Maoists are back in Jharkhand. For, they have nowhere to go. Also, they cannot afford to leave Jharkhand, as it’s their highest revenue spinner because of the absence of a strong state government in the mineral-rich state.
That, in short, is the assessment put forward by security experts after Tuesday’s attack, killing five policeman including Amarjeet Balihar, police chief of Dumka district.
The attack comes after the January 10 incident in Latehar district where the Maoists killed 14 people — 12 of them security personnel — and implanted 1.5 kg explosives inside the body of a slain jawan.
Why are the Maoists making extra efforts to make their presence felt in Jharkhand?
In 2006, CPI(Maoist) politburo member Sushil Roy, the senior most rebel leader in jail, had commented on the importance of the state in the Maoists’ scheme of things: “Minerals give money, money gives guns and guns give us power.”
Intelligence agencies report that the rebels collect more than Rs. 200 crore a year as levy from various mining companies, business houses and government projects. But state police peg the Maoist revenue at about Rs. 100 crore a year.
Another reason for the Maoists to cling on to Jharkhand is that their recent setbacks in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal have reduced the number of rebel-dominated districts from 236 six years ago to 78 districts.
With the exceptions of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — the two states along with Bihar account for 80% of extremist violence across the country — home ministry sources said the Maoists’ size and strength was shrinking.
According to KV Vijay Kumar, senior advisor to the home ministry on anti-Maoist operations — who had been posted in Jharkhand previously — the rebels have gone weak and, hence, are carrying out sudden attacks in frustration. “Unlike previous days, the people are no more with them.”
But Manvinder Singh Bhatia, inspector general of police in charge of Kolhan and Palamu ranges, said, “We are like surgeons. We operate as advised by the policy makers... There are certain things, which are beyond our control. But still, we haven’t loosened our grip on the Maoists.”
The attacks on January 10 and on Tuesday, however, do not indicate the Maoists’ waning power in the state.
The rebels and their splinter outfits — altogether seven of them — continue to attack policemen, informers and even civilians almost every day. What’s more, there are also reports that the rebels forcibly take away children from villages to work with them.
The latest statistics compiled by the home ministry show that Jharkhand has taken over Chhattisgrah in Maoist violence. It has lost 417 officers and jawans in the past 10 years.
And there are several areas in Palamu, Chatra, Garhwa, Latehar, Gumla, Lohardaga and West Singhbhum where security forces still think twice before venturing out after sunset.
Threatened and agitated over the killing of Balihar, Jharkhand police bosses are blaming political leadership — or the absence of it — for Jharkhand having become a red bastion.
“Instead of blaming the police, blame it on political instability. It has given them the space to operate,” an agitated senior IPS officer told HT.
“See what’s happening in Bihar and West Bengal. With stable governments and firm leaders at the top, the Maoists have been crushed in those two states,” he said.