Bihar Assessment - 2010
Despite great optimism and a great enthusiasm unleashed by a number of initiatives across a wide spectrum of policies by Chief Minister Nitesh Kumar’s Government – after decades of disastrous mismanagement under predecessor regimes, security and Communist Party of India-Maoist (Maoist) activities remain acute concerns in the State. With 72 fatalities in 2009 [South Asia Terrorism Portal data till December 13], the level of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) violence has remained at almost the same level as 2008, which accounted for 71 fatalities. Civilian fatalities saw a marginal decline, but this was cancelled out by the increase in the number of Security Forces (SFs) killed. The total number of incidents recorded also demonstrated a visible increase – with 143 in 2009 as compared to 114 in 2008.
LWE related fatalities: 2004-2009
*Data Till December 13, 2009
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal Database
The highest number of incidents were reported from Gaya District (38), followed by Aurangabad (23) and Rohtas (10). It was, however, Khagaria District which accounted for the largest number of fatalities (16), followed by Rohtas (12) and Nawada (10). While at least one incident was reported from 23 out of the 38 Districts in the State, fatalities were registered in 12 Districts.
The major incidents (in which three or more fatalities resulted) of LWE related violence in Bihar through 2009 included:
February 9: At least 10 Policemen, including some from the Special Auxiliary Police (SAP), were killed when more than 150 armed Maoist cadres launched a surprise attack on the SF personnel who were providing security at a function at Ravidas Ashram in the Mahuliatand village of Nawada District. One injured Policeman also died later.
March 9: Suspected cadres of the CPI-Maoist killed two women and two children of a family by slitting their throats in connection with a land dispute case at Pachubigha village in the Arwal District.
March 16: In retaliation to the lynching of a CPI-Maoist ‘commander’ on March 11, armed Maoists raided Khaira village in the Lakhisarai District and shot three men dead and injured two women.
April 23: Four SF personnel and a civilian were killed in a landmine explosion triggered by the CPI-Maoist near Karpoori Chowk in the Mohabbatpur village of Muzaffarpur District. A civilian driver also sustained serious injuries in the blast.
August 22: Four Police personnel, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector, were killed while two others sustained injuries when Maoists attacked them at a place under Sono Police Station in the Jamui District.
October 1-2: 16 civilians, including five children, were shot dead by suspected CPI-Maoist cadres at Amosi Bharen Diara village in the Khagaria District late in the night of October 1.
December 7: Three persons were killed and many others wounded by CPI-Maoist cadres in the Sheohar District.
Replying on behalf of the State Government in the Legislative Assembly on July 30, Energy Minister Vijendra Yadav disclosed that, according to figures compiled by the Bihar Police, 137 Policemen lost their lives in violence perpetrated by the CPI-Maoist between January 1, 2003, and May 31, 2009. He also said that 197 rifles and 6,342 rounds of ammunition were looted by the Maoists at different places in Bihar during this period.
The Maoists have also carried out acts of economic subversion targeting State, public and private properties. As many as 30 incidents of destruction of property were reported in 2009, including several in which tractors and construction machinery required for constructing buildings, bridges and roads, were destroyed. Railway tracks, school buildings and Government offices have also been blown up on several occasions. In one such incident on September 2, about 60-armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist attacked the base office of SPML Road Construction Company under Chandramandi outpost of Chakai Police Station, about 40 kilometres from the headquarters of Jamui District, damaged payloaders and three trucks, set ablaze six vans and damaged the store where construction materials were kept. In another incident, the Maoists set ablaze a Railways office at Banshipur Station of Lakhisarai District on October 12 and destroyed the Railway panel room and traffic control system. The Maoists also targeted mobile phone towers in 13 separate incidents, as they believe that the communication network was frequently used by security agencies and their informers. 14 mobile towers of BSNL, Airtel and Reliance telecommunications had been blown up by the insurgents in the Aurangabad, Gaya, Arwal and Rohtas Districts in 2008, according to Bihar Police data. The Maoists also called for 24-hour bandhs (general strike) on at least 10 occasions, adversely affecting economic activity in the State.
