Orissa Assessment 2008
A high alert was sounded in the Malkangiri District on the eve of the ‘People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) week’ being celebrated on December 2-8, 2007, by the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist). Police were put on alert in the Kalimela, Malkangiri Village-79 (MV-79), Motu, Bhejangwada and Chitrakonda areas of the District. Patrolling and combing operations were intensified in the vulnerable areas as a precautionary measure, and borders with Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were sealed to prevent a Maoist influx from the neighbouring States. Maoists put up hundreds of posters and banners in different places, including the District headquarters, on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the PLGA, urging the people to ‘fight against injustice’ and join the PLGA in large numbers. Similar posters and banners were also put up in the Koraput District in the local tribal and Telugu languages, asking people to evict landlords from their villages.
Maoist subversion in Orissa has largely been an overflow from neighbouring States including Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, both of which are deeply afflicted by the Maoist insurgency. While 22 of Orissa’s 30 Districts have, over the years, witnessed Maoist violence and mobilization, it is the border Districts which have been the worst affected.
According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), 23 persons, including five civilians, four security force (SF) personnel and 14 Maoists, were killed in 44 incidents in 2006. In 2007, provisional data by the Institute for Conflict Management indicated that an equal number of 23 deaths were reported. Crucially, however, while fatalities in 2006 included just five civilians and 14 Maoist cadre, year 2007 has seen as many as 13 civilians killed, with Maoist fatalities down to eight.
Maoist-related fatalities in Orissa, 2006-2007
Source: Data 2006: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Provisional Data 2007:
Institute for Conflict Management (ICM)
Unlike its neighbouring States, Orissa has not witnessed significant high profile Maoist attacks in 2007, with just three major incidents (defined by three or more fatalities) recorded through the year:
January 31: Three forest employees were killed by suspected CPI-Maoist cadres in the Kandhar Forest area of Kankadahada Block in the Dhenkanal District. Leaflets found near the dead bodies said that the killings were in retaliation against the deaths of 13 tribals in Police firing at Kalinga Nagar on January 2, 2006.
April 29: A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Sub-Inspector and two suspected CPI-Maoist cadres were killed during an exchange of fire near MV 79 village in the Malkangiri District. Four CRPF personnel and two civilians were injured in the encounter.
June 22: Maoists killed three persons in the Deogarh District in coordinated attacks. One person from the Telkusumi village and two persons from Raniguda village were dragged out of their houses and tied with a rope before being hacked to death using sharp weapons by the Maoists. A contractor was also killed in a similar fashion at an unspecified location in the same District.
But the process of consolidation and expansion of Maoist areas of operation and activities continues to grow unchecked in the Orissa. The Naxal Management Division of the MHA indicates that there has been a rise of 25 percent rise in Maoist activities in the worst hit Malkangiri District and that there had been a nearly 15 per cent rise in Maoist activities in Orissa at large. Reports have indicated that the Maoists have, in recent times, ‘taken over’ several areas in south-western Orissa, thus allowing the insurgents a corridor of easy transit between Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The movement of armed Maoists has been noticed along the Ganjam-Kandhamal border and from the ‘remote’ areas of Bhanjanagar, Bargarh, Sorada, Mujagarh, Baibili and Tarsing in the Ganjam District close to Kandhamal border. The dense jungles and hilly terrain of this region are conducive to the safe movement of the Maoists.
CPI-Maoist propaganda has been asserting that Government policies have led to a further marginalisation of tribals and forest dwellers in the State, with large ventures like the POSCO and Kalinga Nagar steel projects, as well as bauxite mining and other large enterprises leading to massive displacement in Orissa. Accordingly, at their 9th Congress in January-February 2007, the Maoists called on all "forest dwellers to resist till the end the massive displacement taking place and protect their land and forests from the robbers and looters that seek to seize them." The 9th Congress also called on "the vast oppressed peasantry to rise as a storm… to sweep away their oppressors and establish their own people’s power from village to village", and exhorted the working class to "throw off the chains of the revisionists, reformists, and reactionary trade unionists and take to militant struggles against the attacks on their living standards and democratic rights."
