Armed Maoists killed nearly 1,000 people last year, making 2010 the bloodiest year in the history of the movement that began 44 years ago with a peasant uprising in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari in 1967.
Maoists killed 998 people across nine states last year, almost five times the total number of lives lost in terrorist acts in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast.
In 2009, Maoists killed 908 people and in 1971, 849 civilians and policemen were done to death. Last year, they killed 285 policemen and more than over 700 civilians, mostly impoverished tribals and villagers who had either challenged the guerrillas or were branded as police informers.
The increase in violence comes in the backdrop of the first combined action by central and state security forces launched a year ago to wrest thousands of square kilometres — the bulk of India’s mineral wealth that lies beneath — from the Maoists.
The presence of central paramilitary personnel in the nine Maoist-affected states was raised from 35 battalions (each battalion has a sanctioned strength of 1,050 personnel) to 60.
But barely four months into the operations, Maoists ambushed 75 CRPF personnel in the Mukrana jungles of south Dantewada in April last year. “All of us were obviously shaken,” a jawan posted in Bijapur said.
In his December report, home minister P Chidambaram — who had pushed the offensive plan past the cabinet committee on security — conceded that the left-wing extremism continued to “remain a matter of grave concern.”
Over the past fortnight, he has held meetings with chiefs of central and state police forces to review their plans for the operations and nudge them to be aggressive. CRPF officers said they are still trying to motivate their men to come out of the crisis with their confidence intact. “I tell them they have much superior weapons, training and facilities.
The only advantage that the Naxals have is the knowledge of the terrain,” said a commandant. The new CRPF director general K Vijay Kumar has already spent three nights with personnel posted at camps adjacent to Maoist strongholds in Chhattisgarh to boost their morale.