"…..with great determination we will strive to advance and expand the Guerrilla war to establish Base Areas in the strategic areas; we will refine and develop our tactics to rebuild, consolidate and expand the revolutionary movement in the vast plains of India, to advance the People’s War to drown the enemy in the great ocean of the class struggles of the vast masses"
-- Mupalla Laxmana Rao @ Ganapathy
in an interview on October 14, 2004
This Maoist vision, articulated by the ‘General
Secretary’ of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), remains intact
and is being actively operationalised. The dream of "expanding into the vast
plains of India", follows a strategic framework located in Mao Tse Tung’s
larger scheme of ‘Protracted War’. The first step in the war is devoted to
organisation, consolidation and preservation of ‘regional base areas’
situated in isolated and difficult terrain. Such organisational building, in
varied forms, is now increasingly visible in areas that hitherto remained at the
margins of Maoist influence or that were completely devoid of such influence.
Although the state of Andhra Pradesh registers a Maoist presence in all 23 of its districts, focused counter-insurgency operations over the past few months have forced the Maoists to scurry into those areas where there presence was traditionally marginal. With the police making inroads in the ‘heartland’ Telangana districts – Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam – and the Nallamala Forest area stretching across parts of Guntur, Prakasam, Kurnool and Nalgonda districts, the Maoists are now trying to shift their bases to the Nellore district as well as some of the North coastal districts bordering Orissa, including Srikakulam, Vishakapatnam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari.
In Nellore, the relatively insignificant Maoist faction, the Communist Party of India–Marxist-Leninist-Janasakthi (Janasakthi, for short) has been operating from the Rapur Forest area. The district provides good road, rail and sea connectivity, besides its proximity to Tamil Nadu. Police have been alerted on reports of Maoist cadres being active in remote villages of the Sitarampuram mandal (Block), which borders the Nellore, Kadapa and Prakasam districts, and some cadres have stayed in certain villages of the Rapur, Venkatagiri, Pattapupalem and Allur mandals.
In the neighbouring state of Orissa, the administration disclosed, in March 2006, that as many as 14 out of the 30 districts registered a Maoist presence, though under the union government’s Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme, only seven districts – Malkangiri, Rayagada, Koraput, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh – have been declared Maoist affected.
In March 2006, a ‘white paper on the law and order situation’ prepared by the state government had mentioned that "after spreading their influence in bordering districts such as Sundargarh, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Mayurbhanj, the Naxalites were trying to establish their foothold in Dhenkanal, Jajpur and other districts… The ultras were trying to link Bhubaneswar and Cuttack with southern part of the state through central districts such as Kandhamal and Boudh."
On March 27, 2006, the state government admitted that Maoists had spread
roots to Kandhamal, Dhenkanal, Jajpur, Ganjam and Nabarangpur districts.
To establish their foothold, the Maoists have been quick to take up local issues, which pit inhabitants of a particular district against the administration. For instance, in Jagatsinghpur district, leaflets signed by Maoist cadres have been recovered from various parts, protesting the setting up of industries, arguing that these would adversely affect the livelihood of the poor.
Appreciating the growing threat, the Orissa Home Department has reportedly decided to open three marine police stations in Jagatsinghpur district to check the entry of Maoists through waterways. Earlier, in the tribal protests at Kalinganagar that led to the deaths of 11 tribals on January 2, 2006, in police firing, apprehensions were raised on the role of Maoist front organisations in instigating the protestors. Tribal issues have been systematically exploited elsewhere as well, and a senior police official disclosed, "their increasing presence in Jajpur has been established by now. The radicals instigating the tribals cannot be ruled out."
In Karnataka, the state home minister M.P. Prakash claimed on August 25, 2006, that Maoist activities in the state had been contained and their presence was limited to just four districts, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Raichur and Bellary. Ironically, the same night, Maoists attacked the Divisional Forest Office (Wildlife), about 13 km from Sringeri in Chikmagalur district, on the border of the Udupi district. The Police Superintendent of the Anti-Naxalite Force (ANF) Chennaiah said, "before ransacking the office, the gang pasted bills and pamphlets of Maoist literature and also warned the authorities to remove the nearby Thanikod checkpost".
