Though pushed to the back foot in most parts of Bihar and Jharkhand in recent months, Maoists continue to be active in some pockets of the two states, especially where the terrain is inhospitable.
This became clear from the encounter between a patrolling party of the central para-military forces (CPMF) and left wing ultras in the Banskatwa forest under Gurpa police station in Gaya, close to the Nawada border, on March 8. Four Maoists, including a self-styled zonal commander, were killed in an encounter.
“Maoist violence has certainly shown a declining trend in the state. But four Bihar districts along the Jharkhand border, known for their difficult topography , namely, Aurangabad, Gaya, Lakhisarai and Jamui – still have pockets of left-wing extremist (LWE) activity,” said a senior police officer.
He said these four districts were responsible for over 75% of the 100-odd reported incidents of LWE violence – accounting for a total of 28 casualties, in 2016. “Ten of the CPMF casualties were in a single IED blast in Gaya in July 2016”, he added.
This compares favourably with the LWE death figures of 2014 (32), 2013 (69), 2012 (44) and 2011 (63). However the toll is slightly higher than that of 2015 (17).
The sliver lining, the officer said, was that in 2016, for the third year in succession, there was no police or civilian weapon looted by LWE groups, while the police recovered 29 regular weapons, including 19 of the police, during operations.
“The forested hills of Chakrabandha (Gaya), the Kulasheri hills and the Rajauli (Nawada) hills, as also around 600-km stretch of Karagpur forests lying in Jamui, Munger and Lakhisarai, are vulnerable pockets providing shelter to Maoist groups and they sporadically throw a challenge to the police,” he added.
Maoist violence in Bihar had witnessed a high between 1990 and 2005, the latter year witnessing a jail break in the south central Bihar district headquarters town of Jehanabad in which several imprisoned Maoist leaders had escaped.
But in recent years, incidents of Maoist violence has been sporadic, thanks to coordinated efforts by the state police, central forces and development initiatives in the backward regions. But officials admit that challenges remain on the LWE front.
It is a tacit recognition of the continued threat of the ultras that six battalions of the CRPF, including one CoBra battalion, and three SSB battalions, are assisting the state police and 24 special task force (STF) units deployed in anti-Maoist operations.
“Efforts are underway to improve the operational capabilities of the STF, with focus on intelligence gathering and prompt action. Over 120 STF personnel, including four DySPs, have already been trained at the prestigious Greyhound training centre at Hyderabad, while another batch of 40 STF personnel is undergoing training at present,” said the official.
He said that modernization of STF was also underway in view of new challenges, with a technical sub-unit being equipped with the latest technical gadgets.
“Though things are well under control, we are using this time to further strength our capabilities and at the same time create a positive atmosphere in interior villages through development initiatives so that people don’t have any reason to fall in the trap of Maoists,” he added.
However, IG (Operation) Kundan Krishnan admitted there were challenges in carrying out operations in some part of Munger, Lakhisarai, Chakarbandha in Gaya, south GT road of Aurangabad and Gaya districts, besides Charkaptthar and Narganjo in Jamui, owing to the difficult terrain in these areas.