Odisha: Maoist Disarray | Insurrections against the Insurgency | South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR), Vol. No. 11.20
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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 11, No. 20, November 19, 2012

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Odisha: Maoist Disarray
Fakir Mohan Pradhan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Inflicting a crippling blow on the expelled Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) leader Sabyasachi Panda, who had floated his own outfit – the Odisha Maovadi Party (OMP), Security Forces (SFs) on November 14, 2012, gunned down five of his cadres in an encounter in the Bhaliagada Forest in the Gobindapur panchayat (local self government) area under Mohana Police Station in the Gajapati District of Odisha. Another few extremists were also believed to have suffered injuries, as indicated by a trail of blood leading away from the encounter site. Two SF personnel were also injured in the encounter. SF troopers had conducted the raid after being tipped off about the presence of Panda and some 15 of his associates, including top aides Pradeep, Sagar and Nikita, in a camp. Panda and his aides, however, managed to escape. Police seized an Italian-made pistol, which is supposed to be Panda's personal weapon. Four country-made guns, two 9 mm pistols, around 80 kilograms of explosives and 35 rounds of live cartridges, were seized from the spot.

Following up on the encounter, SFs intensified search operations against the group and, during separate raids, the Police recovered three landmines from Singaranga village in the Kotagarh Police Station area in Kandhamal District; and explosives, including 129 gelatin sticks, wire and ‘Tiffin bombs’, besides Maoist literature, uniforms and medicines, from the Narayanpatna area in Koraput District. Further, to keep up the pressure, posters of six prominent cadres of the OMP – Aruna, Krishna, Andrew Majhi, Pramod Majhi, Pratap Nayak and Prami Majhi – were put up at public places in Panda’s areas of operation in Gajapati, Ganjam and nearby Districts. With an estimated cadre-strength of less than 30, the combined impact of these operations on the OMP is already thought to have been devastating.

After being termed a renegade and expelled from the CPI-Maoist on August 10, 2012, Panda had been keeping a low profile, with speculation rife about his possible surrender, and ‘back-channel’ efforts reportedly ongoing. Civil society activists, including Sarvodaya leader Professor Radhamohan, had made appeals to him to abjure violence and return to the mainstream. Sabyasachi himself had publicly responded to these calls and had promised to avoid violence, as long as SFs did not attack him or his group. Panda had also asked civil society members to persuade the Government to stop Police action against him.

In the meantime, the CPI-Maoist reportedly formed a new unit, the Chhattishgarh-Odisha Border Committee (COBC), to strengthen their operations across the border areas of the two States, and specifically to counter Panda’s new outfit. Sources indicate that around 60 Maoist cadres were engaged in this work, and they had started scouting for new members at the village level to strengthen their units.

Desperate to regain some of his clout, Panda had been trying to expand his cadre strength behind the cover of talks of surrender. A senior Police officer, on conditions of anonymity, claimed, "Sabyasachi Panda had been using the surrender talk as a cover to consolidate his position. He had recently recruited 10 youth to his Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP) and was in fact conducting a training camp near Govindapur panchayat in Ganjam District when the DVFs [District Voluntary Forces] and members of the Special Operation Group (SOG) attacked them.” On November 14, 2012, Odisha Director General of Police (DGP) Prakash Mishra noted, further, "We have specific information that he (Panda) was for a big build-up. Reports say his group strength has increased to 27. He has been recruiting people to the group." In late October and early November, posters asking people to join OMP were seized from Nuapada, Balangir, Bargarh and Koraput Districts, confirming Panda’s intention of extending his base beyond his traditional areas of dominance in Ganjam, Kandhamal, Rayagada and Gajapati Districts.

Bosusco Paolo, the Italian Tourist who was abducted and held by Panda in March 2012, had estimated that Panda had just about 20 cadres, including 10 women, each armed with a gun. Paolo’s disclosures indicated that the unit had one VHF set, one walky-talky, two 'tiffin bombs', one laptop with a data card, and one generator. He described the then Maoist Odisha State Organizing Committee (OSOC) leader as "sick", and taking medicines regularly.

Intelligence reports suggest that, with the increase in anti-Maoist operations by the SFs in Kandhamal District, Panda had shifted into the Sorada and Badagada areas of Ganjam District over the past months. After camping in the jungles along the Ganjam-Gajapati border, Panda was trying to restore contacts with past allies in the Raipanka, Mohana, Adaba, R.Udaygiri, Luhagudi, Govindpur and nearby areas in an effort to revitalize his new outfit.

