Jharkhand Assessment 2011
The Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) Neyaz Ahmed, on January 13, 2011, stated that the Police had decided to change its strategy to combat Left Wing Extremism (LWE), with more action focused on inter-State borders: "We expect more success in 2011 and we will change the strategy slightly, like moving Security Forces to new places and launching operations on border areas, and having more cooperation with Bihar, Odisha and Bengal." Earlier, on January 11, the former Bihar Director General of Police, Devki Nandan Gautam, was appointed security advisor to the Jharkhand Government, to advise the State Government on strategy to tackle Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), and on matters of general law and order.
Following quickly thereafter, nine CPI-Maoist cadres, including ‘sub-zonal commander’ Basant Yadav, were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) in the Luhur Forest in Latehar District in the early hours of January 28, 2011. Apart from the June 13, 2010, encounter in which the SFs had managed to kill 10 Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) in a single day, near Bandgaon in West Singhbhum District, there had been no single incident through 2010 in which three or more extremists were killed. [The SFs, however, killed 13 LWEs in the Saranda forest of West Singhbhum District in an operation between September 25 and 27, 2010.] In 2009, there had been five incidents in which three or more Maoists were killed.
The SFs’ engagement with the LWEs had clearly weakened as a result of the manifest infirmity of the State’s policy. On January 2, 2010, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader and then-Chief Minister Shibu Soren had declared, "If they keep quiet, we too won’t harass them unnecessarily. Anti-Naxalite [Left Wing Extremist] operations in the State have virtually been suspended. Our Government is ready for talks with top ultra leaders at any time and accept their justified demands." Only six Maoists were killed in first five months of 2010, under Soren’s leadership.
The State has witnessed a change of political fortunes twice since then. Soren lost his majority in the State Assembly and had to resign. The State was put under President Rule on June 1, 2010. On September 11, 2010, however, the Arjun Munda-led Bharatiya Janta Party-JMM alliance Government was formed. The State’s orientation towards the Maoists, however, did not change significantly through these political realignments. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, 76 rebels were killed in 2009, but the number declined considerably, to 49 in 2010. Similarly, while 67 were SF personnel were killed in 2009, SF fatalities fell to 27 in 2010, clearly demonstrating an unwillingness on the part of the state to engage with the extremists. The number of civilians killed by the Maoists remained almost unchanged, at 71 in 2010, as against 74 in 2009. The State was clearly attempting to buy ‘peace’ with the Maoists at the cost of civilian’s suffering.
Fatalities in Left-Wing Extremism: 2005-2010
296 incidents of Maoist violence were recorded in the State through 2010, of which 84 were incidents of killing. 40 incidents involved arson and the blowing up of private and Government properties. Other crimes included lesser acts of violence, abduction, extortion and widespread intimidation.
Telephone intercepts in September 2010 established that the CPI-Maoist formed a company of 100-odd armed cadres who moved in a single group, carrying sophisticated weapons and explosives, to target SF personnel scouring Saranda Forest in the West Singhbhum District. The intercepts indicated that the Maoists had designated Tirulposi in Manoharpur, West Singhbhum, about 50 kilometres from Rourkela in Odisha, as a ‘headquarters’, where cadres from Odisha and Bihar would gather regularly to chalk out strategy.
The Naxalites continued to make their presence felt in 20 out of Jharkhand’s 24 Districts. The worst affected among these included Ranchi (44), East Singhbhum (34), Latehar (29), Khunti (23), Bokaro (22), Gumla (21) and West Singhbhum (20). In 2009, the Latehar District had registered the highest number of incidents (43), followed by Ranchi (40), Palamu (31), Chatra (30) and East Singhbhum (27). 23 Districts were listed as LWE-affected in 2009.
Significantly, at least 10 LWE factions operate within Jharkhand. While the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) was involved in 15 incidents of violence, the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) was involved in 11, and the Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC) in four incidents through 2010. Some of these splinter groups have managed to build wide influence, eroding the CPI-Maoist’s base, as was evident in the fact that the JPC celebrated Republic Day (January 26, 2011) in the Adga village of the Katkumsandi forest, which had been dominated by the Maoists for decades. After hoisting the tricolour, JPC cadres displayed a large number of arms in their possession to prove that they were strong enough to fight against both the Maoists and the SFs.
The internal frictions of these various LWE outfits, most of which have split from the CPI-Maoist, are an obvious concern for the Maoist leadership. Paramjeet, spokesman for the Maoists' Central Zonal Committee, thus declared, on January 28, 2011, "We want factions like Jharkhand Liberation Tigers [JLT], TPC, JPC and PLFI to understand the politics being played by State Forces... The Security Forces use these groups to weaken our organisation and then kill them calling them Maoists."
Incidents reflecting the internecine conflicts among the LWEs through 2010 prominently included:
December 27: A Jharkhand Janmukti Parishad (JJP, a CPI-Maoist splinter) cadre, was killed in a gun battle with the Bharatiya Communist Party (BCP, another Maoist splinter) in Palamu District.
October 17: Maoists killed a youth, identified as Puna Khadia, a resident of Chhapartoli under Murkunda panchayat (village level local self Government institution) in Gumla District. Claiming responsibility for killing, CPI-Maoist ‘area commander’ Jogi Bhagat alleged that Khadia was killed as he was the ‘right hand’ man of Patrick Toppo, who heads the PLFI, and engaged in extortion and road robbery activities in the area.
October 8: Two cadres of the PLFI, a breakaway faction of the CPI-Maoist, were killed by CPI-Maoist cadres in an internecine clash at Hessadih in Khunti District.
July 7: Four LWEs were killed in a gun battle between cadres of the TPC and a newly formed extremist group headed by Pramod Yadav in the vicinity of a forest in Rabda in the Palamu District of Jharkhand. Pramod Yadav was formerly associated with the TPC, before setting up his own faction.
The internal rivalries are also affecting the Maoists’ recruitment drive, particularly with the TPC and JPC trying to contain Maoist activities in Palamu.
State Police Data indicates that 569 Maoists, including 47 Maoists above the rank of ‘area commander’, were arrested across the State through 2010. Significantly, the prosecution of 64 LWEs on various charges has resulted in their conviction in 2009-10.
The SFs have also recorded significant recoveries of arms and ammunition, and have neutralized several LWE hideouts. In a major breakthrough, the SFs raided a well-equipped chemical laboratory run by the CPI-Maoist in the Chandrapur Industrial Area in Bokaro District on December 21, 2010, recovering three kilograms of RDX and 10 kilograms of other chemicals, including two litres each of sulphuric acid and acetone, one kilogram of nitric acid and five kilograms of sulphur powder. 14 wireless sets made in China and some other materials, including Maoist literature, were also seized from the lab.
Given the political environment and the abysmal condition of State Forces, the very limited achievements of the SFs are, nevertheless, significant. An audit report released in Ranchi on August 20, 2010, by the State's Principal Accountant General, described the appalling conditions of the Police in five LWE-affected Districts – Palamu, Ranchi, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Hazaribagh. According to the report, these Districts have shortfalls of main strike weapons ranging between 29 and 64 per cent. While Ranchi, one of the Districts worst hit by CPI-Maoist activities, has shortfall of 64 per cent, East Singhbhum and West Singhbhum have shortfalls of 42 and 47 per cent respectively. In Ranchi, the total requirement was 4,895, while the number of main strike weapons and area weapons available was just 1,773. Similarly, East Singhbhum and West Singhbhum Districts had shortfalls of 969 and 1,016 weapons, 42 and 47 per cent, respectively, below the requirement. Palamu and Hazaribagh had weapons’ shortfalls of 29 and 45 per cent, respectively. "Though two units of Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) – JAP One and JAP Five – were found to be over armed by 77 and 81 per cent, respectively; the newly formed and centrally-funded India Reserve Battalion (IRB-2), one of the main combat forces of the State Police, was found to be under-armed to the extent of 49 per cent," the audit report noted. IRB-2 had a shortfall of 463 weapons. Only 12 per cent of Police personnel deployed in these LWE-hit Districts had bullet-proof jackets and bullet proof helmets.
DGP Ahmad recognizes the shortfalls, but claims, "Efforts are underway to purchase more strike weapons and bullet proof jackets for the State's constabulary. We have already placed orders for supply of such gadgets under the Police modernization programme."
The State Government has also announced several measures intended to meet the challenge. The three Districts worst affected by LWE, Latehar, Garhwa and Palamu, have been asked to recruit 850 Police personnel. On January 12, the State Government approved 73 posts for four proposed jungle warfare schools, which will provide training to Police personnel to combat the Maoists in the State. Two schools are to be established in Latehar, and one each in Jamshedpur and Hazaribagh. In addition, the Jharkhand Police introduced 3D mapping technologies to take to plot out Maoist activities in the State. Central Reserve Police Force Additional Superintendent of Police for anti-Maoist operations, Apoorva, disclosed, on January 16, 2011, "The 3D mapping is helping us in getting familiar with the terrain, forests, hills and other places. It helps the Security Forces involved in anti-Maoist operations." Police personnel working in Maoist-affected areas have, however, been asked to sharpen their personal observation instincts, rather than relying completely on the modern gadgetry, to detect and neutralize landmines.
On July 31, 2010, the State Government had announced a surrender policy. Under President’s Rule at that time, the Government announced the scheme, Nai Disha (New Direction), according to which extremists who surrendered with rocket launchers or machine guns would receive INR 100,000, and those who surrendered with an AK-series rifle would get INR 75,000. Similarly, between INR 15,000 and INR 2,000 would be paid for IED or explosive materials, wireless sets, remote control devices, grenades, pistols, revolvers and rifles. Surrendered Maoists would be provided security and their families would be relocated to a safe place, while employment could also be provided. Talking about the scheme, the DGP Ahmed, on January 13, 2011, claimed that some LWEs had evinced interest in laying down arms. He, however, did not divulge the number of extremists who had already surrendered since the launch of the scheme. SATP records a meagre 20 surrenders since January 1, 2010.
While limited schemes for capacity augmentation in the Police have been announced, there is little evidence of a coherent strategy to tackle the Maoists in Jharkhand, even as the wider environment in and around the State has become more vulnerable to extremist mobilisation over the past years. In the absence of an extraordinary mobilisation of will and resources, there is little hope that any enduring gains will be registered against the Naxalites in Jharkhand in the proximate future.