SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Writing on the Wall
Six years ago, Abdul Ahad Pandit threw a burkha over his clothes and darted down the narrow lane leading to the polling Station. His wife, Saeeda Pandit, followed. "We sat up awake for the next three nights", Pandit recalls, "waiting for death to knock on our door, a Kalashnikov in hand."
Back in the autumn of 2002, just five Yaripora residents cast their votes in the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Assembly elections, which brought the Congress-People's Democratic Party (PDP) alliance to power — every one of them hidden inside the all-enveloping cloak for fear of being identified. Nestled below the southern reaches of the Pir Panjal mountains, Yaripora was, for all practical purposes, ruled by jihadis. Both the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had put up posters warning that those who voted would be shot — and had demonstrated their ability to deliver on the threat, killing dozens of political activists across the region.
But this month, hundreds followed where the Pandits had led: almost three in four registered voters in Yaripora — 1,481 of 2,073 (71.44%) — cast their vote, in a graphic demonstration of just how the decimation of jihadi groups in J&K has transfigured the State’s political life.
Across J&K, voters have startled experts both through the intensity of their participation — over 55 per cent in Kashmir, and upwards of 60 percent in Jammu — and a verdict that debunks the notion that this summer’s violence over the Amarnath Land issue had sundered the State into hostile ethnic-religious blocks, one of them irreconcilably hostile to India.
Just weeks ago, a successful election seemed improbable. On November 21, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Chairman of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) had insisted that "we are sure there will be 100 per cent poll boycott". Most experts agreed. In an October 31 article, commentator Hassan Zainagiri reported in Greater Kashmir that Kashmir’s "people are quite jubilantly supporting the boycott schedule of the Coordination Committee." (The separatist J&K Coordination Committee had issued the call for a poll boycott). Eminent journalist and author Prem Shankar Jha prophesied, "the Government will be lucky if they get more than 10 percent of people to come out and vote."
Understanding the J&K election results requires jettisoning the notion that the State consists of three monolithic ethnic-religious blocks — or that its political life is primarily driven either by India-Pakistan conflict or ethnic-religious competition. Both the National Conference (NC) and the PDP have demonstrated that they have primacy in sub-regional zones in Kashmir; the Congress and BJP that they, in turn, speak for parts of Jammu.
Northern Kashmir’s mandate has been divided between the two major Kashmir-based parties. While the NC has taken seven seats, the PDP has secured six, leaving one to the Congress and another to independent candidate Abdul Rashid Sheikh, who broke ranks with the secessionist People’s Conference and stood for election from Langate.
In central Kashmir — the agglomeration of fifteen seats between Kangan and Ganderbal on the one side, to Khansahib and Chrar-e-Sharif on the other, with urban Srinagar at its core — the NC has reigned supreme. Here, the PDP could take just three seats, those of Chadoora, Khasahib and Beerwah. NC leaders succeeded in beating off competition in the region’s rural constituencies — competition which cost NC leader Omar Abdullah the Ganderbal seat in 2002 — and also capitalised on low turnout in the eight urban segments, which gave the party's committed cadre electoral primacy.
In stark contrast, the PDP has dominated southern Kashmir, losing just four of the region’s sixteen seats — two to the Congress and one each to the NC and Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M). Here, the PDP succeeded in widening its constituency among political Islamists, often supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) — a constituency the party had begun to court in the run-up to the 2002 elections, when it succeeded in securing the backing of key regional commanders of the HM.
While the NC’s efforts to leverage Islamist issues and themes to their advantage does not appear to have helped the party in southern Kashmir, the PDP’s more resolute ideological opponents appear to have held their ground. The Congress has retained both the Dooru and Kokernag seats, despite a PDP-led Islamist campaign that linked the Congress candidates to an emotive 2006 prostitution scandal in Srinagar. In Kulgam, CPI-M veteran Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami — again a hate-figure for Islamists — was re-elected for a third time running. Interestingly, the sole NC win in southern Kashmir was registered by Sakina Itoo who, as a single woman professional, has been a favourite target of Islamist ire. In 2002, her campaign was targeted nine times by jihadi groups.
South of the Pir Panjal mountains, the Jammu region has also demonstrated that no one party can claim to speak for the entire region. Of the eleven seats in the Doda-Udhampur belt, the NC and Panthers Party have taken two seats each, while the Bharatiya Janata Party has won one. However, the Congress has profited from former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s developmental record in the area, picking up seven seats. Azad himself has won with a staggering margin of over 29,000 votes from the mountain constituency of Bhaderwah.
In the nineteen-seat cluster from Bani to Naushera, with urban Jammu at its centre, the BJP has picked up ten seats. However, its opponents have also done well, with the Congress taking four seats, the NC and independent candidates two each, and the Panthers Party one.
Finally, in the six seats of the Rajouri-Poonch belt — often the site of tense Hindu-Muslim relations — the PDP, Congress and NC have each won two seats.
What lessons ought politicians to be learning from these results? Perhaps the most important is that competitive ethnic and religious chauvinism of the kind that threatened to rip J&K apart this summer, doesn't pay.
For the PDP, the returns from the incendiary communal campaign it ran this summer, as well as its efforts to reach out to secessionists, have been disappointing. Despite securing the backing of the JeI’s rank-and file, the PDP’s hopes of emerging as the principal political voice of the Kashmir region have been squarely thwarted. The party has succeeded, it is true, in winning 21 seats, up from 16 in 2002. However, this increase is less remarkable than it might at first seem. In the 2004 Lok Sabha (Lower House of India’s Parliament) elections, after all, the PDP registered wins in 25 Assembly segments. In order to make a bid of power, the PDP will need allies and partners — allies and partners who will not be forthcoming unless the party moderates its polemic and builds bridges across religious and ethnic lines.