Panda’s strength had been reduced considerably over the past three years, as 86 of his loyalists had either surrendered or have been arrested by Police in Ganjam, Gajapati and Kandhamal Districts over this period. Another 14 of Panda's associates were killed, including five in the November 14, 2012 encounter at Bhaliagada.

Sabyasachi Panda is the son of the late Ramesh Panda, a former three-time Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Odisha representing the Gunpur constituency from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), who had later joined the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and was acting as the Nayagarh District President of the Party till his death in 2003. Sabyasachi Panda joined the Naxalite movement in 1991 and is credited with rejuvenating its activities in Odisha (then Orissa) by 1996. A mathematics graduate, Panda worked with the Communist Party of India – Marxist Leninist – Liberation [CPI(ML)-Liberation] and Party Unity (PU) before joining the People’s War Group (PWG). He had formed the Kui Labanga Sangha to spread Maoist activities among the Kui tribals in Odisha’s Kandhamal District. Sabyasachi Panda is also alleged to have links with several influential persons in the State’s power centres. The then Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, Narsingha Mishra (Congress Party), had, for instance, stated in February 2008, “His (Panda’s) voice is the voice of 57 per cent people in Orissa who have only Rs 12 [INR 12] to spend per day. It's this injustice against poor, which made him a Naxal. I admire his ideas but disapprove of his violence.”

Panda gained notoriety for masterminding the Nayagarh Armory raid on February 15, 2008. His involvement in the June 29, 2008, attack on the elite anti-Maoist Greyhounds personnel in the Chitrakonda Reservoir was also strongly suspected. While Panda had been a source of significant strength for the CPI-Maoist in Odisha in the past, his autocratic and corrupt ways of functioning soon caught the attention of the Party’s central leadership. Panda planned and executed the assassination of the Hindu religious leader Swami Laxmanand Saraswati in Kandhamal District in August 2008, without proper authorization from the central leadership, provoking widespread riots against Christians. These events widened the differences between Panda and the Maoist central leadership. Panda had risen to be the secretary of the OSOC of the CPI-Maoist and the most influential Odia leader among the Maoists. However, his base remained the Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal and Rayagada Districts, comprising the Bansadhara and Ghumsur Division.

In the run-up to his expulsion from the CPI-Maoist, Panda developed serious difference with Modem Balakrishna, a Central Committee (CC) member, and was reportedly unhappy about the ‘hegemony’ of Telegu (Andhra) cadres over Odia cadres. Nevertheless, Politburo member, Mallojula Koteswar Rao aka Kishanji apparently supported Panda, and that kept him going within the Party. However, after Kishanji was killed in November 2011, Panda’s distance from the central leadership grew, and he stopped communicating with the top Party leadership at this time.

The relationship was pushed to a breaking point when, in March 2012, Panda took two Italian tourists hostage without consulting the central leadership. At this stage, he also declared a ‘ceasefire’ with the Odisha Government. In order to embarrass him, the Maoists’ Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zone Committee (AOBSZC) abducted BJD MLA Jinna Hikaka, even while the Italians were in Panda’s custody. Reports at this stage indicated that Suresh, a ‘unit commander’ of the AOBSZC, backed by about 30 cadres, was searching for Panda across the tribal hamlets while one Italian hostage was still held by him.

The tipping point came with a 60 page letter (including a 20 page ‘Basadara Report’ dating back to 2003) by Panda, criticizing the central leadership, recent strategic failures, and purported ‘deviations’ – ideological, tactical and cultural – including allegations of an increasing proclivity to autocratic command, regional partisanship (in favour of Telugu cadres and leaders), the absence of grievance redressal, ‘cultural hegemony’, intolerance of dissent, “financial anarchy” and sexual improprieties.

The CPI-Maoist hit back with an expulsion order on August 10, 2012, declaring him a renegade.

