Wednesday, December 11, 2013
the force of people's war in India in the: Downward Slide In Bihar – Analysis
December 9, 2013 By Mrinal Kanta Das The decline in violence notwithstanding, the CPI-Maoist retains sufficient capacities for disruptive dominance in large parts of the State. Bihar’s persistent and excessive dependence on Central Forces, without any urgent effort to expand and improve the capacities of the State Police, can only leave the State and its people vulnerable to Maoist violence, whenever the rebels decide that an escalation could be strategically advantageous. —
Bihar: Persistent Vulnerabilities
Eight Policemen were killed when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres blew up the vehicle in which they were travelling on the Tandwa-Nabinagar Highway in the Aurangabad District of Bihar on December 3, 2013. The Police party was returning to the Tandwa Police Station from a meeting on crime in the Nabinagar Block when the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off. Those killed included Ajay Kumar, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Tandwa Police Station, five personnel of the Special Auxiliary Force, a driver from the Home Guards, and a Bihar Military Police (BMP) constable, who belonged to a nearby village and had taken a lift.
Some weeks earlier there were reports of Maoists having harassed a panchayat (rural local body) representative in the area, after which search operations had been carried out by the Police. Barely 72 hours before the Aurangabad attack, in a daring operation in the evening of November 30, the Maoists killed three General Railway Police (GRP) personnel in Munger District. Nearly two dozen Maoists, travelling in civil dress on the 13235 Sahibganj-Danapur Inter-city train, opened fire on the escort party when the train crossed a tunnel between Jamalpur and Ratanpur railways stations, killing the three GRP personnel and decamping with their weapons.
Two persons, including a civilian, were also injured in the incident. Earlier, on November 10, 2013, the Maoists killed three persons and injured as many at Amkola village in Gaya District. Among the dead was one Sanjay Yadav, who had recently deserted the Maoist rank. The Maoists also burnt Yadav’s vehicle. The Maoists were angry with Yadav, as he was suspected to have leaked information to the Police leading to several raids on the Maoists and the recovery of arms and ammunition.
In yet another incident, suspected to have been perpetrated by Maoists, though this is yet to be confirmed, a vehicle was blown up in an IED blast killing all seven occupants in Pathara village in Aurangabad District on October 17, 2013. The victims included Sushil Pandey, a suspected Ranvir Sena (an upper caste landowners’ militia) activist and husband of Zila Parishad (district level local self-government institution) member Usha Devi.
The Maoists suspected Pandey’s hand in the killing of their cadres by the Ranvir Sena, in the Magadh region. Significantly, the ‘revenge’ attack came barely a week after the Patna (Bihar) High Court acquitted all the 26 accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case for lack of evidence. Maoists hold the Ranvir Sena responsible for the Bathe massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 dalits (lower caste Hindus) on the night of December 1, 1997.
On June 13, 2013, a group of around 200 Maoists had attacked the Dhanbad-Patna Intercity Express at Bhalui halt near Jamui District, killing three persons and injuring six passengers. Prima facie, the Maoist problem in Bihar is worsening again, after the tentative gains of 2011 and 2012. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) data a total of 46 persons, including 21 civilians and 25 Security Force (SF) personnel have been killed in LWE-related violence in 2013 in Bihar. Interestingly, there has, so far, not been a single Maoist fatality in the State in 2013. Civilian and SF casualties in 2013 have also exceeded last year’s casualty figures.
On the other hand, arrests of and surrenders by Maoists have also gone down considerably. In 2012, 203 Maoists were arrested and 75 surrendered; in 2013, 76 Maoists have been arrested and just two have surrendered, according to partial data compiled by SATP. MHA data on arrests also confirms this trend, with 409 Maoists arrested in 2012, as against 260 Maoists arrested in 2013, till December 2, 2013. According to SATP data, seven major incidents have taken place in Bihar till December 7, 2013, out of which six have been reported from Aurangabad (3), Gaya (2) and Jamui (1) Districts, while one is from Munger.
In an earlier assessment, it was noted that 60 per cent of Maoist violence in Bihar occurred in just three Districts: Aurangabad, Gaya and Jamui. Recently, the Joint Intelligence Committee of the Union Government has accused the Bihar Government of being soft towards the CPI-Maoists. “There has been continual deterioration in most parameters of the counter-insurgency grid in Bihar,” a JIC report observes, underlining the fact that, while there has been a substantive decline in Maoists violence across the country, Bihar has registered an increase. “Our concern is not only sharp increase in security forces casualties but also the fact that not a single Maoists cadre has been killed in counter-insurgency operations this year compared to five Maoists killed during the same period last year,” the report notes.
While 17 encounters with Maoists took place in 2011, the number of cross-firing incidents between SFs and Maoists decreased to 12 in 2012 and, till August this year, only six encounters took place in Bihar. The recovery of weapons has also shown a downward trend — 171 in 2011 and 47 in 2013. Another report discloses that Maoists had snatched as many as 38 weapons in 2013 in the State, accounting for nearly one in every two weapons snatched in India by the Maoists. State officials, however, quite surprisingly claimed that Bihar had, in fact, been carrying out specific intelligence-based operations and been quite successful in arresting the ‘maximum number’ of Maoists in 2013.
A top State Police official thus asserted, “Only killing Maoists is not a sign of big operations”, adding that the clearing of the entire Chakarbanda area in Gaya District — which had once been a Maoist stronghold where Police did not even think of entering — was an example of how the State has been doing intelligence-based operation quietly. The Nitish Kumar Government has still not abandoned its delusions of fighting Maoists with ‘development’.
On December 2, 2013, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared that Bihar did not have a “magic wand” to stop the Maoist attacks, and the answer lay in initiating multiple measures including socio-economic development. Amidst all this, the State Police has taken initiatives to cripple Maoist leaders financially by confiscating their property under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an approach that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) believes other States should emulate. According to data accessed from Police Headquarters, Patna, 21 Maoist leaders’ immovable property, including approximately 44 acres of land and movable property worth over INR 20 million had been seized under the drive. On the other hand, the State has only recently announced its surrender and rehabilitation policy, formulated on the basis of UMHA recommendations.
Further, the State has announced a reward of INR 300,000-500,000 for the capture of seven top Maoist leaders. A reward of INR 500,000 has been declared for Arvind Kumar alias Arvind Singh, a member of the CPI-Maoist Central Committee. A reward of INR 300,000 has been announced for Vijay Yadav alias Sandip, who is a member of the ‘special area committee’ that covers Bihar, Jharkhand and northern Chhattishgarh. Similar rewards have been declared for Shiv Shankar Dhobi alias Tayagi, Parvesh alias Anuj, Ram Babu Ram, Prajapat and Chirag. Most of these Maoist leaders are from Jehananbad, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Motihari, considered strongholds of Maoists.
Bihar’s reluctance to take effective steps to counter the Maoist threat at a time when other States are at least putting some pressure on Left Wing Extremists (LWE), has made Bihar the favourite hunting ground for the Maoists. The failure to mount sustained pressure against the rebels has created a perfect theatre for them to extend their areas of influence and activity, at a time when these are contracting sharply in other States, and provide the Maoists with the safe haven and retreat where they can fine tune their strategy and tactics for the revival of a movement which, in their own assessment, is at a “critical stage”.