Despite the apparently dramatic improvement in the BJP's fortunes — which have taken it from just one seat in 2002 to 11 now — Hindu chauvinism hasn’t yielded exceptional pay-offs either. Claims that the BJP has ridden a communal tide in Jammu are empirically unsustainable. First, the ultra-right Jammu State Morcha had broken from the BJP on the eve of the 2002 elections. Had this division of votes not taken place, simple arithmetic shows that the BJP would then have won eight seats. As such, the 2008 results mark an improvement in the BJP's fortunes, but a relatively modest one.
More important, most of the 2008 victories have come in areas where the Amarnath Shrine movement remained at low ebb. The BJP’s efforts to capitalise on the movement have, for the most part, ended in failure. Kirti Verma — the wife of a protestor who dramatically committed suicide — has been defeated in Vijaypur; the State’s BJP’s chief, Nirmal Singh, also suffered defeat in Samba, which saw some of the most intense violence in Jammu this summer. Most of the BJP’s victories came in areas which saw relatively little violence during the Amarnath Land agitation, but where voters were dissatisfied with the developmental record of incumbents rather than their commitment to religious causes — a lesson the party would do well to comprehend if it wishes to expand its state-wide reach in the future.
The election results have also undermined conventional wisdom on this summer’s violence in the State, and demonstrated, rather, that the protests revolved around communal anxieties which had little to do with the secessionist cause. Kashmir’s civil society has long been anxious of its future in a Hindu-majority State. On a visit to New Delhi soon after Independence, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah candidly underlined the relationship between politics in Kashmir and Indian communalism. "There isn't a single Muslim in Kapurthala, Alwar or Bharatpur", Abdullah said, noting that "some of these had been Muslim-majority states". Kashmiri Muslims, he concluded, "are afraid that the same fate lies ahead for them as well."
Fears like these — fuelled by the discrimination the region’s middle-class encounters outside of the State — acquired some legitimacy after Hindu communalists in Jammu announced an economic blockade. Despite its marginal impact, many saw the blockade as an existential threat; a precursor to a large-scale communal onslaught that would deprive Kashmir’s people of their land. In June, Geelani had charged the Indian state with working to "alter the demographic character of our State," adding further, "I caution my nation… that if we do not wake up now, India and its stooges will succeed and we will lose our land forever." Until state action ended the blockade, the Islamist leader’s charges appeared legitimate to some segments of the population.
Interestingly, though, the anti-Amarnath Shrine Board protests were not secessionst-led, outside of the principal urban bases of the secessionist movement — Srinagar, Baramulla and Sopore. A 5,000-strong June 30 gathering at Sheeri, for example, was led by local NC activist Abdul Qayoom and PDP dissident Ghulam Mohiuddin. Local Congress leaders burned effigies of PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Saeed at Wandi-Viligam on June 30, while NC activists were the principal leaders of the protests in Paibugh.
Kashmir secessionists, it is rarely understood, represent specific social classes — not a generalised, free-floating ‘sentiment’. Most major secessionist leaders were members of the Muslim United Front (MUF), a political coalition that represented an alliance between the urban petty bourgeoisie and rural orchard-owning elite. Both classes had seen their pre-independence influence decline through years of NC rule — a rule founded on an alliance between the small peasant, on the one hand, and a new elite of contractors and capitalists, on the other. Islam, for the classes which backed the MUF, was an instrument to legitimize the protest of a threatened social order against a modernity poised to obliterate it.
In Srinagar and other urban centres, this coalition succeeded in securing the support of disenfranchised youth — the children of the city’s traditional bourgeoisie, who are witnessing the inevitable death of the artisanal and trading occupations of their parents, but have neither the skills nor resources to compete in the new world emerging around them. Kashmir’s Islamist-led secessionist movement became a medium for their rage at being denied entry through the gates of the earthly paradise before them — a phenomenon which formed the most visible part of the street protests during the Shrine Board movement. The notion that the street protests reflected pan-Kashmiri sentiment was a fiction.
Where might events go from here? Part of the reason for the surprise generated by the Kashmir election is the influence of a discourse that, a priori, casts Kashmiri secessionism as the authentic sentiment of its people. Thus, high voter turnout in the 1996 and 2002 elections was widely (though inaccurately) attributed to coercive pressure from Indian troops, rather than the political influence of the candidates. Without dispute, Indian Army troops did ask rural residents to vote in both 1996 and 2002 — actions which must be read in the context of jihadi groups threatening them with death if they chose to do so, and killing dozens of political activists to demonstrate their seriousness of purpose. However, careful study of voting patterns demonstrates that there was no demonstrable relationship between this persuasive activity and voter turnout. Zero voting took place in some areas where troops were reported to have pushed voters; some areas which saw no coercion at all, conversely, reported high turnout.
Now, though, even the Islamists cast as ‘authentic’, have begun to join the election process — a phenomenon that bodes well for the long-term re-institutionalisation of competitive democracy. Journalists observing voting patterns in southern Kashmir have noted that large-scale participation by JeI cadres drove high turnout in the secessionist strongholds of Shopian and Tral. In Kulgam key JeI figures like Mohammad Amin Naqashbani, Sonaullah Kojar, Abdul Rashid Chehlan and Masood Sheikh were out on the streets, (unsuccessfully) persuading voters to defeat Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami.
