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Maoists eye safer regions to revive ops, says CRPF study

The Communist Party of India ( Maoist), mired in its worst leadership crisis and confronting a slump in its influence in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha where it once held sway, may shift to safer locations to revive the movement.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2019 11:43 IST
Neeraj Chauhan
Neeraj Chauhan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CRPF, the leading internal security force of the country, has noticed the Maoists beginning to expand to new areas.
CRPF, the leading internal security force of the country, has noticed the Maoists beginning to expand to new areas.(HT file photo)
         

The Communist Party of India ( Maoist), mired in its worst leadership crisis and confronting a slump in its influence in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha where it once held sway, may shift to safer locations to revive the movement, according to a study conducted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to mark the golden jubilee of left-wing extremism in India.

CRPF, the leading internal security force of the country, has noticed the Maoists beginning to expand to new areas such as the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (MMC) tri-junction and the Kerala-Karnataka-Tamil Nadu tri-junction, said the study, titled Countering Maoism—Way Ahead.

The group’s future plans include creating a base at the Simplipal sanctuary near the West Bengal-Jharkhand-Odisha tri-junction, the study added.

“... there are probabilities that it may again shift its location to lesser combative locations as perceived in their various documents including central committee meetings’ minutes,” said the CRPF analysis, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times.

To the surprise of intelligence and security agencies, there are some “undocumented activities (of Maoists) in Uttarakhand” as well, according to the analysis.

“It’s true that Maoists have been trying to find new places for their activities but all their efforts are being thwarted through coordinated efforts. The Maoists are feeling the pressure as the area under their influence is shrinking every day,” CRPF director general Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar said.

CPI (Maoist) was formed in 2004 through a merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the People’s War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI). In India, left-wing insurgency, inspired by Mao Zedong and his slogan, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” dates back to the late 1960s. Known as the “Naxalite” movement, it takes its name from the West Bengal village of Naxalbari, where a peasant uprising broke out in 1967 and spread to other parts of the country.

“It’s true that Maoists have been trying to find new safe havens and operational space. Of course, their efforts have been blocked by the government and security forces,” internal security expert Ajay Sahni said. He added that most of the senior leaders in the CPI (Maoist) had been arrested or had surrendered while the second line of leadership lacked sufficient ideological commitment.

Core areas held by Maoists have diminished vastly because of a coordinated counter-insurgency strategy, operations deep inside the jungle based on real-time intelligence and the use of modern technology like drones, two CRPF officers said on condition of anonymity.

The number of districts where Maoists wield influence is 90 in 11 states, compared to 126 districts in April 2018, according to home ministry data. Violence linked to the Maoist movement is limited to just 54 districts out of the 90.

Maoist activities such as planting of explosives, ambushing security forces and recruitment of tribespeople are restricted to the Abujmarh forest area of Chhattisgarh, Bastar and the Andhra-Odisha Border. Very few cadre of the CPI (Maoist) are in Bihar and Jharkhand.

“Surrender of many senior Maoist leaders such as Tech Ramanna and Pahad Singh has affected the morale of Maoists negatively whereas we are also witnessing shrinkage in the security vacuum areas, the CRPF says about the movement in Chhattisgarh, the area worst affected by LWE. This has been noticed especially in South Sukma where our forces are achieving deeper penetration with longer stay in the zone without any contact which explains the apprehensions of their strongest military formation in fighting pitched battles”.

Even so, the study says, the expansion of Maoists in the MMC tri-junction will continue for the next five years.

The study predicts that in Jharkhand and Bihar, where armed Maoists once had a heavy presence, their influence will decline even more in the next five years. It foresees the rise of splinter groups that often compete with the Maoists in extorting funds.

Many CPI (Maoist) members will cross over to the splinter groups, it says, as security forces seek to clear the Burha-Pahad area of Jharkhand from Maoist influence.

The CRPF foresees a decline in the armed strength of Maoists in Odisha in the next few years. The Chhattisgarhi cadre of the CPI (Maoist) makes up a majority of its armed strength in Odisha, which is fuelling discontent among local cadre, it adds.

According to the CRPF analysis, there is very little probability that the Maoist movement will die down in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. But the group won’t be able to rebuild its base in the states because of the proactive role of the police in combating it. The Andhra-Telangana Maoist leaders limit their activities to the Chhattisgarh and Odisha borders and in the next five years, they will confine their activities to only procurement of logistic supplies and recruitment.

Major operations by security forces in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli have rendered Maoists “helpless” and “incapable to recoup” in that region, the CRPF study says.

On alternative strategies to deal with Maoists, the CRPF study bats for “long-term deployment” of security forces even after unrest subsides in some areas so that a dormant Maoist movement dies a natural death. “In other words, we need forces to stay in the area till memories of Maoism are erased from institutional memories of the population as this is the only effective way of avoiding revival of any insurgency,” it adds.

CRPF also asks the government to use the leadership crisis in CPI (Maoist) to place deep sources in the organisation. “CPI Maoist is currently undergoing a phase of leadership crisis where their senior leaders have crossed 60 years age bracket and there is dearth of young intellectual blood to enter forest. As party is always considered above military formation, they are vehemently searching for students who agree with their ideology and are willing to enter the forest. Thus, this offers us a rare opportunity to exploit this moment and place deep sources inside the organisation which may be utilised later when they rise as leaders of the party”.

First Published: Apr 14, 2019 11:23 IST

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