Orissa Assessment 2010
Despite a visible decline in fatalities relating to Left Wing Extremist (LWE) violence in Orissa, there are grounds to believe that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has continued its consolidation in the State. Maoist activities spread to one more District, beyond the 22 recorded in 2008, even as a Maoist front organization, the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) stoked fires in the Narayanpatna Block of the Koraput District. The Maoists lost far fewer cadres in 2009, as compared to the previous year, even as Security Force (SF) fatalities declined. Far from indicating an overall de-escalation, a spike in civilian fatalities demonstrates that declines in fatalities in the other categories are nothing more than a tactical shift, reflecting a diminished ‘rate of contact’ between the Maoists and the SFs – which is far from desirable from a counter-insurgency (CI) perspective.
Maoist-related fatalities in Orissa, 2006-2009
Source: Data 2004-2007: Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
Data 2008-2009: South Asia Terrorism Portal
*Data till December 18, 2009
While total LWE-related fatalities in Orissa declined significantly from 132 in 2008 to 79 in 2009 (till December 18), the share of civilians vaulted from just 18 per cent to 46 per cent of these totals. The share of SF and Maoist fatalities declined from 58 per cent to 39 per cent, and 25 per cent to 15 per cent, respectively. In both years, Maoist fatalities remain considerably lower than either of the other categories.
While four major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) were reported in 2008, the State witnessed six major incidents in 2009. These include:
November 13: Three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including an officer, were killed in a landmine blast triggered by cadres of the CPI-Maoist in the Malkangiri Village-66 (MV-66) area of Malkangiri District. The blast took place when a van carrying the CRPF personnel was on its way from Kalimela to Gompagunda to pick up rations. CRPF Deputy Commandant Bhupinder Singh was among the three killed. The attack was part of the Maoist strategy to restrict movement of the SFs ahead of a proposed state offensive in the region.
November 10-11: CPI-Maoist cadres killed four persons and critically injured another in the Pandrotala village of Rayagada District in the night of November 10, suspecting them to be Police informers. Around 50 Maoists armed with guns, axes and other sharp weapons struck the village killing three persons and causing injuries to two others. One among the wounded later succumbed to his injuries.
October 13: CPI-Maoist cadres killed three Police personnel, including the security guard of senior Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Sudam Marandi, after a football match at Bandap village under Chandua Police Station in the Mayurbhanj District. Sudam Marandi, a former Member of Parliament, however, escaped unhurt.
August 12: Three woman cadres of the CPI-Maoist were killed in an exchange of fire between a group of about 10 to 15 Maoists and a joint team of the Andhra Pradesh and Orissa Police near Ramannaguda in the Rayagada District, about 30 to 40 kilometers from the State border.
June 18: Nine Policemen, including eight belonging to the Orissa Special Security Force and one belonging to the Orissa State Armed Police, were killed when a landmine triggered by CPI-Maoist cadres struck their convoy near Palur village in the Koraput District.
April 12: 11 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel and four CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in a gunfight following an attack on an armoury and bauxite mine of public sector NALCO at Panchpatmali near Damanjodi in Koraput District.
According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, 133 LWE related incidents of violence were reported from 12 Districts of the State, though the Maoist spread was wider. Four south-western Districts – Malkangiri, Koraput, Raygada, Kandhamal – and Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj in the northern part of the State accounted for most of the incidents in 2009. Though Jajpur and Jagatsinghpur reported no violence, several Maoist arrests occurred in these Districts. Out of a total of 30 Districts in the State, the Maoists registered a presence in at least 23. Nuapada District, which witnessed two killings, was the new addition to the list. Maoist activity in the Sundergarh District has increased manifold. The abduction and subsequent killing of Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) of Police, Ajit Bardhan, during the looting of an explosive-laden vehicle in Sundergarh District generated shock waves in the State. One CRPF trooper was also killed in the rescue operation that was lunched to free the ASI. However, the State Government claimed in a white paper issued on July 24 that only 14 of the 30 Districts of the State are Maoist-affected. Earlier, at a meeting of the Chief Ministers of seven Maoist-affected States at New Delhi on January 7, 2009, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had conceded that only 17 Districts were Maoist-affected.
In response to a query on the confrontation between the Police and the Maoists, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik informed the State Assembly, on November 23, that 145 Police personnel had lost their lives in Naxalite (LWE) related violence since 2000. The Police and LWEs had been brought into confrontation exactly 100 times since 2000. While 61 extremists were killed in Police action, 97 civilians became victim in the conflict, Patnaik disclosed. The intensity of exchange of fire has increased over the years. During the current year, the Police and Naxalites engaged in gun battles on 22 occasions, while an equal number of exchanges of fire was recorded in the year 2006. However, the gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that, in 2000, the Police and the extremists exchanged fire only once and the number of incidents of exchange of fire had never risen above 10 till 2005. Over the past four years, a confrontation has occurred at least 15 times annually.
In 2009, the Maoists made seven daring attacks on six Police outposts, blowing them up and destroying vehicles and official documents. Four of the outposts in Malkangiri District, one in Koraput and another in Kandhamal District, faced the brunt of the Maoists attacks. The Katingia outpost in Kandhamal was blown up twice, on July 17 and October 4.
Mobile communication networks have also been repeatedly targeted by the Maoists. At least eight mobile towers – five in Malkangiri District and three in Koraput District – were blown up in 2009.