For anyone not ideologically committed to the idea of Kashmiri independence, the writing has long been on the wall. Back in February 2008, J&K JeI amir Ghulam Hassan Sheikh — the chief of the political formation which gave birth to the HM — had announced he would not participate in a secessionist campaign seeking a boycott of Assembly elections scheduled later in the year. "I am at variance," he argued, "with leaders and organisations who over-emphasise the election boycott campaign, which may sometimes prove counterproductive… Elections do not have any impact on the status of the Kashmir issue. If people cast their votes in the elections, it does not mean that they have given up their freedom struggle or accepted India’s domination of Jammu and Kashmir." Others in the Jamaat pointed to a 2004 resolution of its Majlis-e-Shoora (central consultative council), committing the Islamist group to "democratic and constitutional struggle".
Ghulam Hassan Sheikh was eventually compelled to back down and support the secessionist boycott campaign in the run-up to the elections — but the party itself, it is clear, intends to leverage the democratic process to the advantage of its constituents. JeI supporters are likely to have backed the PDP, giving the party more representation in the Assembly than expected — or that its own leaders had hoped for. In time, it seems probable, the PDP will secure the support of the classes who backed MUF in 1987. If so, the classes who drove the course of the long jihad in J&K will have returned to the democratic fold.
Politicians in J&K have intuitively sensed this possibility, increasingly casting their parties as credible forces who can, through dialogue with New Delhi, resolve the conflict in the State. Both the PDP’s calls for self-rule, nebulous as the concept still remains, and the NC’s demands for maximal autonomy, are steps in this direction. As the Congress secures a presence in Kashmir, it will point to the existence of a third constituency, which sees the debate itself as misplaced.
In January, J&K will have a new elected Assembly. New Delhi would do well to engage with the multiple voices it will contain, rather than reach out once more to a secessionist leadership that has been humiliated by the peoples it claims to represent.
Bihar has an abysmal record in law and order management, and has long been in the stranglehold of Left Wing Extremism (LWE). The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) virtually rules parts of the State, creating a serious challenge for the Government, with a number of officials unable even to carry out their routine functions in various Districts. One December 7, 2008, report, for instance, indicates that Rajiv Kumar, the Block Development Officer of Dumaria in the Gaya District, had not been able to attend office for more than three months, fearing an attack by the CPI-Maoist. Kumar, who had survived an ambush on August 9, 2008, has since been functioning from the Divisional Headquarters at Gaya.
So enveloping is the fear that, responding to a Maoist diktat, 64 activists of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) alliance – Janata Dal-United (JD-U and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – in the Islampur Assembly constituency of Gaya District, on May 4, 2008, announced that they would resign from the primary membership of their parties. Official sources disclosed that the CPI-Maoist cadres had earlier abducted 37 NDA activists from Imamganj, Banke Bazaar and Dumaria blocks in the District on April 29, 2008, and had taken them to the Chakrabanda Hill area. They later released them on the condition that they would resign from their parties by May 4, 2008.
Yet, in the run-up to celebrations of three years of the NDA coalition in office, the Deputy Chief Minister (CM) and BJP leader, Sushil Kumar Modi, on November 24, 2008, boasted that the State had not witnessed a ‘major’ incident of Naxalite (LWE) violence during his Government’s tenure – the NDA Government took oath on November 24, 2005 – despite 19 of the State’s 38 Districts falling in the ‘high-risk zone’. According to Modi, the NDA Government "holds that Naxals are not criminals and, hence, must not be treated like ones (sic)... Naxalism has political content. Now, Naxals are not seen in fetters in jails."
It is not clear that what the Deputy CM meant by ‘major’ incident – as many as 19 Maoist-related incidents in each of which more than three persons were killed, have occurred in the State since November 24, 2005. In the most daring attack, a group of 250 cadres of the CPI-Maoist carried out simultaneous attacks on the Rajpur Police Station and Baghaila Outpost in the Rohtas District, killing six Police personnel and seven civilians on June 30, 2007. Eight persons, including four Policemen, were injured in the attack. The Maoists also blew up the Police Station and Outpost using dynamite, after looting four self-loading rifles, eight .303 rifles, two INSAS rifles and three carbines, besides hundreds of rounds of ammunition. As many as seven major incidents have been reported in the year 2008 itself.
Insurgency related fatalities in Bihar: 1999-2008
It is, of course, significant that overall fatalities have demonstrated declining trends in Bihar over the past years, from their peak in 1999. Unsurprisingly, while releasing the "Comparative Crime Data of Bihar From 2001 till 2008 (November)" the State’s Director General of Police (DGP) D. N. Gautam on December 25, 2008, claimed that the overall crime situation in Bihar had improved. He disclosed that, while 2007 accounted for a total of 2,963 murders, the figure stood at 2,797 up to November 2008. Talking about LWE, Gautam said that 42 civilians were killed during the current year in 75 cases of CPI-Maoist attacks. While 14 Maoists and 20 Policemen were also killed in encounters between Police and Maoists, the State Police arrested 442 Maoists, including 43 self-proclaimed area / zonal commanders. The Police also recovered 132 firearms, including 18 that had been looted, and 17,098 cartridges from the Naxalites.
The Bihar Government unveiled its ‘three-pronged strategy’ to deal with the LWE problem in July 2007, comprising the simultaneous mounting of an offensive against the extremists, the strengthening of intelligence networks and undertaking development schemes as an ‘anti-dote’ against the rampaging Maoists. Since April 2006, in a bid to tide over its dependence on the Central Para-Military Forces (CPMFs) and to fill up the deficit of trained personnel, the Government raised the 5,000-strong State Auxiliary Police (SAP), comprising retired Army personnel, and deployed them in sensitive Districts. The SAP has since been expanded to include another 11,500 personnel.