There is some evidence that the Maoists have penetrated the major developmental project complex and are orchestrating a revolt by uniting local tribals. For instance, they have formed the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (Committee for Defence and Struggle against POSCO) to oppose the establishment of the POSCO steel plant in the Jagatsinghpur District. According to intelligence sources, Maoist ideologues have also started speaking to residents in the area about the need for an armed struggle against POSCO. "Normally, the ideologues arrive first, followed by their armed cadres," an intelligence official revealed. The Orissa Home Secretary, Tarunkanti Mishra, stated that, "The Naxalites are likely to capitalise on the volatile situation prevailing in the POSCO project area. However, Police personnel are keeping a close watch over their activities."
Similarly, Maoist front organisations are opposing the TATA Steel project in the Kalinga Nagar area of Jajpur District, with the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Manch (People’s Forum against Displacement) opposing the displacement of locals by the project. Hundreds of tribal villagers demolished a partly constructed boundary wall of the TATA Steel's proposed hospital inside the Kalinga Nagar industrial complex on January 1, 2007. Jajpur Superintendent of Police, D.S. Kuttey, also disclosed that "the CPI (ML) Janashakti is active in the Kalinga Nagar area… Already, two leaders of the Visthapan Virodhi Jana Manch are supporting the radical viewpoint of the Janashakti to wage an armed struggle. The police are keeping a watch on the situation and we are taking the necessary steps."
Over the years, the cultivation of hemp (ganja) in the hilly areas of the interior has been a major source of finance for the CPI-Maoist. On November 19, 2007, police personnel, excise and revenue officials had to trudge across 12 kilometres of inhospitable terrain to Kudanali and a neighbouring village in the Naktideul Block of Sambalpur District, before they could lay their hands on hemp cultivation spread over 20 acres of land. Police destroyed the hemp plants valued at INR 160 million. Similarly, on November 22, 2007, 6,000 hemp plants valued at INR 25 million were destroyed in the forests of Khajuripada and Sunajhari in the Boudh District.
Looting and robbery are another significant source of income for the Maoists in Orissa. On October 19, 2007, for instance, around 15 armed Maoists looted over INR 40,000 from a forest office at Kadelpali village in the Sambalpur District. Similarly, Police suspect the hand of the Maoists in a number of bank robberies in the extremist affected Districts of the State. Police also suspect a Maoist hand in the sensational robbery of INR 22 million from the Barbil branch of the Bank of Baroda in Keonjhar District on March 23, 2007, and INR 3.5 million from UCO Bank in Rourkela on September 28, 2007.
The Maoists in Malkangiri District are reportedly equipped with hi-tech gadgets and modern weapons, according to the Police. On November 3, 2007, Satish Gojbhie, District Superintendent of Police, disclosed, "The Maoists in Malkangiri District use extortion money – collected from traders and village level politicians – to buy latest equipment, including satellite phones and modern weaponry." According to Gojbhie, the insurgents in the District are ‘financially sound’. He disclosed, further, that one of the arrested members of CPI-Maoist Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), 37-year old Sriramulu Srinivasa Rao, has confessed that he was collecting at least INR 20 million every month from the District. The Maoist, who faces at least 37 criminal charges, was arrested in July 2007. "Malkangiri District has no industry nor does it have mines. From his confession it is evident that village level politicians such as ward members, sarpanch and some non-government organisations are providing them with regular cash," Gojbhie argued.
Subsequent to the formation of the CPI-Maoist in 2004, two zonal committees of the outfit have been responsible for activities in Orissa: the AOBSZC and the Jharkhand-Bihar-Orissa Special Zonal Committee (JBOBSZC). These two function in close co-ordination with the CPI-Maoist Central Committee and the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee. The AOBSZC, which covers the Maoist affected Districts of Malkangiri, Koraput, Gajapati, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Ganjam, has a bureaucratic organizational structure, and is divided into two bureaus: the South Bureau includes the Malkangiri Division and the North Bureau includes the Basdhara Division. The Malkangiri Division has Gopi Sammi Reddy alias Jogal alias Santhosh as its secretary. On the other hand, the Basdhara Division functions under its Secretary Sabyasachi Panda alias Sarat.
