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SAIR Archive            SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW          LATEST ON SATP
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 16, No. 19, November 6, 2017

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT


INDIA
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Odisha: Malkangiri: Retreating Disruption
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant; Institute for Conflict Management

On October 22, 2017, the dead body of a civilian, identified as Sama Pangi (45), was recovered from Spillway Ghat (bank of a water body) of Balimela reservoir in the Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri District in Odisha. On October 15, 2017, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres had hijacked a motor launch boat and taken Sama Pangi, its driver, hostage in the "cut-off" region of Chitrakonda in the District, when the vessel was on its way to Kunturpadar carrying grocery items for Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) forces deployed in the region. The Maoists killed Pangi suspecting him to be a ‘Police informer’. According to Police, Pangi had been attacked two years earlier as well, but had survived. Following the attack, he had left his native village Janti and was staying at Pilobai village in the Chitrakonda area. He had sought protection from the District Police.

On October 6, 2017, CPI-Maoist cadres shot Dambaru Nayak (40) dead at Kurub village under Kalimela Police limits in Malkangiri District. According to reports, nearly 20 to 25 armed Maoists had come to the village and dragged Dambaru out of his home. They held a Jan Adalat (People’s/ Kangaroo Court organized by the Maoists) where they accused him of being a ‘Police informer’ and shot him dead in the presence of the villagers.

On October 5, 2017, CPI-Maoist cadres killed a villager, identified as Imra Kabasi, in the Bapanapalli area under Padia Police limits in Malkangiri District. The Maoists dragged Imra to the nearby forest and slit his throat. The Maoists suspected that Imra was a 'Police informer'.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least nine civilians have been killed in Malkangiri District in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence in 2017 (data till November 5, 2017). Significantly, out of five Districts across Odisha from where such civilian fatalities have been recorded in the current year, Malkangiri has the dubious distinction of being the front-runner, with Kalahandi and Koraput both standing distant seconds, with two fatalities each. Kandhamal and Rayagada have recorded one such fatality each. The total number of civilian killings in such violence across Odisha in the current year stands at 15.

Out of 31 Districts across seven States from where Maoist-linked civilian fatalities have been recorded in the current year, Malkangiri was the worst, with nine fatalities; followed by Jamui (Bihar) and Gumla (Jharkhand), with five fatalities each.     

Since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, Malkangiri has recorded at least 116 civilian fatalities and is ranked 1st among a total of 18 Districts in Odisha from where civilian fatalities have been registered over this period. In terms of all-India data, out of 116 Districts from where civilian fatalities have been recorded since the formation of CPI-Maoist, Malkangiri ranked 6th. The Districts which recorded a greater number of civilian fatalities included West Midnapore (West Bengal), 464; Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), 337; Bijapur (Chhattisgarh), 174; Gadchiroli (Maharashtra), 153; and Gumla (Jharkhand), 121.

Fatalities in Malkangiri District 2004*- 2017**

Year

Civilians
SFs
LWEs
Total

2004

0
0
0
0

2005

4
0
1
5

2006

3
2
10
15

2007

3
2
6
11

2008

8
60
3
71

2009

7
3
3
13

2010

8
5
4
17

2011

7
1
1
9

2012

7
8
1
16

2013

18
1
16
35

2014

19
0
2
21

2015

16
3
6
25

2016

7
1
31
39

2017

9
0
1
10

Total

116
86
85
287
Source: SATP, **Data till November 5, 2017
* Formation of CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004.

After registering a significant dip in civilian fatalities, on year on year basis, in 2016, the surge witnessed in the current year is worrying. The escalation may primarily be due to declining engagement with Security Forces (SFs) on the ground, as is evident from the data: just one Maoist killed in the current year as against 31 Maoists killed in the corresponding period of 2016, the highest Maoist fatalities in the District since the formation of CPI-Maoist. Civilian targeting is a low risk effort to restore a measure of dominance in areas where the Maoists have suffered major reverses, and to inflict penalties on those who are perceived as aiding the State’s operational successes.

Indeed, since the two successive encounters in the Bejingi Forest area between Ramgarh and Panasput in the Malkangiri District on October 24 and 27, 2016, the Maoists have been struggling to retain their hold in the District. Since September 21, 2004, Malkangiri District has recorded 86 SF fatalities, as compared to 85 fatalities among the Maoists, establishing a kill ratio of 1:1.01 in favour of the Maoists. Out of 69 Districts across 14 States of India from where fatalities in both these categories were recorded, the kill ratio has been in favour of the Maoists in just 25 Districts. Significantly, the kill ratio has veered sharply in favour of the SFs since 2013.

