Jharkhand Assessment 2014
A five-day anti-Naxal (Left Wing Extremism), multi-State offensive, led by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), was executed between December 27-31, 2013. During the operation, CRPF and Jharkhand Police troops neutralized a Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) arms manufacturing unit in the Simdega District of Jharkhand. The factory had reportedly been set up two months earlier, and had lathe machines, which were procured from Kolkata [West Bengal]. The Forces also discovered that the factory was being run on electricity from generator sets looted from BSNL towers in the vicinity. Further, Security Forces (SFs) were alarmed to find a "unique dual switch mechanism" that could be activated by remote control and also serve as a timer device to detonate explosions.
In a separate incident, a Maoists cadre, Ramesh Munda, was killed and another, Lalmohan Munda, was arrested in an encounter with SFs in Lobed village in the Adki Block of Khunti District on January 14, 2014.
SF efforts notwithstanding, Jharkhand has maintained the dubious distinction of recording highest number of total fatalities, as well as of civilian fatalities, among Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected States for the second consecutive year in 2013, even as the CPI-Maoist appeared to be losing some momentum in the State. According to data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), Jharkhand witnessed a total of 162 fatalities - 120 civilians, 30 SFs and 12 Naxals – in LWE-related incidents in Jharkhand in 2013, while Chhattisgarh recorded a total of 148 fatalities - 66 civilians, 44 SFs and 38 Naxals – in the year.
LWE/ CPI-Maoist Violence in Jharkhand: 2009-2014*
Though Maoist fatalities in direct encounters with SFs were low in Jharkhand in 2013, the total number of Left Wing Extremists killed, if fratricidal gunfights are taken into account, was much higher. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data base, at least 57 Maoists were killed in Jharkhand through 2013.
SF losses remained at roughly the same level over the past four years, with 30 killed in 2013, despite an overall decline in Maoist violence since 2011, suggesting that the Maoists have retained their capabilities in Jharkhand.
The Maoists sent shockwaves across the country at the very beginning of 2013, when they killed nine Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and one Jharkhand Jaguars trooper in an ambush near Amawatikar village in Latehar District, Jharkhand, on January 7, 2013, and then surgically inserted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) inside the abdomen of two dead CRPF troopers. They kept the momentum going till the middle of the year with another four major attacks (each involving three or more fatalities) -- two against SFs, one against civilians and one against the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI), a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist. However, Maoists suffered heavily in at least two major reverses – one at the hand of Tritiya Prstuti Committee (TPC) and another at the hands of the SFs. In a third incident, the Police claimed that eight Maoists were killed, but not a single body was recovered.
Two points of significance emerge: one, the Maoists were not involved in any major incident in Jharkhand after July 2013; and two their fratricidal war against TPC and PLFI has intensified further.
A range of other parameters suggest that, though the Maoists could not sustain their early pace through 2013, they have been able to retain their overall capacities in the State.
Other Parameters of LWE/CPI-Maoist Violence in Jharkhand: 2011-2013
While the number of LWE incidents remained comparable between 2011 and 2012, there was a 20 per cent decline in 2013. Similarly, the number of attacks on the SFs (including landmines) had remained comparable in 2011 and 2012, but the decline was sharp, from 21 to 14, between 2012 and 2013. The number of arms snatched also declined from 30 to just 8. The number of training camps organised fell from 12 in 2012 to nine in 2013. Significantly, the number of Jan Adalats ('people's courts, Kangaroo courts organised by the Maoists) almost doubled, from 23 in 2012 to 41 in 2013. The number of encounters with the Police also increased from 43 to 55, though the number of arrests declined marginally, from 377 to 332. Maoist attacks on economic targets also remained low:
Incidents of Attacks on Economic Targets by LWE Extremists in Jharkhand: 2008-2013
According to partial data compiled by SATP, incidents of killing (civilian, SF and Naxal) were reported from 16 Districts in 2013 – Latehar (33), Gumla (26), Khunti (18), Simdega (9), West Singhbhum (9) Chatra (12), Dumka (6), Garhwa (3), Hazaribagh (3), Seraikela-Kharswan (3), Giridih (2), Ranchi (2), Bokaro (1), East Singhbhum (1), Palamu (1) and Ramgarh (1). In 2012 incidents of killing were recorded in 14 Districts.
Among other patterns of violence recorded by SATP, the Maoists engaged in at least 12 incidents of arson in six Districts – Latehar (3), Palamu (3), Hazaribagh (3), Bokaro (1) Jamtara (1) and Lohardaga (1). LWE groups were also involved in eight incidents of abduction through 2013, and triggered at least eight landmine blasts in the State. Jharkhand recorded at eight major incidents in 2013, as against six such incidents in 2012.
