India’s Maoists: Business as usual
DR P V Ramana

It has been business as usual for Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), even as the country has been fighting the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic. Incidents of violence by the Maoists, efforts at shoring–up their arsenal and extortion, or financing their armed struggle continue to be reported from various parts of the country.

Four incidents over the past one week, across different affected States, provide adequate evidence, if one was ever required. These incidents also point to the trans-State operations/network of the rebels. This story is, indeed, old; the network has been in existence in since long.

Since the beginning of the year until June 8, 2020, according to data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal, 49 incidents of violence have been reported in Maoist violence in different parts of the country, while 19 civilians have been killed. During the same period, 31 security force (SF) personnel and 36 Maoists have lost their lives in different incidents of exchange-of-fire (EoF).

Of the 31 SF fatalities, 17 were lost in a single incident in Chintagufa area, Sukma District, in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, on March 21, while 15 more were injured1. Further, the rebels admitted, in a statement released to the media on March 26 that three of their cadre were killed in the incident2. In the same statement, also containing pictures of weapons and ammunition looted after the incident, the Maoists claimed they had looted 11 AKs along with 55 magazines, 2 INSAS rifles and 20 magazines, one SLR and 2 UBGLs.

These are a part of snatching of weapons in isolated incidents, decamping with them after maiming SFs in various encounters (like the one mentioned above) and the past occasional raids on Stae police armouries -- Koraput in Odisha, 2004; Giridhih in Jharkhand, 2005; and Nayagarh in Odisha, 2007. According to last available official statistics, between 2009 and May 2018, the rebels had snatched/looted a total of 791 weapons of various make.3

Indicating the trans-State network of the Maoists, a media report of June 10, 2020 said 10,000 detonators and 1,098 meters of fuse wire were recovered from Maoist couriers in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh4. These were planned to be delivered to a Maoist commander in Chhattisgarh. A total of 2,000 detonators and three fuse wire coils had already been delivered earlier.

The last time such a network was detected was in September 2006. It was ‘elaborate’.

On September 7, 2006, police in Mahabubnagar district, presently in Telangana State, and a day later in Prakasam district, presently in Andhra Pradesh, police unearthed and recovered 875 empty rocket shells and 30 rocket launchers. Further Investigations led the police to the Ambattur industrial estate, a suburb of Chennai, where these were manufactured in seven separate industrial units/workshops. The complex trail of manufacturing and transhipment of the empty shells and rocket launchers involved five States, viz. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh5.

In fact, Thota Kumara Swamy @ Tech Madhu was instructed to have 1,600 rockets and 40 rocket launchers manufactured. Accordingly, he headed to Chennai and got 1,550 rockets and 40 rocket launchers manufactured, some of which had been delivered to the Maoists, while the remainder were seized. He was given Rs 35 lakh to execute the plan. Also, a year later, on January 10, 2007 police in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, unearthed an arms making-cum-R&D unit of the Maoists, on a tip-off provided by the Andhra Pradesh police. During the raid, Madhya Pradesh Police recovered designs of cross-sections of RPGs and rocket launchers, as well6.

In another worrying dimension to the Maoists arming themselves through various methods, the involvement of police personnel has come to light. In an operation stretching over a few days in Chhattisgarh, police in Sukma district, arrested a constable and an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI)7, on June 8, 2020. As one senior officer IPS officer told this researcher8, understanding that it is difficult to account for every bullet fired in an encounter, the authorities have been of been insistent about it. Along the line, some black sheep have taken advantage of the situation, siphoned-off ammunition and sold them away to the rebels.

To finance such an enterprise, the Maoists require huge amounts of money. The Maoists collect huge amounts through extortion, and also collect in kind. In a nut shell, the various sources of Maoist finances are:

  • Government Works and Schemes
  • Industry and Businesses
  • Social Institutions
  • Infrastructure
  • People
    • Membership Fees
    • Supporters/Sympathizers
    • Revolutionary Taxes in cash and kind
    • Fines on Defaulters

Media reports of June 4, 20209 said that police in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, had arrested two persons belonging to Warangal district, Telangana, earlier on June 2, and seized Rs one crore. In a second and separate incident, also reported on June 4, Gadchiroli police seized Rs two crore (2 cr) from a beedi (tendu) leaf contractor that was meant to be delivered to the rebels, while the contractor claimed that it was meant to be paid as wages to workers.

Once again confirming the oft reported fact the rebels extort and receive logistics support, in other words extortion in kind, police in Dantewada district, in the Basatr division of Chhattisgarh, arrested Jagat Pujari, a district level leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and another person, on June 13. Pujari is accused of purchasing and giving a tractor to the Maoists, and is accused of supplying goods to the Maoists, earlier too10. This is one instance among a number of incidents detected earlier of the nexus between the Maoists and local level political leaders in various affected States across the country.

These developments during just about the past fortnight of June 2020, clearly indicate that it has been business as usual for the Maoist rebels, while the country in the grip of saving and protecting lives and stave-off a potential catastrophe in the of COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly, one lesson that clearly needs to be drawn is that the security forces cannot afford to lower their guard in addressing the Maoist challenge while the rebels surreptitiously pursue their agenda.

  1. The Hindu, March 22, 2020. Accessed on June 10, 2020.
  2. Telangana Today, March 26, 2020.
  3. Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi.
  4. The Hindu, Visakhapatnam edition, June 10, 2020.
  5. Interview with Mr K Srinivas Reddy, a well-known authority on the Maoists, and presently Editor, Telangana Today, Hyderabad, October 2007.
  6. In fact, this researcher had just reached Bhopal that evening, to participate in a seminar, and switched on the TV to learn the recoveries/arrests were made a few hours earlier. On January 12, 2007, senior officials of Madhya Pradesh police told this researcher that a lot of literature, some connected with arms and armaments were also recovered during the raid.
  7. New India Express, June 9, 2020. Accessed on June 10, 2020; Outlook, June 8, 2020. Accessed on June 10, 2020.
  8. Interview with a senior IPS officer, Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, February and July 2007.
  9. Telengana Today, June 4, 2020. Accessed on June 4, 2020.
  10. Hindustan Times, June 10, 2020. Accessed on June 14, 2020; India Today, June 14, 2020. Accessed on June 14, 2020.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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