Today, Panda seems to have been cornered and much of his clout has been dissipated. At the same time, Maoist activity in Odisha has declined in many of the Districts earlier affected. DGP Prakash Mishra claims there is now hardly any Maoist violence in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Nayagarh, all significantly afflicted in the past. However, in the western Districts of Balangir, Bargarh, Nuapada and Nabarangpur, the Maoists continue to make determined efforts, even as they continue to hold their ground in the south-western Koraput and Malkangiri Districts.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, just three fatalities – two Naxalites and one SF trooper – have been reported across Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Nayagarh Districts in the current year (as on November 18). However, the Western Districts have seen nine fatalities – seven civilian and two SF personnel; and Koraput and Malkangiri together accounted for 32 fatalities – 16  civilians, 12 SFs and four Maoists, over the same period.       

Panda’s break with the CPI-Maoist has weakened the Party and has devastated the new formation he raised, creating a significant opportunity for the state’s Forces to consolidate these gains and push the Maoists out of the State. This will, at best, be a small window, and unless the SFs push forward with extraordinary vigour, the CPI-Maoist can be expected to restore processes of consolidation both in its present areas of dominance, as well as in the areas earlier under Panda’s influence.

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Insurrections against the Insurgency
S. Binod kumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Continuing violence and the Taliban’s increasing brutality in Afghanistan have sparked violent ‘uprisings’ across the country, as Taliban extremists are attacked and overwhelmed by Afghan villagers, at least on occasion with nothing more than farming tools, sticks, stones, or even their bare hands. While such acts of resistance are intermittent and unpredictable, at best, some of the most noticeable of recent incidents include:

July 9, 2012: Local residents fought Taliban militants and forced the latter to pull back from the eastern Paktia Province, when an estimated 400 Taliban attacked Mirazka District in the Province.

May 27, 2012: In Andar District of Ghazni Province, 11 Taliban were killed by villagers and another 15 were held hostage.  No further information about the hostages is available in open sources.

April 12, 2012: Angry residents cut off a Taliban militant’s ear after two children were killed and another two injured in a roadside blast in the Garmsir District of southern Helmand Province.

August 27, 2011: Residents in the Pirzada suburb of Ghazni city in Ghazni Province clashed with Taliban fighters who were attempting to forcibly collect zakat (alms) from locals. One Taliban terrorist was killed and another was injured during the attack.

August 22, 2011: A mob of villagers stoned to death a Taliban ‘commander’ and his body guard in the Nawa District of Helmand Province. The villagers turned on the two Taliban insurgents for the unjust and brutal killing of a local village elder.

Resistance to the Taliban’s extremist vision and one-time rule in Afghanistan is, of course, nothing new. Indeed, the Northern Alliance, a military-political umbrella organization composed of all ethnic groups of Afghanistan including Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen and others created by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in late 1996, fought continuously as a resistance force against the Taliban right up to the American intervention in the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, at which point it re-invented itself under the identity of the United Front. It was the United Front that eventually succeeded, at the end of December 2001, in retaking most of Afghanistan from the Taliban, with air support from the US led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Special Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom. Interestingly, Hamid Karzai was also an influential figure from the leading ethnic Pashtun tribe, who began a formidable armed uprising against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan at this stage. He fought off a Taliban attack on November 1, 2001, and subsequently secured control of parts of the crucial Kandahar Province – long thought to be the Taliban heartland. Although the rebellion led by Karzai was, at that time, in its infancy, it was welcomed by, and helped, the US, which had launched airstrikes in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

Since Karzai’s revolt in 2001, there have been reports of 26 major uprisings against the Taliban, across 21 Provinces, out of the total of 34 Provinces in the country – three each in Helmand and  Nangarhar; two in Ghazni; and one each in Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Ghor, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nuristan, Paktia, Paktika, Uruzgan, Wardak and Zabul. Some of the significant incidents in these earlier uprisings include: 

January 27, 2010: A 60-year-old tribal elder Hajji Malik Osman, brought together the leaders of his 400,000-strong Shinwari tribe against the Taliban and concluded a written agreement to keep the Taliban out of six Districts in eastern Nangarhar Province.

November 17, 2009: War-weary villagers of Kunduz Province took up arms against the Taliban, sick of having the Taliban encroach on their once peaceful patch of country.

July 1, 2008: Civilians confronted a group of 12 Taliban fighters in Faryab Province, sparking a clash that left two Taliban fighters dead and sent the rest fleeing for their lives.

May 10, 2007: Local villagers fought a group of Taliban militants, who were trying to attack a Governmental Police post in the Sangin District of Helmand Province. The Taliban militants, including a ‘local commander’ were killed.