Extortion and looting by the Maoists remained endemic in Bihar, undermining developmental works as well as the law-and-order situation. On July 29, suspected CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead a panchayat (village-level local self Government institution) head in the Muzaffarpur District as he refused to pay a ‘levy’ to the extremists. Earlier, on February 22, the armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist ransacked a village and later killed the village headman, identified as Neeraj Kumar Mukul, after dragging him out of his house in the Rohua Panchayat under Shyampur Vatha Police Station of Sheohar District. The Maoists are said to have a strong cadre base in at least 50 villages of this area and regularly collect money from extortion, the fake currency racket, as well as ‘donations’ from villagers to run their operation. In last five years, more than 12 village headmen have been killed in the area. Extortion from various businesses is also widespread. Thus, for instance, Amarendra Kumar Bhagat aka Amar Ji Bhagat, a Maoist cadre arrested in the night of November 20 from Jagdishpur Dhano village under Paru Police Station in the Muzaffarpur District, revealed that he was in charge of collecting INR 100,000 per month as ‘levy’ from road construction contractor Chadda & Chadda.
Opium cultivation is another source of Maoist revenue. On March 3, the SFs destroyed a large quantity of opium in the CPI-Maoist dominated Sankhwa village of Gaya District. "We got information that there is a huge quantity of opium growing in this field... We found around 10 acres under opium cultivation. The entire village has been vacated. People have left their houses. We are trying to find out the persons behind this opium cultivation," Jay Prakash Pandit, a Police official in Barachatti, disclosed. Police suspect Maoist involvement.
Demonstrating their strong presence in the Gaya District on February 26, about 50 armed CPI-Maoist cadres held a Jan Adalat (People’s Court) in the Banke Bazaar area in the presence of the heads of five village panchayats, who hailed the 'effort' of the Maoists by raising pro-extremist slogans. Reports also claimed that the Maoists were regularly holding Jan Adalats at gun point in the District.
Vexed by the spread of the Maoist menace, the Bihar Government sought the inclusion of an additional four Maoist insurgency-affected Districts under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, in addition to 15 (out of a total of 38) revenue districts already covered by the scheme, the then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Operations, S. K. Bharadwaj had disclosed on August 21. The four Districts are Lakhisarai, Munger, Buxar and Sheikhpura. The Centre has, however, decided only to cover Munger, Bharadwaj added. Under the SRE scheme, the expenditure incurred on security is reimbursed by the Centre.
The SFs, meanwhile, made some efforts to halt the Maoists progress. On April 15, 11 CPI-Maoist cadres were killed and one Border Security Force (BSF) trooper was injured during a seven hour-long encounter at Dhansa Ghati in the Rohtas District. The encounter occurred when more than 150 armed CPI-Maoist cadres surrounded the BSF camp and opened fire.
In addition, the SFs recovered large caches of arms and ammunition from the Maoists from different places on as many as 15 occasions, significantly impacting their arsenal. In the month of November 2009, Patna Police seized huge consignments of explosives and chemicals. Police seized 900 kilograms of explosives – 600 kilograms on November 8 and 300 kilograms on November 7 – as well as 18 bags of explosives powder on November 8, from a house in a residential locality in Bhootnath Road. Besides, 300 bottles of chemicals for preparing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 7,221 live cartridges, 50 detonators, parts for making 14 carbines, and Maoist literature were also seized. Police suspect that the consignment was to be supplied to Maoists in Bihar and Jharkhand. Patna Police also arrested Subodh Singh, who was wanted in connection with the recovery of a haul of explosives besides rifles and cartridges from Patna and Gaya in Bihar, and from Ranchi, Hazaribgah and Bokaro in Jharkhand, during successive raids in November. Over 250 cartridges made in China and Pakistan was found concealed under the seat of an Ambassador car seized from Subodh’s transport agency.
That the Maoists in Bihar were in constant touch with the Maoists in other States was once again established by the interrogation of four persons who were arrested in Rohtas following the seizure of a large quantity of ammonium nitrate. According to a November 23 report, the arrestees revealed that huge quantities of explosives seized by the Bihar Police from different parts of Bihar and Jharkhand had mostly been pushed in from Avadi in Pune (Maharashtra) and Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. The recoveries, meanwhile, also revealed that the Maoists were receiving arms and ammunition from across the border. A November 15 report quoted a senior Special Task Force officer saying that Chinese hand-grenades covered in polythene bags were also made available to the insurgents in large quantity. Besides, the Maoists were in possession of hundreds of pistols made in China and even in Pakistan. Chinese hand-grenades that look like "peeled coconuts" were among some of the seizures in Patna, Gaya and Bokaro in November, another report said. Guns made in Bihar’s Munger District, a centre of illegal arms factories for three decades, are also suspected to have reached Maoists.