Located in the southern part of the State, Malkangiri also shares its borders with Sukma District (carved out of Dantewada) in Chhattisgarh; Khammam District in Telangana; and East Godavari and Vishakhapatnam Districts in Andhra Pradesh. The District population is 613,192 (Census 2011), and it occupies an area of 5,791 square kilometers. 2,321 square kilometres of its total geographical area, about 40.08 per cent, is under forest cover. Terrain and geographical proximity to contiguous Maoist-affected regions in neighbouring States (Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh), have made Malkangiri a perfect area for a guerrilla stronghold.

Significantly, the Maoist diktat runs across the District, despite their progressive loss of geographical control in Malkangiri. Disruptive dominance is maintained through the creation of an atmosphere of terror in the region through the targeted killing of civilians, as well as other acts of intimidation.

On September 18, 2017, the Maoists forced a family from Paparmetla Palem village in Malkangiri District to leave their village. Ten members of the family of Kamal Khila were forced out, as the Maoists had branded their son, who was working outside the State, a Police Informer. Earlier, on September 17, 2017, a youth, Pilku Khara, belonging to Luchapani village in the Chitrakonda Block of the District, fled home after a Maoist kangaroo court held on September 9 told him to join their organisation or face ‘punishment’.  Further, around 20 armed CPI-Maoist cadres had barged into Murelguda village under Chitrakonda block on September 14, 2017, in search of their ‘convict’ Ramachandra Sisa, who had been ‘awarded death sentence’, by a kangaroo court on September 9, 2017, for defying the Maoists. As the Maoists failed to extract any information about Sisa, they set his two-wheeler on fire. They also terrorised the villagers while enquiring about Sisa, who is reportedly running for his life after he escaped from the kangaroo court. Sources indicate that he has moved to an undisclosed location along with his wife, leaving behind his frail mother to fend for herself in the village. Similarly, on September 1, 2017, a family in the Jantri village in the Chitrakonda Block had to leave their home after the Maoists threatened them.

Meanwhile, on October 15, 2017, CPI-Maoist posters and letters were found at Badatekguda under the Kalimela Block of the District, in which the rebels demanded that at least 10 people from each village of Malkangiri District must join the Maoists at the Helkanur Hill on October 25, 2017. A violation of the ‘order’, the Maoists warned, would attract the ‘death sentence’. No further information is available about the incident. In the same letter, the Maoists had asked surrendered cadres to return to the outfit, else they would ‘not be spared’.

Apart from the increased civilian fatalities in Malkangiri, other patterns of violence in the District have also seen a rise. A total of 15 persons were abducted in four incidents in 2017 (till November 5), while there was no such incident in the corresponding period of 2016. The Maoists have carried out three incidents of arson in 2017, as against none in the corresponding period of previous year. Further, at least 11 families have deserted their homes in 2017 due to Maoist threats, as against seven families in the corresponding period of 2016.

On October 26, 2017, the State Government decided to intensify its drive against the CPI-Maoist, with a focus on joint operations by Police and Central Forces in Malkangiri and Koraput Districts, which were considered to be Maoist strongholds. On October 26, 2017, during his first visit to Malkangiri and Koraput, State Director General of Police (DGP), R.P. Sharma, since taking charge as the State Police Chief on August 31, 2017, reviewed anti-Maoist operations and stated, "Our emphasis will be on joint operations and better co-ordination between the forces." DGP Sharma, also reviewed the ongoing work on the Gurupriya Bridge, which would connect the six Gram Panchayats (village level local-self government institutions) in the "cut-off" area located across the Balimela reservoir, with the District's mainland.

Earlier, on September 28, 2017, Border Security Force (BSF) Additional Director General (ADG), Arun Kumar, had informed,
We are planning to fill security gaps in the cutoff areas of Malkangiri and Tulsi Dongri of Chhattisgarh to cause maximum damage to the Red rebels. Accordingly, we are planning operations in those particular areas. Communications in the cutoff areas is a major problem. Recently, the Central Government has allotted Rs 25 crore for upgradation of infrastructure in these areas. This has boosted the morale of the forces..

The Maoists persist in their effort to retain a hold in Malkangiri, and the security challenge refuses to die. Time bound efforts – both from the Centre and State – are quintessential for the District to consolidate the tremendous gains that the SFs have secured, and to ensure that the Maoists find no remaining place to hide, despite the difficulties of terrain and location that have long favoured them.  

SRI LANKA
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Progress on an Unfinished Agenda
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On October 30, 2017, the three-day debate on the Interim Report of the Steering Committee set up under the Constitutional Assembly (CA) began in Parliament. The debate was supposed to conclude on November 1. However, due to demands from a large number of Members of Parliament (MPs) for additional time to express their views, Chairman of the CA, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya decided on November 2, 2017, to continue the debate on November 2 and November 8.

The Interim Report was submitted to the CA by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as Chairman of the Steering Committee on September 21, 2017, stressing that Sri Lanka should remain one undivided and indivisible country, where maximum devolution should be granted, but argued for the inclusion of specific provisions in the Constitution to prevent secession (division of the country). The report proposed that provincial councils would be the primary unit of devolution, while local bodies had been named as the implementing agency of both the central Government and the provincial councils.

Issuing a statement following the submission of the Interim Report, R. Sampanthan, Leader of the Opposition and of the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), stated, on September 21, 2017, “The successful conclusion of this Constitution-making process on the basis of an acceptable, reasonable and substantial national consensus would bring about a firm finality to this issue. Sri Lanka would perpetually be a united undivided and indivisible country in keeping with the basic and Supreme Law of the country, and on the basis of the free will and consent of its entire people.”

However, the Joint Opposition has expressed itself against the new Constitution. On July 7, 2016, the Joint Opposition had announced its ‘Shadow Cabinet’ in which former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed shadow Prime Minister. On January 27, 2017, while addressing a public rally in Colombo, Rajapaksa accused President Maithripala Sirisena of trying to appease the minority Tamil community by promising devolution of power, saying he would oppose the “fraudulent” new Constitution. Further, on October 26, 2017, the Joint Opposition’s constitutional expert, Professor G.L Peiris declared that the Government did not have a mandate for a new Constitution, and that the Joint Opposition opposed the Interim Report submitted to Parliament on the new Constitution.

Of late, the Joint Opposition group has been divided over the Constitution-making process, with one group insisting on immediate withdrawal from the CA and the other adamant on remaining in it. Surprisingly, Joint Opposition leader Rajapaksa, participating in the CA debate on the Interim Report on November 2, 2017, expressed hope that the new Constitution would promote national and religious unity. Rajapaksa stated that he was participating in the legislative process to formulate a new Constitution with the sincere hope of creating unity in the country and enjoined leaders not to create hate among communities.

As a result, expressing optimism, Minister of Finance Mangala Samaraweera, participating the debate in Parliament on October 31, 2017, observed, “By formulating a new Constitution the trajectory of the country can be changed towards a new direction and create an 'equal citizenship' to bring about economic prosperity.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe speaking in the debate on November 1, 2017, insisted that the Government cannot do anything without the agreement of all parties. The Premier called upon everyone to be united to introduce the new Constitution.

Significantly, in another step forward in Sri Lanka's path to sustained peace, and paving the way to set up an office to trace around 20,000 people still missing eight years after the end of the nearly three-decade-long civil war, President Sirisena on July 20, 2017, signed the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) Act. Further, on September 12, 2017, President Sirisena signed the Gazette Notification to operationalize the OMP Act from September 15. Accordingly, on October 24, 2017, the Government called for applications to appoint members to the OMP. Applications have been called from persons with previous experience in in fact finding or investigation, human rights law, international humanitarian law, humanitarian response, or who possess other qualifications relevant to carrying out the functions of the OMP. The applications, along with the curriculum vitae, were to reach the Acting Secretary General of the Constitutional Council, Parliament of Sri Lanka, Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, on or before November 6, 2017. The bill to establish the OMP was introduced on May 22 2016, and on June 21, 2017, the bill was passed unanimously in Parliament.

Regarding the devolution of power, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, on July 27, 2017, declared that it was difficult to go back to a pre-1972 system, as the parties had committed themselves to maximum devolution of power, unlike those days where Government Agents represented the state at the village level. Meanwhile, on October 21, 2017, President Sirisena observed that the devolution of power should not be carried out in the interest of politicians but it should be dedicated to strengthening the people and fulfilling their needs. The aim of decentralization of power, he emphasized, was to equally hand over the benefits of development to each citizen and to create an environment for each person to live in a just society. Devolution of power should never divide or separate the country, the President added.