Wildlife sanctuaries are a new category of targets. The Maoists made repeated attacks on the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj District and Sunabeda Wildlife sanctuary in Nuapada Distrct. In a knee-jerk reflex, the State Government has demanded Central Forces to guard the sanctuaries.
In a shocking admission, State Government officials admitted before a visiting Central Government team in February that nearly half of the Plan expenditure allocated for LWE-affected Districts was cornered by the Maoists.
The Maoists have clearly overcome the split in their outfit just before the beginning of 2009. There were unconfirmed reports that Sabyasachi Panda’s expulsion was revoked in February. It is believed that the decision was taken to successfully execute 'Plan Kandhamal', the project to 'take over' Kandhamal District, along with the intensification of activities in the Malkanigiri, Gajapati and Rayagada Districts, when the State was preoccupied in the General Elections. However, Panda was reportedly warned not to take 'interest' in the General Elections – an indication of earlier deals with political parties in the run-up to polls. The apprehensions that Panda had worked at the behest of Christian Missionaries to eliminate the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananand Saraswati, and that a front was developing between the Maoists and the Christians, were deepened when the Police recovered firearms, including one SLR and three AK-47 rifles, from the Nandagiri Rehabilitation Centre in Kandhamal District, during a raid on September 28, following the death of an inmate during the illegal manufacturing of crude bombs there. The arms had been looted from the Nayagarh Police armoury during a raid by the Maoists in February 2008. The Nandagiri Rehabilitation Centre had been opened to give shelter to riot-hit Christians in the aftermath of the killing of the VHP leader on August 23, 2008.
The Maoist master stroke in the State, however, remains the way the outfit has backed CMAS. CMAS ostensibly works under the leadership of Nachika Linga to protect the land rights of the tribals. In an agitation against alleged exploitation in May-June 2009, CMAS forcibly occupied nearly 2,000 acres of land belonging to the non-tribals. It was during this forcible land occupation period that CMAS had blocked the Lakshmipur-Narayanpatna road, and nine SF personnel were blown up by Maoists during a road-opening exercise.
Narayanpatna was only the most recent of a continuous succession of Maoist-related incidents in Orissa's severely affected southern border areas – the Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Gajapati and Kandhamal Districts – where there are unmistakable signs of a Maoist consolidation and of attempts to transform the region into a 'guerrilla zone'. CMAS activities are integral to the Maoist strategy of consolidation across this region. The situation in Narayanpatna became volatile, with the attempt by CMAS activists to attack the Narayanpatna Police Station and loot arms and the retaliatory firing by the Police on November 20, in which two senior CMAS activists, W. Singhana and Andrew Nachika, were killed and an unspecified number of persons were injured. The State Police has sought a ban on CMAS and is looking for Nachika Linga, who has gone underground.
Despite the State’s failure to make a correct assessment of the gravity of the situation and enormous deficits in the State Police apparatus, the State Police has been successful in making a few key arrests. Ashutosh, a member of the ‘central military commission’ of the CPI-Maoist was arrested on March 2 near Rourkela in the Sundergarh District. P. Rama Rao aka Udaya, a CPI-Maoist 'commander', was arrested on April 21 along with three of his associates, from the Gudari forest of Rayagada District. According to District Superintendent of Police Ashish Kumar Singh, "Udaya is the third in rank in the Vansadhra Division and a link between (the Maoists') Andhra Committee and the Orissa unit." One of his arrested associates, Padmana was an ‘area committee’ member, who provided logistic support to Udaya and others. Uday’s arrest subsequently led to the arrest of some other Maoist cadres. Such examples of Police successes, however, are few and far between.
On the State Government's action against Maoists, Chief Minister Patnaik stated on July 21 that some suggestions given by the Orissa Police Association to effectively combat the Maoists, such as fortification of Police Stations, provision of barracks and imparting suitable training to the Policemen, had been implemented 'to a large extent'. The State Government, he claimed, was already providing a suitable incentive package to Police personnel involved in anti-Maoist operations. Further, on July 24 he stated that another 3,000 tribal youth from the insurgency-affected areas will be recruited as Special Police Officers (SPOs). This will be in addition to the existing 2,100 SPOs. Other programmes announced by Patnaik include plans to open at least one Industrial Training Institute in each block to enhance employability of the youth; spending at least INR 200,000 per District in tribal areas for sports activities; and filling up vacant paramedical staff posts in all schedule areas of Orissa. The Chief Minister disclosed that another 4,000 Home Guards would be engaged, with special emphasis on Maoist affected Districts. Another initiative to try and counter the Maoists was the withdrawal or dropping of petty cases against tribals. As many as 9,000 minor forest offences and 3,000 other cases against tribals have reportedly been dropped. Again, speaking at the passing out parade ceremony of first batch of Sub-Inspectors who undergone training at the Biju Patnaik State Police Academy Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik informed on September 10 that the State Government will soon come up with a new Police Training Institute where one thousand personnel will be able to under go training every year. The Chief Minister said five new India Reserve Battalions, four special security battalions are being established to take on Maoists.
There are, however, serious chinks in the State Government's armour. The State Government's neglect has also been documented in detail by the latest Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) Report, which reviews the period 2002-2007.
The Maoists have consolidated their position steadily in Orissa, and State responses have fallen far short of what is needed. Accumulated capacity deficits over decades of neglect are yet to be addressed, and the Maoist rampage can only expand across newer areas, even as it intensifies further in regions of their present consolidation in the State.