Speaking at the Conference of Directors General of Police and Inspectors Genral of Police on November 22, 2008, the then Union Minster for Home Affairs, Shivraj Patil, had said that, in Bihar, the situation had improved by ‘more than 40 per cent’. However, lower levels of violence do not mean that the State has reclaimed territory from the rebels or secured any dramatic victories. Indeed, the number of Districts affected by Maoist activity in Bihar has remained more or less the same. There are variations in the levels and patterns of Maoist activity, but the larger picture remains unchanged. The CPI-Maoist has clearly expressed its intent to capture power across the length and breadth of the country, and has established Regional, State and Special Zonal Committees to oversee this grand enterprise, which presently leaves only a handful of areas outside its scope. The rising violence in neighbouring Jharkhand and Orissa is an index of the Maoist intent, and Bihar cannot be exempt unless declines in violence are a consequence of operational successes by the Security Forces (SFs).
It is notable that, with 71 fatalities in 2008, the level of LWE violence has remained roughly stable, in comparison to 2007, which accounted for 69 fatalities. While civilian and SF fatalities saw a marginal decline, there was a surge in Maoists killed, with the number rising from just two in 2007 to 15 in 2008 (according to the ICM database). Over the past five years, a State Home Department official disclosed on December 26, 76 Policemen and 63 rebels had been killed in 130 shoot-outs between the Police and CPI-Maoist activists in Bihar over the past five years. The total incidents also demonstrated some decline – with 114 in 2008 and 135 in 2007. The largest number of incidents were reported from Gaya District (30), which accounted for the largest number of fatalities in terms of SFs (8); followed by Jamui (total fatalities, 12), which also accounted for the largest civilian fatalities (9); Aurangabad (9) and Rohtas (8). Deo, Madanpur, Rafiganj and Nabinagar under Aurangabad District and Barachatti, Mohanpur, Tekari, Fatehpur and Tankuppa Police Stations under Gaya District are considered the worst affected Police Stations of Bihar. Notably all these areas in Southern Bihar are adjacent to the Jharkhand, the second worst affected State, corroborating the fact that the Maoists movement is unimpeded across the ‘Red Corridor’. There have been some reports of the movement of Nepalese Maoists in the Northern Districts of East and West Champaran as well. Consequently, in a bid to strengthen security along the porous Indo-Nepal border, the Union Government, on November 26, 2008, announced that two integrated check posts, each, would be set up in Bihar and Nepal. Work on setting up the integrated check posts would begin in April 2009 and would be completed by March 2011. In Bihar, the check posts would be set up in the Districts of East and West Champaran.
The major incidents involving Maoists attacks include the following:
November 16, 2008: Four members of a family were shot dead by a group of armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist at Kohbarba Rasulpur village in the East Champaran District.
November 15, 2008: Three villagers, identified as Madan Singh, Chhote Lal Singh and Mahesh Singh, were abducted and subsequently killed by Naxalites for refusing to pay levy at Kharik Maheshwari village under the Sono Police Station of Jamui District. The bodies of the three villagers, with their throats slit, were later found from Charka Patthal Bazar, some 300-metres from Kharik Maheshwari in the morning of November 16.
August 21, 2008: Six Policemen, two CPI-Maoist cadres and a civilian were killed in an exchange of fire after Maoists carried out an attack on the Policemen who had come for a routine inspection of a branch of the Punjab National Bank at the Raniganj village in the Gaya District.
April 13, 2008: Six persons, including five SF personnel and a porter, were killed in an attack by the CPI-Maoist cadres at Jhajha railway Station in the Jamui District.
April 10, 2008: CPI-Maoist cadres killed six persons belonging to the Sashastra People’s Morcha (SSM, Armed People’s Front) in the Tardih forest of Rohtas District. The slain persons, natives of Barachatti and Mohanpur blocks of Gaya District, were former members of the CPI-Maoist and had formed the SSM to assist the Police.
February 21, 2008: Suspected CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead three farmers at Pipra village under the jurisdiction of the Darpa Police Station in the East Champaran District.
January 1, 2008: At least four Policemen were killed and another sustained injuries in an attack by CPI-Maoist cadres on Bariapur Police Post in the Monghyr District.
The Maoists have also carried out acts of economic subversion targeting State, public and private properties. As many as 24 incidents of destruction of property were reported in 2008. The Maoists set ablaze tractors and construction machines required for constructing buildings, bridges and roads. On numerous occasions they blew up railway tracks, petrol Stations and Government offices. In one such incident, on November 6, 2008, over 100 armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist attacked a bridge construction site at Mallipokharbhinda in the Sheohar District and destroyed machinery worth over INR one million. The Maoists also targeted mobile phone towers, as they believe that the communication network is frequently used by security agencies and their informers. According to a December 18, 2008, report an official of the MHA stated that the Maoist had destroyed at least 43 mobile phone towers in six States till November this year – the highest number, 14 each, in Bihar and Chhattisgarh. There were no such attacks on mobile phone towers in the State in preceding years, though the phenomenon dates back to 2005 in other States. The Maoists also called for 24 hour bandhs (general strike) on at least three occasions, adversely affecting economic activity in the State.
The Maoists continued their extortion and looting drive, undermining developmental works as well as the law-and-order situation in the State. At least 12 major incidents of extortion and loot have been reported since January 1, 2008. On June 15, 2008, armed CPI-Maoist cadres raided a work site of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) near Barki Murhari village under Pali Police Station in the Jehanabad District. The manager of the Patna-based M/s Mother India Construction Company Private Limited said that they were working on this three-kilometre stretch of rural link road under the PMGSY at an estimated cost of INR 7.8 millions, and the Maoists were demanding 10 percent of the total estimated cost by way of ‘levy’. Separately, on July 1, 2008, the CPI-Maoist cadres blew up the house of a suspected Police informer and abducted his brother in the Gaya District. The Maoists also looted valuables worth over INR 100,000. Reports also indicate that the Maoists are cultivating poppy to fund their illegal activities. On February 19, 2008, a joint team of Police and Excise Department officials destroyed poppy crops allegedly grown by the CPI-Maoist in the Imamganj Police Station area of Gaya District. "We have destroyed the crops grown on 24 acres of land under Imamganj Police Station area," Omprakash Singh, a senior excise department official disclosed.
