With 21 killings till May 31 this year, three times those executed by the Maoists, the trigger-friendly “ideology-less” group People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) is fast emerging as the “biggest threat” to internal security and peace in the hinterlands of Jharkhand and neighbouring states, giving its parent outfit a run for their money.
Led by ex-armyman-turned-rebel, Dinesh Gope, and comprising mostly Maoist renegades and unemployed boys and girls from rural hinterlands, the insurgent group has executed 34 people in 2014 and 22 in 2015 as against 36 and 24 by the Maoists in the same period and account for nearly 33 % of the total LWE incidents in the state this year.
Though comparatively smaller in size and number, PLFI has in the last three years captured lot of ground once held by the Maoists, the insurgent communist party which had a firm grip on the nation’s hinterlands for quite over a decade.
PLFI has spread its base and network to the neighbouring states of Odisha, Bihar and Chhattisgarh and claims to have a pan India presence covering nearly 38 districts. Maoists are present in at least 60 districts.
Last week, Jharkhand director general of police (DGP) D K Pandey announced launch of an all-out war against PLFI “as it is has emerged as the biggest threat to peace in the area”.
Operations were since launched in the jungles of five districts of southwest Jharkhand where PLFI virtually runs a parallel government.
As the operations continued, HT travelled to an undisclosed location along Bihar-Jharkhand border to speak to the PLFI chief on his mode and mission.
Riding their favourite fancy motorbikes, Gope and nine of his team-members met HT on a hillock on a sunny afternoon after his informers, spread around a radius of nearly five kilometers down the hill, gave the green signal that there was no visible threat in the area.
While his men, mostly in olive green attires, carrying AK-47, AK-56 rifles and light machine guns (LMG), kept a hawk’s vigil on the surroundings, the six-feet tall Gope sat down on a plastic mat answering queries.
He made several claims, including that the group had developed the capacity to manufacture drones and run several gun factories.
Senior police officials of Bihar and Jharkhand later out-rightly rejected the claims.
Gope said in Bihar, they have 500-strong armed squads operational in nearly 10 districts, 200 of them being ex-Maoists who joined them recently with arms. He said PLFI has spread from Himachal and UP in the north to Kerala in the south and people are getting lured towards their ideology.
“He is talking rubbish,” Jharkhand’s IG (Operations), Manvinder Singh Bhatia said, observing that PLFI is a purely criminal group with no ideology.
“They are mostly confined to south Chhotanagpur region of Jharkhand and procure arms through arms suppliers from north east, Kashmir and Bihar. There is no mass movement and they generally move in bunches of 5-10,” Bhatia said, adding that they enjoyed the advantage of the terrain and were spreading primarily because of the vacuum created by the Maoists.
Bhatia’s Bihar counterpart, IG Patna zone, N H Khan said PLFI is confined to the bordering side of Bihar and Jharkhand where there is some instance of killings by them.
He said caste was also playing a role as boys of a particular caste are getting influenced by them but, stressed that their numbers are too less. “Our operations are in full swing and we are getting repeated successes against them,” he said.