August 18, 2006: Two Taliban militants detonated an explosive device outside the compound of a local security official named Madad in the old Sharan area of Paktika Province, killing the official. While trying to flee the scene of the attack, the assassins were stopped by villagers and shot dead.

Despite the campaign against them by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the progressively strengthening Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), as well as the growing popular resentment and resistance, the Taliban have, nevertheless, gained steadily in strength and intensity of operations since 2006, when they restored their campaigns with Pakistan's visible (though vociferously denied) support. Their campaigns peaked in 2010, even as the US led war against them intensified against projections of an imminent ‘withdrawal’ of western forces from the country, with a low estimate of 10,826 fatalities in that year (partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management). A total of a least 48,676 persons, including 2,349 Afghan National Army  (ANA) personnel; 4,157 Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel; 2,707 ISAF personnel; 13,314 civilians; and 26,149 Taliban have been killed in Afghanistan since 2007. There is some evidence, however, of a slowdown and a significant challenge to their dominance in wide areas of the country over the past months.
















Source: Institute for Conflict Management, *Data till November 18, 2012.

The popular challenge has been conceded by, and raised concern among, elements within the Taliban leadership. On July 20, 2012, an unnamed Taliban source was quoted in the media, stating, “Taliban fighters used to control most of the Provinces, but now they are losing ground in areas like Helmand, Kunduz and more recently Kandahar, Zabul and Ghazni. They lost ground to tribal militias because they don’t let people access basic services, especially school. That is what happened in Ghazni two months ago.” An anti-Taliban fighter, Wali Mohammad, told the local newspaper, 8Subh, “The residents of Andar District [in Ghazni Province] are fed up with the restrictions imposed by Taliban. The Taliban had shut down the schools and bazaars and motivated the people to fight against the Government. To get rid of Taliban clutch we have decided to stand against them." Significantly, an armed uprising by more than 250 men in the month of May had evicted the Taliban from 50 villages in the Andar District in Ghazni Province, which had previously been under tight Taliban control.

At least some of these ‘uprisings’, however, have a dark underbelly, and are more in the nature of turf wars within the Taliban, rather than an organized resistance against the Islamist extremists. Many of these are led by former jihadi 'commanders' or members, who see an opportunity to consolidate the power of their own group or faction, particularly with a view to the inevitable struggle for dominance in the projected scenario after the 2014 ‘withdrawal’ of US-ISAF troops from the country. Abdul Waheed Wafa, the Director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University, notes:
It's too early to give it (the resistance) a name. We don't yet know if it's really an uprising by the people or an intelligence strategy or a Government project. But whatever it is, if it's not managed properly, it could turn into anything. It could turn into a popular revolution against the Taliban or a crisis within the crisis. It needs to be managed by the Government.

Mohammad Arif Shah Jahan, a former intelligence chief in Ghazni, claimed that the revolt in the Province had been orchestrated by members of the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar led Hizb-i-Islami (HIG), which been engaged in a Pakistan backed war against the ISAF and President Karzai since 2002. Indeed, many of the fighters conceded that some among them had once belonged to this group, but denied they were presently organized along political lines. Faizanullah Faizan, a senior HIG 'commander', now playing a leading role in the uprising in Ghazni asserted: “It’s a 100 per cent civilian uprising. It doesn’t belong to any political party, but we are made up of all the old groups.”

The ambiguities of the situation have also created apprehensions in the Afghan Parliament, with  members fearing that these uncontrolled ‘uprisings’ could lead to serious security challenges in the future, for the Afghan Government.  During debates in the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament, on August 27, 2012, Afghan lawmakers claimed that “Islamist militants are taking advantage of the so-called local uprisings in Afghan villages to wrest power from the Taliban.” Similarly, on September 4, 2012, in the Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of Parliament, members voiced their apprehensions about the militias. Rafiullah Haideri, a lawmaker from the Kunar Province claimed, “The ex-jihadi leaders wanted to use the armed groups for their protection in case the Government was threatened. These groups are not like Police, but are private militias.” Consequently, members urged the Government to closely monitor the groups that were fighting the Taliban militants.

