Even more than the body count, Wednesday’s heavy battle between members of the CPI (Maoist) and its offshoot the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) in Jharkhand's Chatra district is a battle for the turf and comes as a heavy blow for the Maoists in the Bihar-Jharkhand belt, once a declared Maoist bastion.
“The fight between the two groups has resulted in the killing of senior Maoist leaders like Lalesh Yadav and Praful. It is also a sign of the deep incursion of the TPC into the Gaya-Palamu area,” said a senior government official, while admitting that it is yet too early to negate Maoist influence in the area which still has leaders like Sandeep in their ranks and who operates with impunity in the area.
While latest reports say at least 17 Maoists have been killed, about 22 surrendered to the TPC, and who will in all probability be released after strict warnings by the TPC not to rejoin the CPI (Maoist). A sizeable quantity of weapons including 15 SLRs have also been taken away by the TPC which is not known to indulge in ruthless acts but is known to be carrying on extortion with gusto.
The CPI (M) was at the peak of its power in the area in 2008-08 after which it has suffered serious 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, have either been eliminated or have been put behind bars.
The TPC is a breakaway faction of the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), which combined with the Peoples War Group (PWG) in 2004 to form the CPI (M). It is believed that among other ideological issues that led to the MCC-TPC split IN 2002, the dominance of Yadavs led to the formation of the TPC by non-Yadavs chiefly the Mahtos, Ghanjus, Bhokta, Oraon and Kherwars among others. There are also rumours that TPC was started by Nirmala Chatterjee, wife of front ranking Maoist leader Sagar Chatterjee, who was gunned down in Aurangabad in 1992.