The SFs have made some efforts to halt the Maoists progress. On May 14, 2008, six CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter with the Police at Nawada on the Bihar-Jharkhand border. Four Policemen were also injured in the encounter. Police also seized three assault rifles, one carbine, hundreds of live cartridges and eight bombs from the incident site. Earlier, on January 13, 2008, Police claimed to have killed six cadres of the CPI-Maoist in an encounter at Bangudwa Naktaia Hills in the Gaya District. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Balram Kumar Choudhry, said that dead bodies of the slain Maoists could not be recovered from the encounter site as these were taken away by their colleagues. On October 6, 2008, the SFs foiled a plan by the CPI-Maoist to hold a training camp on the border of Rohtas and Bhabhua (Kaimur) Districts. A special operation, Operation ‘Vidhwansha’, in which six Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies, three Special Task Force (STF) units and Police personnel of the two Districts were engaged, resulted in the destruction of the training camp. The raiding team destroyed bunker-like structures and some other temporary structures. Police sources said that around 400 CPI-Maoist cadres had gathered in villages falling under Nauhatta and Sasaram blocks of Rohtas District and Adhaura block of Kaimur District to take part in the training programme.
In addition, the SFs recovered large cache of arms and ammunition from the Maoists from different places on as many as eight occasions, significantly affecting their arsenal. In one such incident on March 9, 2008, a joint team comprising the CRPF and the STF raided Akurauni forest area in the Gaya District and neutralised a CPI-Maoist bunker. The team seized arms and 10,000 rounds of ammunition of several regular weapons, including INSAS rifles, 100 magazines of carbines and more than 100 hand grenades. Hundreds of Police uniforms, hand grenade-making equipment, one .9mm pistol and regular rifles were also recovered from the bunker. A suspected Maoist was also arrested during the search. Similarly, on October 21, 2008, Police recovered a huge cache of arms hidden by suspected CPI-Maoist cadres in the Bhalua Forest area of Gaya District. The arms cache included 200 detonators, 126 ‘tiffin bombs’, timers and wires, was hidden inside a 250-litre water tank. On December 5, the Patna Police seized a big cache of ammunition of various calibres and arrested five persons engaged in their clandestine supply to Naxalites. Senior Superintendent of Police, Amit Kumar, said that the Police intercepted three vehicles at the Zero Mile near the Mahatma Gandhi Bridge over the Ganga and seized 500 cartridges of .315 calibre rifles, 400 of .32 pistols and 11 rounds of 12 bore shotgun, besides one 9 mm pistol with an additional magazine. The inter-State gang was involved in supplying weapons and ammunition to various Naxalite outfits, including CPI-Maoist and Tritiya Prastuti Committee.
Several top CPI-Maoist cadres were also arrested in the State in 2008. Over 93 Naxalites were arrested from a forest area in the Khaira area of Jamui District on a single day on May 21, 2008. However, the most prized catch was Rampravesh Baitha, the CPI-Maoist ‘secretary’ of the Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand Special Area Committee (SAC), who was arrested from Golghar under Gandhi Maidan Police Station in the State capital, Patna, on May 9, 2008. Baitha’s colleagues, however, managed to escape. Baitha, who hails from Kuria village in the East Champaran District, is wanted in 34 cases of extremist violence. The SFs also managed to arrest a ‘zonal commander’ of the CPI-Maoist, identified as Nandu Mahato from a hideout at Chauhuar village in the Gaya District on February 26, 2008, while another ‘zonal commander’, Raghu Chamar, was arrested from his residence at Jhari village in the Aurangabad District on May 14, 2008. On November 5, 2008, another self-styled ‘zonal committee secretary, identified as Dayanand Malakar, was arrested from Lakhanpatti village under Khodawanpur Police Station in the Begusarai District.
The SF pressure on rank and file Maoists inspired several surrenders. On March 13, 2008, for instance, 16 CPI-Maoist cadres surrendered to the Police in Muzaffarpur. The Maoists also deposited over 50 kilograms of explosives, six detonators, two landmines, seven pistols, four rifles, two guns and several rounds of ammunition. Earlier, on February 29, an ‘area commander’ of the CPI-Maoist, identified as Basudev, surrendered at Banke Bazaar Police Station in Gaya District, along with one automatic rifle, one regular rifle and a large number of cartridges.
Judicial action has also been seen in a few cases. On April 30, 2008, a fast track Court at capital Patna framed charges against senior CPI-Maoist leader Ajay Kanu and five others for their alleged involvement in the killing of a policeman in 2002 at Kandak village in Patna rural District. Kanu, who had a reward of INR 500,000 on his head and was wanted in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh as well, was arrested near the Tankuppa Police outpost in the Gaya District on February 2, 2007. On June 9, 2008, a fast track Court sentenced two CPI-Maoist cadres, Surendra Manjhi and Saryu Manjhi, to death in connection with the attack on the Chhabilapur Police Station in Nalanda District on August 11, 2005, in which two persons, including one Policeman, were killed and three others sustained injuries. Of the 13 persons named as accused in the case, seven were acquitted for want of evidence, while four others were being tried separately.