Meanwhile, reassuring that the Tamil minority community’s demand for a federal solution to meet its political aspirations was not aimed at dividing the country, Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran stated on September 9, 2017, “You [the Sinhalese] think we [Tamils] are all terrorists. We do not want to divide this country. When we ask for federalism we are being accused of trying to divide the country. The Tamils want the distinct identity recognized by the majority Sinhalese.” Likewise, on October 4, 2017, Opposition Leader Sampanthan stressed that that the majority Sinhala communities need not to be afraid of the Tamils, as there would be constitutional protection preventing any move towards separation. The power-sharing arrangements would be worked out within a United, Undivided and Indivisible Sri Lanka.

Another Tamil demand was the release of prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) without any court cases. Around 132 Tamil prisoners are known to be in custody, including both those awaiting trial for several years (ranging from 8 to 24 years) or serving sentences.  Disturbingly, a Hartal (General Strike) campaign was launched by the business community and Tamil civil organizations in the Northern Province on October 13, 2017, demanding the release of Tamil prisoners. All traders in the Northern Province closed their shops to support the Hartal. Education activities in all Tamil schools in the North were crippled and all transport services came to a halt. Further, moving an adjournment motion in Parliament on October 17, 2017, Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan urged the Government to release all persons held in custody under PTA, from the North and East, without further delay. Once again, Sampnanthan told Parliament on November 1, 2017, that things would get worse for Sri Lanka, especially in the international arena if the country failed to address the ‘national question’.

Separately, the international continues to leverage the human rights platform to pressurize Colombo, expressing disappointment in Sri Lanka's progress in achieving the key goals set out in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution adopted in October 2015. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Ben Emmerson observed on July 14, 2017, "None of the measures so far adopted to fulfill Sri Lanka's transitional justice commitments are adequate to ensure real progress, and there is little evidence that perpetrators of war crimes committed by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces are being brought to justice." Similarly, International Crisis Group in a report released on July 28, 2017, said that eight years after the end of Sri Lanka's armed conflict, the promises by the Government to the UNHRC in 2015 have failed to materialize and the urgent economic and psychosocial needs of all conflict-affected groups remain unmet.

Moreover, at the 36th session of the UNHRC in Geneva on September 11, 2017, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged the Sri Lankan Government to accelerate the pace of fulfilling the UNHRC resolution adopted in October 2015. Similarly, Human Rights Watch (HRW) calling on UN member countries to press Sri Lanka to promptly meet the targets of the UNHRC's October 2015 resolution for transitional justice, stated on September 14, 2017, "Governments at the Human Rights Council should be clear with Sri Lanka that setting up various reconciliation offices and talking of progress is not the same as implementing the 2015 resolution. Long-suffering Sri Lankans need to see the resolution fully carried out, and they need to see evidence that justice is being achieved."

Meanwhile, demonstrating the Government’s commitment, Minister of Prison Reforms, Resettlement and Rehabilitation D. M. Swaminathan noted, on September 18, 2017, that the Attorney General’s Department would take steps to expedite the cases of those arrested under PTA. The Minister confirmed that steps were being taken to deal with cases filed under PTA. More significantly, at the concluding ceremony of the Nila Mehewara - President's People Service - National Programme 2017 held at Saivapragasa Ladies' College in Vavuniya District, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited Vavuniya District in the North on October 21, 2017, in an effort to resolve the problems of the public. At the event, the President symbolically handed over 5000, land deeds to the people of the North. The Nila Mehewara - President's People Service - National Programme 2017 was launched in Vavuniya in March. For over seven months Ministers and Secretaries have visited Vavuniya from time to time under the program to provide solutions to the unresolved problems of the people.