The administration is apparently turning a blind eye to previous incidents in Chikmagulur and is unwilling to declare the district ‘Maoist-affected’. Some past incidents in the district include:
May 17, 2005: A group of about 15 Maoists killed a Congress party activist, Seshappa Gowda, who was also a member of the Koppa Taluk Panchayat (a local self-government body), at Menasinahadya in the Chikmagalur district.
November 6, 2005: Maoist cadres blew up a forest check post after threatening the guards at Thanikod in the Chikmagalur district
November 15, 2005: A woman Maoist was arrested from the forest area near Sringeri in the Chikamagalur district.
Incidents of intimidation and abduction have also been reported from other districts,
including Udupi and Tumkur, and political mobilisation by the Maoists have been
Former home minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress Party) speaking in the state legislative assembly on July 13 stated that 5,000 families in Bangalore were involved in Maoist activities. Coming from a former home minister, who would have had, during his tenure, unlimited access to intelligence feeds, this claim cannot be ignored.
Karnataka has always remained in the Maoist scheme of things, although they suffered a temporary setback in February 2005, when their ‘state committee secretary’, Saket Rajan @ ‘Prem’, was killed in an encounter in Chikmagalur district. However, brushing aside the setback, the Maoists restructured their ‘state committee’ in Karnataka and appointed Noor Zulfikar alias Sridhar in place of the deceased Prem, in addition to six other members on the new Committee.
Recovered Maoist documents, including the 2001 ‘Social Conditions and Tactics’ survey of selected villages in Karnataka, elaborate on a detailed strategy of mobilisation in the state. Prepared by the erstwhile People’s War Group (PWG) in October 2001 (which merged into the CPI-Maoist in September 2004), this is an exhaustive study of the "Perspective Area" in the Malnad region (Belgaum, Uttara Kannada, Dharwad, Shimoga, Udupi, Chickmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Kodagu, Mysore and Chamarajnagar districts) to "accomplish the transformation of the Perspective Area into a Guerrilla Zone, to organize the people in class struggle, build mass organizations, set up party cells, form militia, establish Special Guerilla Squads (SGSs) and conduct guerrilla warfare in about a dozen Local Guerilla Squad (LGS) areas."
Similarly, in Maharashtra, Gondia district is witnessing increasing Maoist mobilization and consolidation, due to operations carried out by security forces in the neighbouring Gadchiroli district. In November 2005, Maoists pasted posters in many villages of Deori tehsil of Gondia, announcing a recruitment drive. While, in the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary, Maoists set ablaze a protection hut at Tippat in January and at Mangezara on February 24, 2006. Over the past months, they have become active in the sanctuary and have threatened forest department employees against moving in the forest. They have also instructed villagers around Nagzira not to venture out during the night. The sanctuary is convenient for Maoists to sneak into Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.
The Maoists in Maharashtra are not just spreading their network in rural environs. An assessment report prepared by the state intelligence department indicates that 57 non-government organisations (NGOs) and social action groups in Mumbai have been short-listed after being found to fund and help Maoists. The organisations arranged for medical treatment for Maoists, often in nursing homes in cities. According to state Director General of Police, P.S. Pasricha, "We are keeping close tabs on the activities of functionaries belonging to a section of the NGOs. A couple of recent arrests and subsequent interrogation of office-bearers of these groups have made us more aware of the security threat they pose." 12 NGOs and social action groups short-listed for funding and helping Maoists have been found to be extremely cash-rich. Funds may have been transferred to guerrilla units inside jungles through "informal money remittance systems", a senior intelligence officer disclosed.
The Maharashtra state Committee of the Maoists comprises four ‘divisions’: North Gadchiroli-Gondia, Chandrapur, Mumbai, and Surat. Police reports also add that the Maoists have been building up front organisations in Mumbai and Surat in Gujarat, identifying the potential of these places as economic strongholds. Police officials revealed that "the Maoists are actually conducting a sort of preliminary survey in Mumbai, Surat and other areas to begin their systematic infiltration in urban areas. In fact, they are making front organisations to facilitate their goals of creating a space for them in these major urban areas." This is entirely consistent with the projections of the 2004 "Urban Perspective Document" which identified two principal "industrial concentrations" as targets of Maoist expansion: the Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta belt in the East; and the Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad-Surat belt in the West.
In neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, three Maoist squads or dalams, the Paraswada, Tanda and Malajkhand dalam have been active in four districts – Balaghat, Dindori, Mandala and Sidhi. According to state Police records, violent Maoist activities have been taking place in Madhya Pradesh since 1990 and, at least 33 police personnel, 37 civilians and five government servants have been killed, while the police have shot dead 12 Maoists in 53 shootouts between 1990 and June 2006.
In Uttar Pradesh, although the casualties in Maoist violence over the past years have been low, Maoist presence in the eastern districts bordering Bihar are a cause of concern. 26 villages of the Gorakhpur division have been identified as Naxalite-affected, twenty-five of these in Deoria district and one in Kushinagar district. After a survey, a list of 680 Maoist-affected villages across the state was handed over to the state government. In addition to the 26 in Gorakhpur division, there are 226 villages in Chandauli, 88 in Mirzapur, 254 in Sonbhadra, 33 in Ghazipur, 54 in Ballia and two in Mau district, which are reportedly Maoist affected.
Carved out from Uttar Pradesh, the mountain state of Uttaranchal has remained vulnerable due to its difficult and sparsely populated terrain and porous border with Nepal. The state administration, in recent times, has been concerned over the mushrooming of Left Wing organisations in the three border districts of Pithoragarh, Udham Singh Nagar and Champawat. district Magistrates and senior police officials in these areas have been asked to visit villages once a month along with officials of other departments, to discuss problems faced by people in an effort to counter mobilization by Left Wing extremists.
In the eastern state of West Bengal, the Maoists carried out their first ‘direct action’ in the Nadia district, after consolidating their presence in the neighbouring Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts. On July 15, 2005, a Maoist 'central committee' member had remarked that, apart from these three districts, "our mass base in Murshidabad, Malda, Burdwan and Nadia is ready. After five years, we will launch our strikes." On June 20, 2006, two ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist tribal leaders, Uttam Sardar and Swapan Sardar, were killed by a group of Maoists at Chandpur in Nadia. The Maoists have also threatened at least a dozen CPI-Marxist leaders in Nadia. According to police officials, areas where Maoists are active in the district are Phasilnagar and Nasirpur villages in Karimpur, Teghari, Badbillo and Durgapur villages in Nakashipara and parts of Chapra and Kotwali Police Station areas.
Closer to the nation’s capital city, intelligence agencies have warned of the mushrooming of various Maoist front organisations in Jind, Kaithal, Kurukshetra, Yamunanagar, Hisar, Rohtak and Sonepat districts of Haryana, in the recent past. While speaking to reporters in Jind, Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda stated that the Maoists would not be allowed to grow their roots in the state, but police officials are of the opinion that Maoists appear to have chosen to take advantage of caste conflicts in the state as a part of their strategy of consolidation in Haryana. The backward caste communities, dalits and other oppressed communities have been chosen because the middle class in Haryana is reasonably strong and the number of landless and poor is comparatively smaller than states such as Andhra, Bihar and Orissa. Besides raking up local caste conflicts, they have also staged plays about revolutionaries, to exploit the sentiments of the youth. The August 31, 2005, incident at Gohana where dalit houses were set on fire by upper caste jats was seen as an opportunity for these outfits to make attempts to spread their influence, according to intelligence sources.
Even as the security establishment counters the Maoists in a fragmented, disoriented and incoherent fashion, the latter remain systematic in their approach, working strictly according to clearly articulated plans. The Maoists clearly recognize that they are up against a powerful state that has the resources to counter them, and that the challenge lies in effectively utilizing guerrilla strategies and tactics, working around the state’s strengths – rather than against these - planning and executing operations with minimum losses, and spreading their network to areas, both rural and urban, where the state is evidently in a slumber.
Saji Cherian is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management. Courtesy, the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal