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Changing Maoist strategy in India: Need to prioritise threat perceptions

New Delhi, Mon, 30 Jun 2008 Maitreya Buddha Samantaray
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Security agencies in the Maoist affected state of Jharkhand have recently planned to make extensive media campaign to expose Maoists. The ideas include flashing pictures of rebels in newspapers, publishing lists of properties damaged by rebels, illegal tax collections, and lavish lifestyles of its leaders and sexual exploitation of its women cadres. Besides seminars at schools and colleges to sensitise people about Maoist misdeeds, a 30-minute documentary film will be shown to people through Doordarshan, which has a large reach in rural areas.

Reason; Maoist rebels have recently come out with a video CD of 22-minute film to sensitize the masses about the misdeeds of the ruling and business class in the state. Police authorities claim that rebel group has made approximately 5,000 copies of the film. Significantly enough, state police has also recovered over 100 neatly filled application forms of prospective Maoist candidates from several Maoist hideouts in Tamar block of Ranchi and in Jamshedpur and Khuti districts. Security officials after scanning the forms entered into the conclusion that most of the candidates were earlier not qualified in the Jharkhand Police recruitment. Ongoing latest developments in one of the worst Maoist affected state necessitate a detailed and broader understanding of the changing Maoists strategies in other affected parts of India.

It is observed that 16 of India’s 29 states and 192 of 602 districts have been affected by Maoist violence. The Ministry of Home Affairs had categorized 33 districts in 8 states as worst affected districts due to rebel violence. The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) is the principal outlawed organization in the country accounting approximately 98 per cent of ultra left-wing extremism in the country. Rebel movements recently got greater impetus with the rise of their counterparts in Nepal to power. Both Indian and Nepal Maoists are members of the `Revolutionary Internationalist Movement' (RIM). In July 2001, some 10 radical Left-wing (Maoist) groups in South Asia, including the Nepalese as well as Indian Maoists, formed the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organization of South Asia (CCOMPOSA).

There have been reports that Nepalese Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai is coming to the West Bengal capital Kolkata in the month of June to attend a meeting and a rally of the Indian Maoists. Bhattarai, considered the second most important leader after Prachanda among Nepal Maoists, was also scheduled to visit Kolkata on 31 May to address a rally at Shahid Minar but lately cancelled the programme owing to the important session of the Nepal Constituent Assembly that began towards the end of May.

Being inspired by the Nepal Maoist forces strategy to expand their area of operation, Maoists seem to have started tying up with revisionist and secessionist forces in the country. Maoists in Nepal had extended their support to eight minority autonomous regions during their phase of armed struggle and in turn mustered immense support. Maoists’ support for separate statehood demands such as Telengana, Vidarbha and Gorkhaland are the logical move in that direction.

Naxalites have stepped up their recruitment efforts on the Internet. So far security agencies have identified nine pro-Naxal web sites, with names like "Naxal Revolution," "Peoples' March," and "Red Diary. Media reports also claim that Maoists have teams of technical experts to modernize their fighting capabilities. Experts assist them in tapping into government communication networks, securing their own radio communication networks and in disrupting power infrastructure. In view of repeated Maoists attempt to disrupt power supply in Chhattisgarh, the state government now plans to tap solar energy in its southern restive Bastar region. Investigations revealed that Maoists have the possessions of indigenous rockets and rocket launchers, similar to that of US made anti-tank rocket launcher M-1 and the Russian RPG-7. Manufacturing units are suspected to be located in the suburbs of Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

Security agencies and human rights activists are of the view that India's Maoist rebels are on a drive to recruit thousands of child soldiers. In Orissa, Maoists have formed boy brigades called as Bal Sangathan in Malkangiri and Gajapati district. Only recently, nearly 20 children recruited by Maoists were arrested by Bihar police. Growing presence of Maoists in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts like Theni, Tirunelveli, Thuthookudi and Ramanathapuram that happens to be the strongholds of LTTE sympathizers and given that the LTTE is infamous for its use of child soldiers, it is apprehended that that the Maoists may seek training from them in the mobilization, recruitment and use of child soldiers. It is observed that there has been a gradual alienation of students and workers from Maoist movement which was in 1980s constituted the main stay of rebel activity. Perhaps the Maoist campaign to rely more on violence than on mobilization of the masses alienated these segments.

A shift has been witnessed in the Maoist tactics of armed struggle from “hit-and-run guerrilla warfare in rural areas to “urban and mobile warfare”, focusing on industrial areas. With the developments in Singur, Nandigram, POSCO, Vedanta etc, Maoists have started fermenting and instigating agrarian revolution and people’s war in those troubled areas. Security agencies claim that Maoists have been devising strategies to gain foothold in the industrial belts of Bhilai-Ranchi-Dhanbad-Calcutta and Mumbai-Pune-Surat-Ahmedabad.

There are reports that Maoists have raised boat wings to facilitate faster movement of its cadres and weapons to enter into their destination through river routes. Security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Malkangiri district of Orissa had earlier seized motor-driven inflatable boats allegedly used by Maoists. Malkangiri is separated from Andhra Pradesh by the Sileru river and from Chhattisgarh by the Saberi river. There is also another inter-state river called the Mahendrataneya, between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. All these river routes have been used by the rebel groups.

Our security policy framers are so pre-occupied with the threat of cross-border terrorism that barring it, they didn’t find it convenient to recognize the operational might of the Maoists for quite a long time. Significantly enough, despite terrorists daredevil and Fidayeen attacks, they have not been able to hijack a train; while the Maoists did it on March 13, 2006 when they hijacked Barawadih-Mughalsarai passenger train in Latehar district of Jharkhand. Terrorists have not been able to attack a jail and free their members as did Maoists on March 2006 in Orissa and on December 2007 in Chhattisgarh. Is it not high time to priorities our threat perception?

Maitreya Buddha Samantaray is a New Delhi based senior security analyst

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Read More: POSCO | Ahmedabad | Maoist | Delhi | Bastar

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