On November 1, 2017, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe launched the five-year National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights at a ceremony held at the Parliament Complex. Speaking at the event, the Prime Minister declared the time had come to reaffirm human rights in the country. The National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights 2017-2021 documents goal-oriented activities in Human Rights arena, aimed to strengthen national processes and mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights through substantial constitutional, legislative, policy and administrative frameworks. Earlier, on May 26, 2016, Sri Lanka expanded its commitment to human rights by ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The National Unity Government (NUG) has made remarkable efforts to press forward the reconciliation process by reaching out to the Tamils and initiating constitutional and legal reforms. It has furthered the much-awaited Constitution-making process by debating the Interim Report of the CA Steering Committee in Parliament. However, as some leaders of the Joint Opposition continue to oppose the Interim Report, the process is yet to be completed, and Sri Lanka’s journey to achieve development targets and the reconciliation process remain unfinished.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 30 - November 5, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

1
3
4
8

Left-Wing Extremism

 

Chhattisgarh

0
1
0
1

Jharkhand

0
0
4
4

Maharashtrar

0
0
1
1

INDIA (Total)

1
4
9
14

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
0
2
2

FATA

1
1
0
2

KP

0
2
1
3

PAKISTAN (Total)

1
3
3
7
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.

BANGLADESH

Former Pakistan army official charge-sheeted for crimes against humanity during Liberation War: Prosecution at International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) on October 31 filed charge sheet against Captain (Retd) Mohammad Shahidullah (73), a former member of Pakistani occupation army, for committing crimes against humanity during the Liberation War in 1971. "It is the first time we have submitted formal charge against any Pakistani army official of Bengali origin. The three-member tribunal, led by justice Md Shahinur Islam, set on November 14 to pass order whether to take the three charges, that we brought against him, into cognizance," said prosecutor Abul Kalam Azad. The ICT-1 on August 3, 2016, sent Muhammad Shahidullah to jail as the accused was brought to the tribunal by the Police. New Age, November 2, 2017.


INDIA

Insurgency is returning to the State, claims Punjab Police: The Punjab Police claimed that the militancy is returning to the State as it has busted many groups and arrested many people who were planning to carry out terror activities in the State. It said that several of the arrested men were planning to kill those who wrote or spoke against Sikhism. The latest such case involves seven youth who were arrested from Ludhiana on September 29, for allegedly being a part of the banned terror outfit Babbar Khalsa International (BKI). However, human rights activists and the accuser's kin have called these arrests the Police's way to divert public attention from real developmental issues. First Post, October 31, 2017.

Maharashtra ATS successfully de-radicalise 120 youth who were about to join Islamic State, says report: Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) have successfully managed to de-radicalise 120 youth who were on the verge of joining Islamic State (IS). In last few days, the ATS had in Maharashtra, including in Mumbai, identified 120 youth who were radicalised by the ideology of the IS and were planning to join the group. The agencies, instead of booking them under the law, chose to look for ways to de-radicalise them. According to security agencies, these youth were in regular touch with handlers in Syria. But the prompt action taken by the security agencies, prevented these youth from fleeing. So far, 80 out of 120 youth have joined the mainstream. India TV, November 1, 2017. 

Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden followed developments in Kashmir and the trial of Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case, says report: The 470,000 additional files seized in May 2011, when US Navy SEALs burst into the Abbottabad compound and shot dead Laden, released by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on November 1, showed Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden closely followed developments in Jammu and Kashmir and the trial of Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. It also revealed that he was a regular reader of some of the top Indian publications. India Today, November 1, 2017.


NEPAL

Left alliance posed serious threat to democracy as they seek to impose communist totalitarianism in country, says NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba: Nepali Congress (NC) President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on October 31 said the left alliance forged by the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-Maoist Centre) had posed serious threat to democracy as they seek to impose communist totalitarianism in the country. "The communist alliance is trying to undermine democracy. Democracy has given people all sorts of rights. But under communism people's right to protest against injustice is usurped. There is not even right to cry in communism when there is injustice," he said. My Republica, November 2, 2017.

4,708 candidates filed nomination papers for provincial and parliamentary elections scheduled for December 7: At least 4,708 candidates filed their nomination papers for provincial and parliamentary first-past-the-post elections (FPTP) elections scheduled in 45 Districts for December 7. Of the total candidates 1,742 filed for parliamentary FPTP seats and 2,966 filed for provincial FPTP seats. The Election Commission (EC) stated that 126 women filed their nomination for parliamentary FPTP elections and 209 for provincial seats. There are 12,198,852 eligible voters in 45 Districts. Himalayan Times, November 3, 2017.


PAKISTAN

Pakistan has large terrorist presence, needs more vetting; says US Congressman Peter King: The United States (USA) Congressman Peter King on November 1 called for "more vetting" of people coming in the US