As US President Barack Obama’s ‘deadline’ for ‘withdrawal’ of the US Forces – and consequently, the accelerated withdrawal of other ISAF constituents as well – approaches, the uncertainties of the situation in Afghanistan can only multiply. The emergence of an unmanaged ‘resistance’, led by a mix of vigilante and dubious forces, adds just another ‘unknowable’ to an already explosive mix. While Kabul may hope that these forces will create increasing problems for the Taliban, it may end up grappling with another disruptive, ideologically indeterminate, cluster, even as the gravest challenges to its authority come to a head in 2014. Tentative recognition of this problem and potential clearly exists in Kabul. There is still time for a firm initiative to bring these ambivalent factions into the sphere of Kabul’s certain influence.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
November 12-18, 2012



Security Force Personnel







Jammu and Kashmir






Left-wing Extremism








Total (INDIA)








Khyber Pakhtunkhwa





Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


PM Sheikh Hasina reaffirms her Government's firm resolve to hold the trial of war criminals: Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina on November 14 reaffirmed her Government's firm resolve to hold the trial of war criminals. She said, "The trial of those who have killed our renowned teachers and intellectuals, raped our mothers and sisters, oppressed our people and carried out arson attacks during the Liberation War must be held on Bangladesh soil." Referring to the recent attacks on Police by the cadres of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), Hasina said, "It is wrong to suppose that we will stop the trial of war criminals by getting nervous in the face of the movement."

Further, on November 16, she said, said those attacking law enforcers and trying to hinder the war crimes trial could be tried under sharia. She said, "The more excesses they do, the faster will be the war crimes trials. There will be no let-up in the trials. The Government knows how to deal with those who are attacking police and out to save the war criminals." Daily Star, November 15-17, 2012.


BSF requests BGB to demolish 55 insurgent camps based in Bangladesh: Border Security Force (BSF) has requested its Bangladeshi counterpart, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), to destroy 55 camps of northeast insurgent groups in Bangladesh. "Despite a pro-active role of the security forces in Bangladesh to dismantle the camps of insurgents from the region, at least 55 camps still exist there. BSF officials have handed over a list of the camps to them and asked them to demolish the camps," an unnamed BSF official told reporters in Agartala on November 15. Shilong Times, November 16, 2012.

Interpol requested by India for Special Notice on Terror cases: India has requested Interpol to come up with a special notice for terror cases, which is not a part of the existing Red Corner Notice. The request was made at the recently concluded 81st General Assembly of Interpol in Rome (Italy), which was attended by Union Minister of Home Affairs (UMHA) Sushil Kumar Shinde and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director A.P. Singh. "It will simplify the process for all the investigating agencies to know about terror suspects if the notice's colour or style is changed," said an officer. Interpol is reported to be examining the request. Times of India, November 16, 2012.


32 civilians and four SFs among 40 persons killed during the week in Sindh: At least three people were killed and over a dozen were injured in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast near an imambargah at Abbas Town in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh on November 18.

At least seven persons, including two Policemen, were killed in separate incidents of violence in Karachi on November 15.

At least eight persons, including a Deobandi and a Shia man, were killed in separate incidents of target killings in Karachi on November 14.

Seven persons, including Police Intelligence Officer, were killed in separate incidents of target killing in Karachi on November 13.

Sectarian and politically motivated killings claimed 11 lives in Karachi on November 12. Daily Times; Dawn; The News, November 13-19, 2012.

Taliban leader Anwarul Haq Mujahid released from Pakistani jail, confirms his family: Pakistani authorities released Anwarul Haq Mujahid, a Taliban leader and the eldest son of late Afghan resistance leader Maulvi Yunus Khalis, following negotiations with an Afghan peace delegation on November 15, 2012, said his family on November 16. Pakistani security officials on November 14 said authorities released at least seven Afghan Taliban leaders in a move seen as a potential breakthrough in stalled peace negotiations before the withdrawal of United States (US)-led NATO troops in 2014. It is not clear if Mujahid was among that group. But he is the first Taliban prisoner recently released by the Pakistani authorities to be identified by name. Daily Times, November 17, 2012.


UN chief admits agency's failures in Sri Lanka to protect civilians: The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon on November 15 said that an Internal Review Panel (IRP) appointed to review the agency's actions during the final stages of Sri Lanka's war that ended in May 2009 has concluded that the UN system failed to meet its responsibilities. Ban admitted that the UN system failed to meet its responsibilities - highlighting, in particular, the roles played by the Secretariat, the agencies and programmes of the UN Country Team, and the members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council. He said he is determined to draw appropriate lessons from the report of the IRP chaired by Charles Petrie and conducted an 8-month investigation. Colombo Page, November 16, 2012.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

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