These successes, however, mask the very poor presence of Police and SFs in the State.There is a deficit of 33.06 percent between actual and sanctioned Police strength in Bihar, a dismal 60 Policemen per 1,00,000 of population, the lowest in the country, where the national average is itself a severely inadequate 125 per 100,000. The table below gives some key indices of the state of policing in Bihar in comparison to the national profile:
On December 12, 2008 Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced that the average age of constables would soon be reduced from 38 years to 30 years, improving operational efficiency and the image of the Police. To this end, he announced, 12,977 constables were soon to be recruited. The appointment of 12,000 SAP personnel and 2,000 sub-inspectors is also underway. The Chief Minister clarified, further, that "This time the State government would recruit junior commissioned officers (JCOs)." Earlier, DGP Gautam urged the CM to provide a contingency fund of INR 20 million at the disposal of the DGP so that minor expenditures could be met swiftly. "As of now, essential purchases, even though small, get delayed due to ‘file processing’," he said. Subsequently, on December 25, Gautam disclosed that the Government had sanctioned a "permanent advance" to Police Stations to meet day-to-day exigencies. While urban Police Stations would get INR 25,000, those in Maoist affected areas would get INR 15,000 while general rural Police Stations would get INR 10,000. In addition, one June 26, 2008, report, said that the State Government had decided to fortify all the 50 Police Stations falling under the LWE affected Districts of Aurangabad and Gaya in central Bihar, to help Police counter Maoists attacks.
Media reports also indicate that the Union Government has decided to deploy Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) commandos in a phased manner over the next three years in LWE affected States, including Bihar. The new 10,000-personnel strong COBRA force will work under the CRPF. Provided with four helicopters to enable quick mobility over difficult terrain, COBRA personnel will be armed with a wide range of hi-tech assault weapons, latest communication systems and special anti-mine armoured vehicles fitted with jammers. While worst-hit Chhattisgarh is to get three battalions, Bihar will get one battalion of the new Force, which will have at least three platoons for the specific task of intelligence gathering and tracking Maoist movements and operations.
Despite the relative calm in the State, and efforts to shore up SF capabilities, Bihar remains abysmally underpoliced and the Maoist sway over its territories shows little evidence of waning. The static indices of violence reflect Maoist intent, rather than any dramatic successes on the part of State Forces, and there is reason to believe that the rebels have chosen to deliberately calibrate violence at lower levels in order to focus more clearly on tasks of political consolidation and mass mobilisation. The relative peace of the present may, in fact, auger much worse to come in the proximate future.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 22-28, 2008
Results of Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Elections – 2008
Source: Election Commission of India
National Conference emerges single largest party in Jammu and Kashmir elections: The National Conference (NC) on December 28, 2008 emerged the single largest party as the results of the just-concluded elections in Jammu and Kashmir were announced. The NC secured 28 seats (20 in Kashmir, six in Jammu and two in Kargil), while the People’s Democratic Party was second with 21 seats (19 in Kashmir and 2 in Jammu). The Congress party was victorious in 17 seats (13 from Jammu region, three from Kashmir and one from Leh) and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 11 constituencies. The National Panthers Party won three seats and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the People’s Democratic Front and the Democratic Party (Nationalist) one each. Independents won in four constituencies. Forty-four seats is the majority mark in the 87-strong House. The Hindu; Times of India; Daily Excelsior, December 29, 2008.
Number of militants has dropped below 1000, says Jammu and Kashmir Police chief: The steps taken by Security Forces (SFs) to check infiltration of militants into Jammu and Kashmir from across the border and Line of Control (LoC) have been effective as the number of militants operating in the State has dropped to below 1,000 for the first time since the eruption of militancy in early 1990s. "The measures taken along the Line of Control and International Border have resulted in lesser number of militants infiltrating into the State. There have been casualties among the infiltrators which means the efficiency in preventing infiltration has improved," Director General of Police (DGP), Kuldeep Khoda, told reporters at the year-end briefing on the security situation in the State. The DGP said the number of active militants in the State was around 800 as per information coming from various security agencies. "There are around 577 local militants and 231 foreigners operating in the State. These are figures based on information from various agencies working on the ground," he said.
The Police chief said the situation had improved considerably since 2007 as the number of militancy-related incidents came down to three digits for the first time since eruption of militancy. "We had less than 700 militancy-related incidents during the current year which is a 40 per cent drop compared to the number of incidents that have taken place last year," he said. "The number of civilians killed in militancy-related incidents this year was just 89 which is below the three digit figure for the first time as well. Last year, 164 civilians were killed while the highest number of civilians killed in such incidents was in 1996, when 1,413 persons lost their lives," he stated. The DGP also said SFs were successful in neutralizing 102 top ranking commanders of militants in the State during 2008 while the casualties among the SFs dropped considerably. "As many as 85 Security Forces personnel laid down their lives while combating militancy in the State in 2008 while 685 were killed in 2001 which was the highest since 1990," he added. Daily Excelsior, December 26, 2008.
Taliban militants abduct Indian national in Afghanistan: News reports on December 25 indicated that an Indian national, P. Vasu alias Simon of Brahmagundam in the Villupuram District of Tamil Nadu, has been abducted by the Taliban militants in Afghanistan. Vasu reportedly went to Afghanistan 11 months ago to work with an Italian company. The abductors allegedly demanded a ransom of $ 350,000. Simon was kidnapped along with at least two more workers of the company, believed to be Nepal nationals, at Herath in Afghanistan on October 13. The Hindu; Indian Express, December 26, 2008.
