Chattisgarh attack: Plain and ‘Jungly’ facts about the
Maoist strategy

Soroor Ahmed


The killing of 55 policemen in Bijapur districts in Chhatisgarh is the biggest attack on the system by any extremist group in the country since the Sikh terrorism of 1980s. Even during the 16 years of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir not so many men in uniform lost their lives in one go. It was during the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar on June 4, 1984 that much larger number of army and police personnel were killed at the hands of the terrorists led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala. The army and the para-military forces were completely taken back by the fire-power and preparation of the terrorists ensconced within and they had to seek the help of tanks, mortars and machine guns in the battle which
lasted for about 48 hours.

However, since then never before so many policemen lost their lives in any operation anywhere in the country. In Chhatisgarh the policemen did not lose their lives while carrying out any operation but became the soft target of the massive Maoist onslaught.

In the last few months more policemen have been killed in this central Indian state than even in the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir and North-East. Till 2005 Jharkhand was second in losing the number of policemen. Jammu and Kashmir was obviously number one. Andhra Pradesh was another state where a large number of policemen were being targeted. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also witnessed some incidents
of violence in the recent years. In Orissa about 2,000 rifles were looted from police in one such attack. Chhatisgarh has now left all of them behind. The centrality of the state is an important factor. It is almost at the Centre of the Red Corridor, right from Nepal to the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh. Besides, the topography suits the extremists. Notwithstanding industrialization poverty is rampant, especially in the rural areas.

One needs to understand the difference between the extremist movements in the plains and in the hills and jungles of the country. While in the states like Bihar the ultra-Left movement has been locked more against the landed upper castes––and now even against some backward castes kulaks––in Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh the state machinery is being targeted more blatantly now. It is not that in Bihar the attack has not been made on the police stations or jails. The last big Naxal operation took place on November 13, 2005. About 1,000 ultras set on the very nerve centre of power in Jehanabad district and after killing a number of policemen broke the jail and took away their men. More than 90 of these inmates are still at large and the police are still groping in the dark. However, one of the leading light of the Maoists in the country, Ajay Kannu––who fled from that infamous Jehanabad jail break––was rearrested from a train in Kolkata recently.

But Bihar shot into fame in 1970s and more forcefully in 1980s and 1990s for the massacres of Dalits and Backward Castes. The private armies of the upper caste farmers used to target them on the plea that they are the supporters of the Left ultras or are soft towards them. Ranveer Sena was only the last and most formidable link in the same chain of private armies. In the same way the Maoists indulged in the massacres of the upper castes, especially Bhumihar and /Rajput farmers of what was then called the central––but now south––Bihar.

Even in the undivided Bihar the pattern of Left violence was different in the southern plateau which after November 15, 2000 came to be known as Jharkhand. There too the struggle was initially against the landed farmers, but the extremists gradually shifted their strategy. They started targeting the power centres more brazenly than elsewhere in Bihar. By now they virtually decimated their opponents in the rural areas. The hills and forests of the then South Bihar and now Jharkhand became the happy hunting ground for the ultras’ hideout. The abundance of mines paved the way for a different kind of violence. Dynamites were easily available in Jharkhand. Therefore, landmine blasts are very common. Now the same tactic is being adopted in the mineral-rich Chhatisgarh. The pattern of Naxal violence in Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh is almost similar.

It is not that in Chhatisgarh or Jharkhand the landed and relatively affluent farmers did not oppose the naxals. Jawala Singh of Manatu in Palamu district of Jharkhand was a known name of the yesteryears. Jawala, if the reports are true, used to have a maneater tiger as his pet and he used to terrify the people with its help. In Jharkhand region too there used to be the private army, Sunlight Sena. Earlier it was led by Rajputs. A close kin of former governor of Tamil Nadu, Bhishm Narain Singh, also lost his life in that tussle between the Naxals and their opponents. Singh was originally from old Palamu district. In the late 1980s and early 1990s some Pathans too joined this outfit.

However, the biggest attack on the police machinery in Jharkhand came during the first phase of 1999 Lok Sabha election on September 19, 1999. Thirty seven policemen and two magistrates lost their lives in three land mine blasts in Hazaribagh and Chatra districts. Then it was a part of Bihar. But after the creation of Jharkhand the naxals took the state by storm. In the first five years of its creation as many as 250 policemen––including senior officials––lost their lives in some daring operations by the naxals. In many of them land mines were used.

It needs to be mentioned that during the elections police and security personnel were made the target of the Naxals. Since there is a large amount of movement of police into the interiors of the hills and jungles the Maoists utilize the opportunity for their own end. They trigger landmine blasts to kill the policemen and subsequently loot their arms and ammunition. As in September 1999 election eve attack the Maoixts struck again on April 6-7, 2004 in Jharkhand. More than two dozens policemen were killed in land mine blasts in that state. The attack coincided with the visit of the then deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, to Jharkhand. He was leading an election eve yatra of the country. The November 13, 2005 attack on Jehanabad jail also took place about 60 hours before the last phase of assembly election in Bihar.

But not all the attacks have been carried during the election period. The March 15 incident in Chhatisgarh is one such example. Like in Bihar or Jharkhand a sort of private army came up to fight the Maoists. It is known as Salwa Judum. If men in uniform have become lame ducks before the Naxals the Salwa Judum stands no
chance to check their onslaught.



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