An analysis of Maoist violence, as well as of overground and underground activities, through 2013, indicates that a total of 16 Districts, including Bokaro, Chatra, Dumka, East Singhbhum, Garhwa, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Palamu, Ranchi, Seraikela-Kharswan, Latehar, Ramgarh, Simdega, and West Singhbhum, remain highly affected; Dhanbad and Lohardaga are moderately affected; and Koderma, Deoghar and Godda are marginally affected by LWE.
A peculiar feature of LWE violence in Jharkhand is that various splinter groups (which have broken away from the CPI-Maoist) continue to operate, in addition to the CPI-Maoist. The most prominent among these groups include the PLFI, TPC, and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). These splinter groups are strongly antagonist to the CPI-Maoist, though they are also engaged in fratricidal struggles among themselves. The most significant clashes have occurred between TPC and the Maoists and the Maoists and PLFI. In the first five months of 2013, the Maoist share in LWE violence stood at 51 per cent, PLFI at 29 per cent, and TPC at 15 per cent. This was a continuation of earlier trends in this regard, and while disaggregated data is not currently available, there is no evidence to suggest that the trend changed significantly in the latter half of 2013.
SFs have planned and carried out large operations especially intended to corner CPI-Maoist Central Committee member Deo Kumar Singh alias Arvindji, who is leading the Maoist operations in Jharkhand, but without success. However, as a by product, the relentless pursuit, in one instance, probably led to a Maoist group taking shelter in a TPC dominated area, resulting in a gunfight between the two in which 10 Maoists, including some senior cadres, were killed. Other than that, there are some significant catches - 11 according to SATP data - in terms of arrests of ‘commanders’ or senior level cadres of the CPI-Maoist, and nine others from PLFI.
Meanwhile, the Saranda Development Plan, a project that was intended to showcase the ‘clear, hold and develop’ policy, implementing major projects to benefit local populations after the Saranda Forest area had been freed from Maoist dominance in August 2011, continues to be implemented at snail’s pace. This is despite the fact that Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is personally monitoring the progress of the Plan. The first Integrated Development Centre (IDC) was inaugurated at Digha on April 26, 2013, by Ramesh, after several deadlines had been missed. People vented their ire at Ramesh at the inauguration function, complaining about several issues, including poor road construction quality, illegal felling of trees, unemployment, lack of livelihood and problems in getting promised old age pensions. Ramesh did get a feeling of the seriousness of the problem, but could only say, “I know, I know. Your complaints are genuine. Please don’t lose hope. I will ensure roads come up by the year-end.”
Even as the implementation of development plans move at snail’s pace, a key environment ministry panel, Forest Advisory Committee, the statutory forest clearance panel, has been extraordinarily 'proactive' in recommending that mining be allowed in the Saranda Forests, lending some credence to the allegations that the motive behind the preceding security operations was to give secure access to mining companies to the iron ore rich area. Significantly, when Ramesh was Environment Minister, he had argued that only the Government owned Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL) would be allowed to mine the area. However, private companies, like JSW Steel, and Jindal Power and Steel and Rungta Mines, have now been given clearances for mining in the Saranda area.
The Jharkhand Police Population ratio has improved from 167 Policemen per 100,000 population on December 31, 2011, to 178 as on December 31, 2012, well above the national average of 138, though it remains substantially below the level needed to deal with the State’s complex problems of law and order administration, and of security. At least 22 battalions of CRPF are also currently deployed in the State.
Maoists in Jharkhand seem to be hanging on, despite some pressure from the SFs. The marginal decline in violence as well as in the visible strength of Maoists in 2013 cannot provide extraordinary solace to the state, particularly in view of the fact that the Maoists appear to have been avoiding any direct confrontation with the SFs during the second half of the year. There are also apprehensions that the state may slow down operations against the Maoists, especially after Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) formed his Government in July 2013. Soren has expressed the hope that Jharkhand's LWE problem would end within five year, though he appears to have placed his principal reliance on 'dialogue' with the rebels. The JMM has a past history of deep ambivalence towards the Maoists under the Chief Ministership of Hemant Soren's father, Shibu Soren, and this significantly enabled the consolidation of the Maoists in the State, even as it hobbled SF operations. It remains to be seen whether Hemant Soren will follow in his father's footsteps in this regard; preliminary statements and indications suggest that this may well be so.