76 civilians and 34 militants among 113 persons killed in NWFP: 76 civilians and 34 militants were among 113 persons killed during the week in NWFP. Five persons, including a woman, were killed in separate incidents of violence in Swat Valley on December 28. Militants in Manglawar area shot dead Liaquat Hussain for allegedly killing his wife. The militants also awarded 40 lashes to his son, Shahroom, for allegedly abetting the crime. Three people, including a woman, were killed in alleged firing by the Security Forces (SFs) in Khwazakhela and Charbagh sub-divisions. A woman was killed in Khwar area of Khwazakhela, when a bullet hit her inside her house. Meanwhile, an unidentified body was recovered from Kas Road near Mingora. On December 27, seven persons were killed in the Swat District. Three persons were killed when a house in Wenai was hit by a mortar shell, allegedly fired by the SFs. Locals said SFS targeted the suspected hideouts of militants from the Wenai checkpoint, resulting in the casualties, besides damage to houses. In another incident, three persons, including a child, were killed in the Totano Bahdai area of Kabal sub-division. A beheaded body was found in Ranial area of Matta sub-division.
41 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a polling Station in a Government school in the Shalbandi village of Buner District on December 28. 16 persons were injured in the blast believed to have been carried out to disrupt the by-election for a National Assembly seat. Police said two Policemen, a volunteer and five children were among the victims. According to witnesses, the bomber was about 18 years old. The Swat unit of the Tehrik-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had been carried out to avenge the killing of six of its members in the area four months earlier.
Seven persons were killed and 10 others were injured in the ongoing military operation in Swat Valley on December 26. Four persons were shot dead for violating the curfew near a security check-post in Golibagh town of Khwazakhela sub-division. In Manglawar, the SFs opened fire on two suspects, killing them on the spot. In another incident, the mother of a soldier, Samiul Haq, was killed and seven other members of his family wounded when their house was hit by a mortar shell in Golibagh area. Four persons, including two women, were killed in Swat valley on December 24. All the dead belonged to Alamganj town of Khwazakhela, where SFs have been engaged in an operation against the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants. 11 Taliban militants were killed and several others injured when the SFs attacked their hideouts in the Shakardarra area of Swat District on December 24. Troops also claimed to have killed seven militants in Shakardarra, while six other people were killed in separate incidents of violence in the Swat Valley on December 23. A military official said SFs also destroyed the militants’ positions in Shakardarra. He said troops suffered no loss in the operation.
23 people, including 15 militants, were killed in a ground operation against the militants and other incidents of violence in Shakardarra area of Swat District on December 22. The ISPR-run Swat Media Centre said SFs launched a ground assault against the militants in Shakardarra, the stronghold of Maulana Fazlullah-led militants. It said SFs started a search-and-cordon operation early in the morning, backed by helicopter gunships, and killed 15 militants, besides injuring scores of others, and destroyed their command and control centres. The SFs also conceded casualties of two soldiers, besides injuries to two SF personnel. Incidents of violence and mortar shelling in Shakardarra killed six persons, including two women, and injured eight others. Dawn; Daily Times; The News, December 23-29, 2008.
Army diverts troops from FATA to Indian border: Pakistan is moving nearly 20,000 troops from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to Kasur and Sialkot amid reports of Indian troop movement and rising tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi. An unnamed senior military official said the redeployed 14th Division would "counter any misadventure by India". "The troops have been moved from the western border areas where the operation [against Taliban] is not going on. But this is a limited movement to reinforce our defence on the eastern border," the official told Daily Times. He said the Pakistan Army had restricted the leaves of its troops and officers in view of the security situation. According to The News, two units of the Pakistan Army have been gradually withdrawn from the Lower Dir District bordering the Bajaur Agency and Afghanistan’s Kunar province, while troops have also been pulled out of South Waziristan. The troops withdrawn from Lower Dir were not involved in any military operations and had reportedly been deployed there for back-up support. Official sources said some of the troops pulled out of the FATA were based in snow-bound areas where no fighting could take place at this time of the year. However, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas declined to comment on these reports.
Military sources told The News in Peshawar that Government had quietly started withdrawal of troops from the tribal regions and the settled Districts. Residents in Wana, headquarters of South Waziristan, saw a big convoy of the Pakistan Army comprising several trucks and heavy ammunition leaving the region. People in Tank District also reportedly saw heavy military trucks carrying the troops towards Dera Ismail Khan. Further, "The 17th Division of Pakistan Army which was carrying out operation against the militants in Swat has also been pulled out and replaced by the 37th Division," disclosed a senior military officer. However, the officer said that, keeping in view sensitivity of Pakistan’s western frontier with Afghanistan, troops of 11th Corps would remain there for safeguarding this strategic border of the country. There were also reports that the Government has dropped the plan of launching a major military operation against the militants in the Khyber Agency, who were involved in attacks on NATO supplies. Reports said the operation was postponed due to the tense situation with India. However, a military officer said there was no such plan in the Khyber Agency. Daily Times; The News, December 27, 2008.
Pakistan to retaliate against any ‘surgical strikes’ by India, says Foreign Minister: Pakistan warned India on December 25, 2008, not to launch a ‘surgical strike’ against it and vowed to respond to any attack. "India should refrain from any surgical strike… It should not make this mistake, but if it does, Pakistan will be compelled to respond," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Multan. Daily Times, December 26, 2008.
