The central committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which usually speaks volumes about the party’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology of the party, has not ruled out talks with the government in the wake of the recent attack in Chhattisgarh.
In the statement, issued under the name of spokesperson Abhay, the Maoists offered an apology only to innocent bystanders who were killed in the attack.
Abhay is the pseudonym for Maoist central committee member Mallojula Venugopal, sibling of the deceased Maoist politburo member, Mallojula Koteshwar Rao or Kishenji.
Twenty eight people died in the 25 May attack, including Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee president Nand Kumar Patel, former union minister VC Shukla and Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who is credited with having designed and supported the Salwa Judum, under which armed vigilantes were deployed to fight the Maoist guerillas in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.
Following the incident, an internal security meeting was convened by the centre in New Delhi, in which there were discussions about peace talks and countering the Naxal threat in the country.
“While the prime minister said the government was willing to talk to all ‘extremist groups’ within the ambit of the Constitution at the chief minister’s meet, Home secretary RK Singh said there was no space for talks with Maoists after the 25 May incident,” said Abhay in the release.
The Maoist leader did not rule out talks with the government but also complained of talks without ceasefire in the backdrop of continued security operations in the left wing extremism (LWE)-affected states.
“Coming to the present context, the Indian ruling classes have already been making unprecedented preparations for another big offensive to finish off the Maoists and are now trying to use the May 25 incident as the pretext for it. The upcoming elections are another strong reason behind this intensification and expansion of OGH (Operation Green Hunt),” said Abhay in the release.
Since the 25 May incident, there has been one major incident last week in Bihar, where the Maoists tried to lay siege to the Dhanbad-Patna intercity express with 500 passengers on board for nearly an hour. The railway protection force managed to hold them at bay for a while till the central reserve police force (CRPF) personnel reached the spot. The Maoists beat a retreat following their arrival.
The government’s offensive has also been picking up with the 12 June arrest of Arun Thakur or Anoop, a Maoist leader in Bihar, who was credited with freeing eight ‘hardcore’ Maoists from a prison van in Giridih town of Jharkhand earlier this year. Two policemen, the van’s driver and a prisoner were killed in the attack.
Following it, on the night of 17/18 June, the Bihar police also nabbed Kapil Yadav or Inderjit, a platoon commander of the Maoists’ Bihar Jharkhand Special Area Committee (SAC) and right hand man to Arvind-ji, the Jharkhand in-charge for the Maoists.
Yadav is believed to be responsible for the Maoist guerilla group that planted improvised explosive devices in the bodies of slain jawans in January this year.
In their release, the Maoists have declared their target as the vigilante groups, most of which are believed to be state sponsored. The red rebels have mentioned groups such as “Salwa Judum, a Sendra, a Shanti Yatra, a Shanti Sena, a Harmad Bahini, a Bhairav Bahini, and TPC,” and have even mentioned the Supreme Court ban on arming special police officers (SPO). Since the ban, several SPOs have been inducted into regular state police force and there are allegations of the state using the vigilante groups to fight the Maoists.
The operations by the vigilante groups sting the Maoists the most. Other than regular skirmishes in the jungles of Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, a major recent incident includes the killing of Lalesh Yadav , their Bihar Jharkhand SAC secretary.
The rest of Abhay’s statement is largely ideological, questioning the ban on several organisations that have been deemed by several states as being frontal organisations, including, “workers organisations/trade unions, the peasant and agricultural laborer organisations, the women’s organisations, cultural organisations, student and youth organisations and even children’s organisations are banned.”
The Maoists have also termed the model of development in the Maoist-affected areas as a “psychological warfare against the Maoist Party to wean the youth away from it”, while condemning amongst other union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh for this model of development.
Following the internal security meeting of CMs earlier this month, the centre has also decided to step up its counter-Naxal operations.
According to sources in the union home ministry, former CRPF director general and present adviser to Jharkhand governor during President’s Rule in the state, K Vijay Kumar will lead the offensive as a special adviser to the government. Kumar is also known for leading the special task force that killed the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
In Jharkhand, where Kumar has charge of law and order under the home department, the Maoists have also been active.
The Maoists are trying to return to the former ‘liberated zone’ of Saranda forest in Jharkhand. Since the massive Operation Monsoon in Asia’s largest Sal-tree forest, the Maoists split up and the Jharkhand factions retreated into Porahat forests north of Saranda while their Odisha counterparts went south to the Keonjhar-Sundargarh area.
As per Jharkhand deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, special branch, M Lakra, in a recent incident, the central reserve police force (CRPF) engaged with a few armed cadres of the CPI-Maoist deep inside the Saranda forest near Balliba village. No one was hurt or injured in the incident.
This attack was a few days after the 25 May attack on state-level Congress leaders in neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
Of the 56 forest villages inside Saranda, the worst affected by LWE occupation were Balliba, Thalkobad and Tiril Posi.
In another incident, two weeks ago, three Maoists were arrested from Chakradharpur bus stand, about 25 km from West Singhbhum district headquarters town of Chaibasa in Jharkhand, while they were shopping for materials to make bombs.
The police managed to nab the Maoists based on local intelligence. The team had placed orders with two shopkeepers for 100 pressure cookers, 70 gas lighters, two reams of cloth, large cans, 100 tiffin boxes, black tape, and coils of different kinds of wire. They had a complete shopping list with them signed by the dreaded Maoist commander Kundan Pahan who had also added perfume, talcum powder and cooking utensils and snacks on the shopping lists.
DIG Lakra said that the Maoists’ team had purchased several items for a ‘bomb-making workshop’ by the Maoists’ central technical team.
While there were unidentified central committee members with them, the Maoists have been assembling these stores for the approaching monsoon. During the monsoon, several cadres return home to work in fields while the career guerillas take shelter in the forests preparing for the rains to cease, with occasional attacks.
Lakra said that Sanjay Ganjhu of Simdega, Sunil Manjhi of Chaibasa and Arun Paswan of Latehar were the major local players in the workshop led by Kundan Pahan, who has now assumed charge of areas between Ranchi, Khunti and West Singhbhum districts of Jharkhand.
Lakra said that it was all meant to be a part of a refresher course with classes on making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for the Maoist guerillas.
Earlier, the Maoists used Saranda forest to train cadres, when it was a ‘liberated’ zone. Now, Pahan and his associates run these in the Porahat forest.
However, a source in the Maoist organisation stressed that the guerillas are preparing to take back Saranda and prevent the central and state security forces from pushing in further. The Maoists have decided to keep the plan under wraps for now and are not willing to give away their strategy.
They have been trying for a while now and earlier in January, a contingent of the guerillas was stopped in Latehar while they were on their way to Saranda. As retaliation, the Maoists had planted IEDs in the stomachs of slain jawans.