The Maoists function principally through their dalams (armed squads), including the Kalimela dalam, the Poplur dalam, the Motu dalam, the Jhanjavati dalam and the Korkonda dalam in Malkangiri District and the Udaya dalam in Rayagada District, among others. These dalams recruit locals and send them to various Maoist training centres in Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. According to sources, the insurgents are now using high-power jammers and filters to block mobile and wireless services in the Maoist ‘zones’ and are also using satellite phones.
In November 2007, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stated that Police Stations in the Maoist-affected areas were being repaired and strengthened. He also said that jails in these areas were being fortified and their staff being given special training, adding that employees’ strength in 84 Police Stations in the affected areas had been increased and four Special Security Battalions had been established. He disclosed, further, that Police personnel were being given anti-Maoist training gradually. Four battalions of the paramilitary CRPF have also been deployed in the affected areas. The State’s first India Reserve Battalion (IRB) has already been set up, while the recruitment process for the second and third IRBs has commenced. To boost the morale of the security forces, the Orissa Government has launched an insurance policy of INR One million for 12,000 Police personnel engaged in counter-insurgency operations.
Nevertheless, the Orissa Police lacks infrastructure and manpower to check the mounting Maoist influence and capabilities. The State Director General of Police, Gopal Chandra Nanda, admits, "There had been not only acute shortage of Police personnel, but the department is also severely handicapped in terms of infrastructure as well." While Police Headquarters feels that Orissa currently requires around 1,000 Police Stations, Nanda disclosed that "Unfortunately, the State now has only 482 Police Stations and most of them lack proper infrastructure and manpower."
Further, the Orissa Police currently has over 12,000 vacancies. While about 10,000 vacancies are among the constables and Other Ranks, there are also many vacancies in the middle-rung leadership at the Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Sub-Inspector (SI) and Inspector levels. According to sources, as many as 360 ASI posts, 905 SI posts and 43 posts of inspectors have been vacant for the past several years. At least 57 posts of India Police Service officers in the State quota are also vacant, as against a sanctioned strength of 159 officers for the State. "Whereas there are 142 policemen per one lakh population on an average across the country, Orissa has only 92 policemen per one lakh population", Nanda disclosed further. Orissa’s casual attitude towards filling vacancies in the Police force has only worsened the already weak counter-insurgency capacities. In May 2007, the MHA was constrained to write to the Orissa Government, along with the Governments of Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, regarding the need to spruce up their intelligence mechanisms by increasing manpower, inducting competent officers and procuring better surveillance equipment.
On October 6, 2007, the Orissa Government submitted a proposal of INR 5.5 billion to the Centre for overall development of Districts affected by the Maoist insurgency. Official sources maintain that Orissa will prefer to continue with its old strategy of giving priority to developmental activities rather than campaigns to suppress the insurgency by force. "We plan to ensure rural connectivity, health facilities and employment in tribal-dominated Districts where Maoists lure people to their groups," Government sources assert. The Government, for instance, wishes to make a success the 1,700 kilometre Vijayawada-Ranchi Highway corridor which would pass through 12 Districts of Orissa, including the Maoist-affected Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj. The Orissa stretch of the inter-state road will start from Motu in Malkangiri District in the south and terminate at Tiring in the Mayurbhanj District in the north. The Chief Minister feels that if the corridor passing through the Maoist affected States of Jharkhand, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh is constructed, it would usher in economic development in the region and reduce the intensity of Left Wing extremism. In order to combat the insurgency, the Orissa Government has also prepared a pilot project to be launched initially in the two most vulnerable Districts of Malkangiri and Rayagada. Tarun Kanti Mishra, Principal Secretary (Home), indicated that the main thrust of the pilot scheme includes the provision of enhanced security and launching of special schemes relating to socio-economic development, particularly in health care, education, road and other infrastructure development.
The Maoists in Orissa are progressively strengthening with each passing day, acquiring more manpower, technological and striking capabilities. They are also planning to enlarge their spheres of operation by reaching out to more people in newer areas. The Government, however, is still battling basic issues such as acute shortages of infrastructure and personnel. Such a lackadaisical attitude towards a problem which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the ‘single largest threat’ to India’s internal security, is no less than appalling.