Following the major seizures of arms and explosives, the CPI-Maoist threatened to carry out bloody reprisals against the kin of officers, ministers and politicians. A two-page statement issued on November 18 in the name of Gopal, spokesperson of the Bihar-Jharkhand-Orissa and Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee of the CPI-Maoist, said the arms and explosives seized by the Police were all basically meant to "protect the defenceless people against the fresh wave of State repression". The CPI-Maoist warned, "if Police feel elated at the recent seizures, they should also prepare themselves mentally to shed tears sooner than expected". Earlier, on November 11, the Patna Police shifted the Gaurichak Police Station, which was located in a remote area, to a community hall adjacent to the National Highway, for security reasons. According to official sources at Police Headquarters in Patna, the Police Station was shifted following intelligence reports warning that Police Stations situated in deserted places could be attacked by the Maoists.
Nevertheless, the successful drive by the SFs against the Maoists resulted in the arrest of at least 117 Maoists, including two ‘zonal commanders’ and seven ‘area commanders’, in the State in 2009, giving some respite to the SFs. On February 25, a senior CPI-Maoist commander and central committee member, identified as Satyendra Kushwaha alias Naresh alias Dadan, was arrested by Police from the Dalmianagar area of Rohtas District. Satyendra, the Songanga-Vindhyachal ‘zonal commander’ of the outfit and in-charge of Rohtas, Bhojpur, Kaimur and Buxar Districts, was wanted in several cases of violence, including the 2005 Jehanabad jailbreak, the killing of Police personnel in encounters and landmine blasts. He was also operating in the Mirzapur, Chandauli and Sonbhadra Districts of Uttar Pradesh and Garhwa District of Jharkhand. According to a December 10 report, two Maoist leaders wanted in both Bihar and Jharkhand for the last two years, were arrested in Jamalpur by the Munger Police. "Chetlal is a veteran guerrilla and head of the CPI-Maoist’s clandestine ‘arms procurement and supply committee’. Kundan is his accomplice and also a guerrilla trained in armed warfare," Munger Superintendent of Police M. Sunil Nayak revealed.
However, in a setback to the Police, on June 23, 2009, CPI-Maoist cadres ambushed a Police team at a court premises in the Lakhisarai District and freed Misir Besra, a member of the Maoist Central Military Commission (CMC) and Politburo, after killing a Policeman and hurling bombs to scare away people. The District Development Commissioner, Rajiv Ranjan, who was sitting in his office adjacent to the court complex, sustained splinter injuries as bombs were hurled freely by nearly 30 Maoists who entered the court premises on motorcycles. The ambush of the Police team took place when Besra was being taken out of court. The Maoists also snatched a carbine and two rifles from the Police escort team. Earlier, on January 16, three CPI-Maoist cadres, along with eight under-trial prisoners, escaped from the Jammui District Civil Court premises, while they were being brought to the Court for regular production. A group of 50 Maoists waiting in the Court premises attacked the Police party by throwing chilly powder. They also exploded bombs as the Policemen tried to stop them. Three Police personnel sustained injuries. In the ensuing chaos, three Maoists, identified as Sunil Baitha, Paresh Hembram and Vivek Yadav, escaped from Police custody.
On February 11, three cadres of the former Maoist Communist Centre, which merged into the CPI-Maoist, identified as Vyas Kahar, Naresh Paswan and Yugal Mochi, were sentenced to death, while another three, identified as Tyagi Mahto, Vijay Yadav and Madhusudan Sharma, were acquitted by a TADA court in Gaya for the massacre of 35 persons at Bara village in the Gaya District. The MCC's armed cadres brought the 35 persons from Bara to the bank of a nearby canal, tied their hands and slit their throats on February 12, 1992. Earlier, in 2001, a TADA court had sentenced another four MCC cadres to death in the same case. The Judicial action has given a boost to public confidence in the depleted Police force. The Police need a tremendous infusion of capacities (both in terms of men and material) within a clearly defined time frame.