Taliban will fight alongside the Army if India attacks Pakistan, says Baitullah Mehsud: Baitullah Mehsud, central head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), on December 22, 2008, announced full support to the Army against India if it makes any aggressive moves against the country. "Thousands of our well-armed militants are ready to fight alongside the Army if any war is imposed on Pakistan," Baitullah told The News from an undisclosed location. He said the time had come to wage a real jihad they had been waiting for. "We know very well that the visible and invisible enemies of the country have been planning to weaken this lone Islamic nuclear power. But the "mujahideen" will foil all such nefarious designs of our enemies," said the TTP chief. Baitullah said he wanted to assure the nation, Government and Army that they should not worry about Pakistan’s western borders with Afghanistan as, according to him, thousands of his armed fighters had already been deployed to safeguard this strategically important frontier. Besides thousands of armed militants, he claimed, hundreds of would-be bombers were on December 22 given suicide jackets and explosives-laden vehicles for protection of the border in case of any aggression by the Indian forces. "Our mujahideen would be in the vanguard if fighting broke out. Our fighters will fall on the enemy like thunder," he stated. The News, December 23, 2008.
US missiles kill seven militants in South Waziristan: Seven suspected militants reportedly belonging to the Punjab province were killed and several others sustained injuries when three US spy planes fired missiles at two vehicles and a house at Karikot, Azam Warsak and Dhog villages of South Waziristan on the morning of December 22, 2008. Officials and tribal sources said the CIA-operated spy planes fired three missiles, two at vehicles parked at Karikot and Azam Warsak villages, and another, which did not explode, at a house. They said the Maulana Nazeer-led Ahmadzai Wazir and Punjabi Taliban had installed heavy weapons on both the vehicles from which they fired at the drones in the morning. Sources close to the militants said three militants hailing from Punjab were killed at Karikot village where the drone fired a Hellfire missile at a double-cabin pick-truck parked near the village. Similarly, they said, four more suspected militants, also from Punjab, died when their truck was hit by the pilotless spy plane. Villagers in Wana said another missile, which the drone had fired at a home at Dhog, did not explode. The News, December 23, 2008.
Eight persons killed in suicide blast in Colombo: Eight persons were killed when a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber blew himself up after entering the premises of a Civil Defense Force (CDF) post at Wattala in the Colombo District at around 9.00 AM on December 28, 2008, Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. One Army officer, six CDF personnel and one civilian died while 17 others sustained injuries. Daily News, December 29, 2008.
102 LTTE militants and 11 soldiers among 115 persons killed: 102 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants, 11 soldiers and two civilians were among 115 persons killed in separate incidents during the week. 56 militants and 10 soldiers were killed as the troops captured a two-kilometre stretch of land west of Paranthan, Adampan and Iranamadu in the Kilinochchi District on December 22. More than 87 militants and 40 soldiers sustained injuries in these clashes. Meanwhile, head of the LTTE’s peace secretariat, S. Puleedevan, said more than 100 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers were killed and 250 were wounded when the LTTE repulsed a fresh offensive by the SLA. Further, troops recovered the dead bodies of four LTTE militants along with three T-56 weapons and one I-Com radio set subsequent to the clashes in the Nivil area of Kilinochchi District. On December 23, at least 12 militants were killed and an unspecified number injured, as troops of Task Force-I, consolidating their positions about 300 meters further southward along the LTTE earth bund (embankment), captured the Sinnaparanthan area of Kilinochchi District. Troops later recovered the dead body of one LTTE militant along with one T-56 weapon. Task Force-I troops recovered dead bodies of three LTTE cadres from Mankulam area in Kilinochchi District.
An LTTE airstrip with a width of 25 meters and length of 350 meters was captured by the Army on December 24 as the troops moved further towards north of Ampakamam in Mullaitivu District. 59th Division troops captured a communication tower used by the LTTE in the area north of Mulliyavalai in Mullaitivu District. There were three fortified overhead bunkers erected in defence of the tower with a height of about 40 feet. The dead body of one militant, along with a communication set, was also recovered by the troops. In addition, troops captured an LTTE training base in the Kulamarippu area. The base, surrounded by a trench line, consisted of one lecture hall, 10 huts and a few other constructions required for LTTE training. On the same day, troops conducted search and clear operations in the areas east and north of the Adampan area of Kilinochchi District and recovered the dead bodies of three militants along with two T-56 weapons and one T-81 weapon. The military on December 26 claimed to have captured Mulliyavalai Township, located along the Oddusudan-Mullaitivu (A-34) main road, and killed several LTTE militants after hours of heavy fighting. Troops also captured Nalanawakulam village, situated on the Pooneryn-Paranthan (B-69) road and about five kilometres west of Paranthan in the Kilinochchi District in the morning of December 27. Troops inflicted significant casualties on the militants and later recovered the dead bodies of three militants. The Sri Lanka Navy destroyed a LTTE logistics boat, 12 nautical miles north east of Point Pedro in the Jaffna District and killed four Sea Tigers (cadres of the LTTE’s sea wing). The dead bodies of eight LTTE militants, including four female cadres, killed during clashes in Paranthan area, were taken to un-cleared areas (area not under Government control) by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials.
Heavy fighting erupted between 59th Division troops and militants closer to the LTTE-made earth bund north of Alampil in the morning of December 27. An unspecified number of militants were killed and a few soldiers sustained injuries in the fighting that continued until evening. The LTTE, on December 28, claimed that at least 50 SLA soldiers were killed and 90 wounded in the Alampil area of Mullaitivu District on December 27. The outfit also claimed that 15 SLA soldiers were killed and more than 30 wounded in the nearby Uduppukkulam village. Army troops at Black Bridge in the Chenkaladi area of Batticaloa District confronted a group of LTTE militants, killing four of them. Meanwhile, the ICRC, on December 24, stated that about 800 dead bodies of combatants were transferred across the Army and LTTE frontlines in Wanni during 2008. It, however, did not identify the combatants separately. In November and December alone, the ICRC had facilitated the transfer of about 200 dead bodies. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, December 23-29, 2008.