Bihar Assessment - 2014
In the night of February 22, 2014, around 150 heavily armed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres attacked the Amas Police Station in the Gaya District of Bihar, bringing traffic to a grinding halt on both the New Delhi and Kolkata side of the Grand Trunk Road. The exchange of fire between the Maoists and the Police continued for nearly two hours before the Maoists retreated. Though the Maoists failed to inflict any casualty on the Police side, a civilian taxi driver was killed in the crossfire. Reports suggested that the two sides exchanged about 600 rounds of fire.
On December 31, 2014, a group of nearly 50 Maoist cadres had attacked a highway construction site in Gaya District and torched construction machinery.
On July 17, 2013, at least three Special Auxiliary Police (SAP) troopers and two guards of a private road construction company were killed and seven others were injured, when over 125 Maoist cadres attacked the base camp of the company at Goh in Aurangabad District.
On June 13, 2013, a group of around 200 Maoist cadres had attacked the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express at the Bhalui halt near Jamui District, killing three persons and injuring six passengers.
Swarming attacks have become a rarity in most other Maoist-afflicted States, but their persistence in Bihar demonstrates both the capacity of the rebels in the State, and their efforts to stage a comeback there. Nine of 13 such incidents recorded in 2013 occurred in Bihar alone, with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh accounting for two each. This comes at a time when the State had the opportunity to go after a substantially weakened Maoist network. After securing some tentative but significant gains against the Maoists in 2011 and 2012, Bihar appears to have squandered the opportunity, with its anti-Maoist campaign losing focus. There simply cannot be any acceptable explanation for a State losing 27 Security Force personnel [Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data] to Maoist attacks in 2013 without inflicting a single casualty on the Maoists.
According UMHA data, a total of 69 persons – 42 civilians and 27 SF personnel - were killed in Bihar in Naxalite (Left Wing Extremism) violence in 2013, as against 49 persons – 34 civilians, 10 SF personnel and five extremists – were killed in 2012. Significantly, this yields a 270 per cent Year-on-Year (YoY) escalation in SF fatalities, even as the Maoists managed to reduce their own losses to zero. Civilian killings by Maoists also increased significantly. Partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) confirms these trends. However, SATP records two Maoist fatalities in 2013, of cadres killed by the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a breakaway faction of the CPI-Maoist, which has turned into its bitter rival.
In the first two months of 2014, the Maoists have already killed at least five civilians while two Maoists have been killed. Prima facie, the Maoist problem in Bihar appears to be worsening again. Apart from the adverse fatalities trends, the arrest and surrender data is also discouraging. 311 Maoists were arrested in 2013, as against 426 in 2012, while just three Maoists surrendered in 2013, as against 42 in 2012.
Other Parameters of LWE/CPI-Maoist Violence in Bihar: 2011-2013
Significantly, number of encounters with Police has halved to six from 12 between 2012 and 2013, while the number of attacks on the Police increased from seven to 10. Further, the number of arms snatched increased from just two in 2012, to 38 in 2013, while the number of arms recovered decreased from 151 to 88.
Further, according to partial SATP data, at least four incidents of abduction, eight incidents of arson, two incidents of extortion and call for bandhs on three occasions, were recorded against the Maoists in 2013.
Maoist violence in Bihar has also witnessed a significant geographical recovery. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data, Maoist-related incidents (both violent and non-violent) were reported from 23 out of a total of 38 Districts in 2013, as against 19 Districts in 2012, down from 24 Districts in 2011. However, just three Districts - Aurangabad, Gaya and Jamui - accounted for over 60 per cent of the total fatalities in the State in 2013. There were seven major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities) in Bihar in 2013, of which six were reported from these three Districts - Aurangabad (3), Gaya (2) and Jamui (1). One major incident was recorded in Munger District.
