India: Naxalite insurgency spreads

A new and dramatic attack by India’s Maoist Naxalite rebels. From the Times of India, April 16:

RAIPUR: At least 10 policemen were killed on Sunday in a Maoist attack in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, an official said.

“Maoist rebels armed with AK-47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons opened fire at a police outpost in Dantewada district at 12.00 noon and killed 10 policemen,” police spokesman Ajay Srivastava said.

The deceased included six special police officers and four Chhattisgarh Armed Forces personnel.

Senior police officials rushed to the site of the attack, 50 km south of this state capital.

More than 100 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Maoist violence since January, according to police.

The growing power of the guerilla movement long forgotten to the outside world is summed up in this analysis from The Hindu, April 15:

NEW DELHI: Naxal groups have been attempting to increase their activity and influence in some parts of Karnataka, Kerala, Uttaranchal and Tamil Nadu, a concern voiced by the high-level Standing Committee of Chief Ministers of States hit by naxal-violence.

In the first quarter of this year, Chhattisgarh accounted for over 40 per cent of naxal violence and 65 per cent of the casualties — 172 incidents and 137 casualties. The high level of violence there was attributed to action by security forces and the ongoing anti-naxalite campaign “Salva Judum” in Dantewada district.

Thursday’s meeting here, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also expressed concern that naxalite groups laid greater emphasis on planning on the lines of the military.

Increasing attacks on railway infrastructure and disruption of train services were said to be new trends. Another disturbing aspect, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said, related to simultaneous, multiple attacks, particularly on the police and the security apparatus as was seen in Gajapati in Orissa, Jehanabad in Bihar, Giridih in Jharkhand and in Dantewada district.

Strategic response

The Centre is likely to evolve a strategic and technical response to the naxalites’ increasing resort to improvised explosive devices and landmine blasts for causing heavy casualties. As indicated by the Prime Minister, the affected States will soon launch joint operations. Sources said the police chiefs were asked to evolve a framework of the joint command for operations cutting across State boundaries. The States were asked to reach a broad consensus to constitute three or four joint task forces under a single command and control to intensify intelligence operations.

As many as 25 battalions of Central paramilitary forces were deployed in the affected States on a long-term basis to supplement their efforts at responding to naxal violence and instilling a sense of security. As a special gesture, these forces were given free of cost for three years from July 1, 2004. This exercise involved an expenditure of Rs. 1,100 crore.

Menace in Haryana too

The naxal menace now extends to a dozen States, affecting 509 police stations. For the first time naxal activity has been recorded in two police stations in Haryana. The menace has spread to nearly 40 per cent of the country’s geographical area with the affected population going up to 35 per cent. Areas in many States, which looked too obscure to fall for naxal influence, are today witnessing naxal activity.

Security and intelligence experts point out that naxal groups have been picking the Centre’s interests such as targeting Central forces and an attack to hijack a train in Jharkhand. This is a worrisome scenario.

Regrouping, consolidation

After the CPI(Maoist) came into being in September 2004, naxalite groups are reported to be trying to woo other splinter groups.

They have consolidated their front organisations into a “Revolutionary Democratic Front” to intensify their mass contact programme.

Fresh recruitment of cadres is also reported and the naxalite groups sustain their fraternal and logistics links with Nepalese Maoists, though there are no strategic and operational ties as yet.

It has been noted that development activities are not undertaken in some naxal-affected areas mainly due to extortion and threats from the cadres. Even contractors are not taking up development projects there.

See our last posts on India and the Naxalites.