Every year from mid-March to mid-June, when the trees shed their leaves and forests in central India wear a depleted look, it is time for the Maoists to step up their activities. Going by their track record, it is during this period of declared offensives - what in their parlance is called Tactical Counter Offensive Campaigns (TCOC) -Maoists get most casualties.
In the past, the security forces' strategy was to defend while naxals - much more vulnerable to detection during this period-went on the offensive across the Red Corridor and surrounding areas.
Now, security forces are on the offensive and are taking the battle to the Maoist camps - a strategy that seems to be paying dividends as about 33 Maoists have been killed in less than three weeks.
"During this March-June period, Maoists are at their most vulnerable. Security forces are now venturing out to remote areas after long marches and conducting operations," a top official involved in the anti-naxal operations told HT. "This year the TCOC started a little late on March 22 possibly because the Maoists are already reeling under serious military reverses and a proactive approach by the security forces."
These months are also when top Maoist leaders meet and devise future strategies while keeping the security forces engaged elsewhere.
"We have increased the quality and quantity of our counter offensives which are producing rich results. This time we are taking the fight right to their camps," said Zulfiquar Hasan, IGP, CRPF, Chhattisgarh, one of the worst-affected states.
From June to October, Maoist activity is usually minimal because of heavy monsoon rains when rivers swell and vast swathes of forest areas get inundated. Their activity picks up again in December-January.
The Maoists' activity peaked in 2008-09 followed by deep military reverses in Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar and large parts of Orissa. About half of the 35-40 members who comprise the central committee, the supreme Maoist political body, are behind bars or have been killed.
"Because of the reverses, a deliberation is on within the top Maoist leadership to decide what strategy to take for the future. They have also been unable to hold their five-yearly Congress which was due last year," the official added. The Ninth Congress was held in 2007 in the Saranda jungles of West Singhbhum in Jharkhand.
Intelligence sources said while the Maoists are trying strengthen their Eastern Regional Bureau to expand base in the insurgency-prone Northeast, their success may be limited by the presence of strong local insurgent groups there.
The main stronghold of the Maoists still continue to be the Dandakaranya forests in the Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh belt, which is run under the Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee of the naxals. With its headquarters at Abujhmaad, this zone is also called the Central Guerrilla Base.
In 2011, according to the home ministry, 182 districts in the country had been affected in relative degrees by the Maoist movement, indicating a sharp drop from the 223 districts across 20 states in 2008.