On the basis of underground and over ground activities of Maoists as well as the frequency and intensity of violence, three Districts - Aurangabad, Gaya, and Jamui - are categorized as highly affected; another four - Rohtas, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur and Munger - are moderately affected; while sixteen Districts - Arwal, Hazaribagh, Banka, Nawada, Kaimur, Lakhisarai, East Champaran, Jehanabad, Nalanda, Sheohar, Patna, Purnia, Saran, Lakhisarai, Gopalganj and Khagaria – are marginally affected.
On February 17, 2014, SFs seized 3,400 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, used for making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), along with a large number of detonators, during anti-Maoist operations in Rohtas District. Earlier, on February 10, 2014, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops recovered acid bulbs, chargers, megaphones and around 1,680 rounds of ammunition of a .22mm rifle from a Maoist hideout in Gaya District.
Reflecting a dim view of the performance of the State Police and SFs in Bihar, an assessment prepared by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) titled "Left-Wing Extremism: Trends in 2013", warned of the resurrection of Maoist activities in the State, owing to poor counter-insurgency efforts by the Bihar Government. The report noted, "Any respite, at this stage, such as provided by the feeble anti-Naxal response in Bihar, could be fatal to the gains made by security forces" and could help Maoists "form new battle-ready companies and units." The assessment emphasised that a 57 per cent increase in terms of killings in the State had been recorded, even though the rise in the number of incidents was only five percent.
The problem with counter-insurgency operation in Bihar is further compounded by a reported trust deficit between the State Police and Central Forces deployed in the State. The Gaya District Police, on November 18, 2013, arrested one CRPF officer, Assistant Commandant Sanjay Kumar Yadav, posted in Barachatti (Gaya), on charges of leaking crucial information on security operations to the Maoists. Police had filed an FIR against him on November 14. Police claimed that many anti-Maoist operations had ended in failure due to leakage of information by the Assistant Commandant. However, CRPF sources, on condition of anonymity, insist that, even if the charges against the officer are true, it would have been better not to have arrested the officer at that point of time. Five days after a case was lodged against Yadav, who hails from Bihar, Bihar Director General of Police (DGP) Abhayanand sent a letter to the Central Government, urging it to relocate the 159th Battalion of CRPF outside the State, and to substitute it by another battalion. It also urged the Centre not to post any CRPF officer who belonged to Bihar for anti-Maoist operations in the State.
Despite the evidence of data, State officials, quite surprisingly, claimed that Bihar had, in fact, been carrying out specific intelligence-based operations and been quite successful in arresting the 'maximum number' of Maoists in 2013. A top State Police official thus asserted, "Only killing Maoists is not a sign of big operations", adding that the clearing of the entire Chakarbanda area in Gaya District — which had once been a Maoist stronghold where Police did not even think of entering — was an example of how the State has been doing intelligence-based operation quietly.
Complicating the situation further, the Nitish Kumar Government has still not abandoned the illusion of fighting Maoists with 'development'. On December 2, 2013, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared that Bihar did not have a “magic wand” to stop the Maoist attacks, and the answer lay in initiating multiple measures, including socio-economic development.
While the Chief Minister looks for a magic wand to stop Maoist attack, the Police population ratio of Bihar stands at meagre 68 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2012) per 100,000 population, even lower than it was a decade earlier, at 69 in 2002, and less than half the national average of 138 in 2012. Not surprisingly, the State Government is constantly looking for the deployment of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) battalions to tackle every security crisis in the State. There are at least six battalions of CAPFs deployed in the Bihar. Further, on January 13, 2014, CRPF deployed close to 200 commandos of its elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) battalion to bring a greater effectiveness to its offensives in the State. The Bihar Government has also proposed the setting up of 242 armed fighting companies of the State Police, of which 44 companies will be a dedicated force to deal with rioting, while the remaining would be engaged in operations against the Maoists and organized crime.
Bihar’s anti-Maoist operations appear to have lost focus in 2013, and the counter-insurgency advantages secured in the preceding years have been squandered. The State Government’s reluctance to act firmly and consistently against the Maoists has provided the rebels much needed breathing space, which they are expected to exploit to the fullest, to frame their strategy for the revival of the movement which, in their own assessment, is at a "critical stage" across the country.