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Weapons turned on police

Naxalite insurgents have developed a unique strategy to strengthen their armoury — snatch weapons from security personnel, reports B Vijay Murty. See graphic

india Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:43 IST
B Vijay Murty

Naxalite insurgents have developed a unique strategy to strengthen their armoury — snatch weapons from security personnel.

To wage a war against the state, guerrillas of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) have been carrying out a series of attacks (see list on left) on government forces.

As the Central government prepares to unleash the biggest offensive against the Maoists — spread across 13 states in the country — after the Maharashtra assembly polls, the CPI(Maoist) central committee has directed its combat forces to step up attacks on police installations and loot weapons.

“We are prepared for war. We would kill the police with their own weapons,” said the Maoists’ central committee member and second-in-command of their guerilla forces, Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishanji.

In September, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called the Naxal insurgency the greatest threat to the nation’s internal security.

Between January and August 2008, 317 civilians were killed owing to Maoists violence. This year, till August 31, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, 341 people had been killed across 11 states.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday said security forces would engage Maoists till they abjured violence and that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would take steps to protect itself from Naxal attacks.

On Saturday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said the government is ready to give the air force the go-ahead to shoot down Naxalites in defence. The air force had sought this permission in the wake of the killing of an IAF personnel in a Naxal attack on a helicopter during the Chhattisgarh assembly polls last year.

A majority of weapons robbed are light machine guns and INSAS self-loading rifles and bolt-action rifles, Kishanji told Hindustan Times on the phone from his hideout somewhere in the Maoist stronghold of Lalgarh in West Bengal, about 250 km southwest of state capital Kolkata.

Director General of Police, Orissa, M. Praharaj conceded that the Maoists possessed a large quantity of police weapons. “It is well known that the Maoists have looted a cache of arms and ammunition during attacks on Koraput and Nayagarh.”

Kishanji claimed that 85 per cent of arms and ammunition in the Maoists' arsenal had been looted from security personnel, 10 per cent was purchased from the black market and the remaining five per cent manufactured in the Maoists’ own factories. Hindustan Times, however, could not independently verify the claim.

Kishanji said the rebels depend mostly on people’s support to continue their activities. “There is a fixed quota for everything. All of us — combat squad troops or central committee members— get just two pairs of clothes from the organisation. Comrades have to fetch their own weapons.”

The villagers, Rao said, serve meals to the Maoists twice a day — forenoon and evening. He denied the charge that villagers were forced to serve them. “We have been able to move freely in villages and jungles for the last 30 years only because the people have accepted us as their friends,” he said.