According to National Crime Records Bureau data (as on December 31, 2007), Bihar had a dismal 60 Policemen per 100,000 population, the lowest in the country, well below the severely inadequate Indian average of 125 per 100,000. Worse, this figure represented sanctioned posts, and there was a 33.06 per cent gap between actual and sanctioned Police strength in the State. Four Battalions of Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMF) are also deployed in the State, but this yields barely 1,600 CPMF personnel in actual field deployments, a minuscule number for the State as large, and as problematic, as Bihar.
Increasingly focusing on recruitment to and modernisation of the Police, the Bihar Government appears to have initiated some positive moves. In a significant development, the Bihar Government sent a proposal to Centre to set up four Counter-Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism Schools (CIATS) in the State. On October 27, the Union Government sanctioned four schools to teach jungle warfare techniques to Bihar Police personnel. These schools were expected to become functional by end December 2009. The Union Government is also to launch a programme in collaboration with the Bihar Government for creating special infrastructure, including the strengthening of Police stations and posts, and the construction of roads and helipads, in the insurgency-affected Districts. The programme would be launched in the Gaya and Aurangabad Districts, to begin with. The programme is to be extended to Arwal, Jehanabad, Jamui, Rohtas, Bhojpur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Kaimur, Nalanda, Nawada, Patna and Sitamarhi Districts in the next phase.
The Bihar Government is revising its existing surrender and rehabilitation policy for the Maoists to make it more attractive to insurgents from the CPI-Maoist to lay down arms and ‘join the mainstream’, Police officials said on October 16. Officials said the Government felt the growing need to revise its surrender policy following an alarming rise in incidents of Maoist violence in the recent months. The existing surrender policy provides for a financial support of INR 200,000 and additional payment of INR 100,000 if militants surrender with arms. It also provides for a monthly stipend of INR 3,000 and free education to children, but this has failed to attract significant numbers of Maoists so far. Over the past four years, since this policy came into being, less than 200 Maoists have surrendered in Bihar. The existing policy, official sources said, was a particular failure in attracting Maoists in their strongholds in Jehanabad, Gaya, Aurangabad and Jamui. Statistics indicate that, while 74 Maoists surrendered in 2005, the figure came down to 21 in 2006. The years 2007 and 2008 registered just another 21 and 29 surrenders, respectively, and till March 2009 only two Maoists had surrendered. However, 15 CPI-Maoist cadres, involved in the killing of a Police officer and looting of firearms from Police Stations, surrendered in Rohtas District on October 30.
On October 19, 2009, Bihar IG (Operations) K. S. Dwivedi stated that operations against the Maoists would intensify, while tougher laws would be applied against those in custody. "We have enforced the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against ultras, ensuring five years’ jail for them. We will soon enforce Section 121 (waging war against the state) of the Indian Penal Code against them. They may well face sedition charges," Dwivedi asserted. He added that Police were treating the Maoists as hardcore criminals and had been pressing for speedy trials against them. Of 274 Maoists facing trials since 2007, 10 have been awarded death sentences and another 22 have received life sentences in the State, Dwivedi disclosed. He also sought at least 20 extra battalions of the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) for anti-Maoist operations. At present, a 400-member Special Task Force, 23 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force, 16 Bihar Military Police battalions and 7,000 Special Auxiliary Police personnel, besides the usual Police forces, are tackling Maoists in the State.
These are, without doubt, significant initiatives. However, they are far from securing the critical mass of capacities necessary to deal with the magnitude of the Maoist threat in the State. The October massacre at Khagaria is a reminder of the tremendous distance that remains to be travelled in the battle against LWE in the State. Unfortunately, there is still a proclivity in the political leadership to pass the buck and dilute the responsibility of the State Government. Thus, on October 13, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stated, "Naxalism was not only the problem of a particular State, but also of society as a whole." Police action, he said, "formed only a limited part" of society’s response to the menace: "Naxalism is a problem that has to be dealt with jointly by the community, the State and Central Governments acting in harmonious coordination… We will saturate the Naxal-prone areas with development."
With State Assembly Election due in 2010, the regime of political obfuscation and ambivalence will tend to intensify, even as Maoist activities build up to influence and distort the electoral outcome. The people of Bihar will have to wait for far more effective governance before they can consider themselves secure from the depredations of lawless groups, including the Maoists, who have long dominated the State.