence the foremost task in every state is to intensify the war in their respective states while in areas of intense enemy repression there is need to expand the area of struggle by proper planning by the concerned committees; tactical counter-offensives should be stepped up and also taken up in new areas so as to divert a section of the enemy forces from attacking our guerrilla bases and organs of political power”.

 

Implementing such ‘ideas’ and taking the ‘guerrilla warfare’ to ‘new areas’, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), on July 2, 2013 killed Amarjit Balihar (45), the Pakur District Superintendent of Police (SP) and five other policemen in an ambush in Kathikund forest area of Dumka District, under Santhal Pargana (Tribal Belt) region of Jharkhand. The SP was returning from a meeting with Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Priya Dubey in Dumka District when his vehicle was attacked by Maoists. Initially, the Maoists triggered a landmine blast and then started firing indiscriminately on the convoy from higher ground. Three policemen suffered serious injuries.

The Santhal Pargana region comprises six Districts of north-east Jharkhand – Dumka, Deoghar, Godda, Sahebganj, Pakur and Jamtara—where very low levels of Maoist presence and violence have been witnessed over the last few years. But gradually these are turning into Maoist strongholds, and to make the matters worse, the proximity of the region to neighbouring States of Bihar and West Bengal is a major cause of concern.

Commenting on the Dumka incident, Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP), Rajeev Kumar said on July 2, “The Maoists have carried out the dastardly act to divert our attention from the ongoing operation in Palamu, where we are about to reach their strongest and safest hideouts.” Further a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) official said “As part of their tactics, the Maoists would always look for Districts which have, so far, remained out of the priority list of security agencies due to reports of relatively lesser number of Naxal activities in such areas. Pakur and Dumka Districts are certainly in that league where the state had never deployed CRPF.” Around 3,000 security officers and troopers of the Jharkhand Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been carrying out an operation against a Maoist group in the jungles of Palamu since June 25, 2013.

The entire Santhal Pargana region did not witness a single incident of Maoist violence in 2013, till June 26, when the Maoists set ablaze an earthmover and three tractors of a private company constructing a road in Jamtara District. Two civilians and one SF have been killed in Dumka and two civilians have been killed in Pakur since 2010. But the recent incident in Dumka has compelled the Jharkhand Administration to include the two Districts in the Maoists affected District category with immediate effect, even though it may be noted that the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) includes 21 Districts of Jharkhand, including both Dumka and Pakur Districts. It is also believed that for more than two decades, the local Santhal tribes have successfully prevented the Maoists from spreading their tentacles in the region; however with increasing mining activities and displacement taking place, the Maoists have gradually started getting acceptance.

It is evident that since 2011, the Maoist perpetrated violent activities have gone down gradually across India. But the recent surge in their activity in Chhattisgarh as well as Jharkhand points to the fact that even though the level of violence has gone down over a period of time however their core competence to strike and strike at will remains intact. The last couple of years’ lull in violent activities as said earlier is a tactical ploy by the Maoists to remain on the defensive and come back stronger and take the fight to higher levels seen never before.

Hence, it is clear that the killing of the SP and five other policemen, in a relatively safe area, is nothing but a diversionary and desperate tactics on the part of the Maoists to take the ‘protracted peoples’ war’ to new frontiers and compel the SFs to stop the ongoing anti-Maoist operation in Palamu and Latehar Districts since June 25, 2013. Since January 2013, SFs have launched four anti-Maoist operations in Latehar Districts of Jharkhand, putting tremendous amount of pressure on the Maoists. Media reports suggest that around 200 Maoists including Arvindji, the mastermind of January 7, 2013, Latehar attack and the recent Dumka killings are surrounded by SFs from all sides.

However, the bigger worry for the anti-LWE operations is the lack of political support for the anti-Maoist offensive, particularly with Chhattisgarh going to polls later this year (2013) and signs in Ranchi that a Jharkhand Mukhti Morcha (JMM)-led government could back come to power in the state leading to a soft approach towards the Maoists. It is also important to bear in mind that since its formation in 2000, Jharkhand has never had a stable political environment to take tough stand against the Maoists which was clearly exploited by the Maoists over the years. Presently, the state is under President’s rule and decision making is never easy under these circumstances. Stating that there was a slight drop in LWE incidents in the first five months compared to the corresponding period in the last two years, Jharkhand DGP on June 13, said a total of 181 LWE incidents were reported till May 31, 2013, as against 197 last year and 202 in 2011.He further added that the Maoists committed 52 per cent of violence out of 181 incidents while Peoples Liberation Front of India (PLFI) and another group Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) committed 29 per cent and 15 per cent violence respectively. However, encounters in the state increased in the first five months of the year recording 31 as against 22 last year and 27 in 2011, in the corresponding period. The police were successful in nabbing 294 extremists of different groups this year, an increase compared to 2012 (211) and 2011 (160).

Interestingly, with the Dumka ambush, Jharkhand has earned the dubious distinction of contributing the highest number of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) related fatality in the country in the first half of 2013, surpassing Chhattisgarh by a slender margin of three fatality figures. More importantly, 98 people were killed in the state in 2012 whereas in 2013 the figures are almost the same in the first six months of the year. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) Data since 2005, 1180 people have been killed in Jharkhand in LWE related violence. It is vital to note here that Jharkhand was leading the fatality figures till the Darbha attack occurred in Chhattisgarh, on May 25, 2013, in which 31 people were killed and more than 30 injured.

 By Mrinal Kanta Das

(The author is a senior researcher at the Institute of Conflict & Management, New Delhi)


Regrettably no one in Andhra Pradesh seems to have learnt a lesson from all this. In a seminar conducted by the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi in November 2012, it was stated by Kishore Chandra Deo, the Tribal Affairs Minister in the central government, who incidentally piloted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers Forests Rights Act in Parliament and got it passed, that recently he had written to the Governor of Andhra Pradesh that
the state government had granted mining leases to state government corporations; asking the Governor to cancel these mining leases as they were illegal and only the Governor could through the Tribes Advisory Council give mining leases to any corporation. The reply he got from the Governor’s Secretary, and that too after three months, was that the Governor had referred the representation of the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs to the Chief Minister for comments! Very clearly by this act, the Governor has forfeited the powers conferred on him by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution! What a sorry pass have we come to.

I have recently seen a DO letter addressed to the Governors of the States, asking them to exercise their powers under the Fifth Schedule. I am quoting verbatim from paragraph 5 of this DO letter: “The main threat today is the mining in Schedule Five areas, which has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in the region in our democratic system. In many cases powerful lobbies are trying to encourage mining in flagrant violation of constitutional provisions and safeguards guaranteed by our founding fathers and also in utter contempt of land transfer regulations which have been enacted by various state governments and without any regard to other prevailing laws of the land. It is most shocking and revolting that certain state governments for instance, the state government of Andhra Pradesh where higher echelons of powers are themselves trying to brazenly distort not only the laws but the Constitutional safeguards against the interests of Tribals and other dwellers in Forrest areas.”

From the above facts presented in the seminar of the Centre for Policy Research and the DO letter of the Honourable Minister for Tribal Affairs addressed to all the Governors of all Sates having Scheduled areas and where the Fifth Schedule is applicable by the Governors, it is clear that the central government is not at all serious about implementing the laws of the land that protect the oldest citizens of our country the—Scheduled Tribes. The central government is deliberately looking the other way and genuine persons like the Honourable Minister for Tribal affairs are being rendered
dishonourable. As for the poor tribals the laws of the land are not for them. They are to remain at the bottom of
the table!

By E N Rammohan

(The author was Director General of BSF)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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