Updated: Oct 1, 2022
A significant success in securing Maoists strongholds in Jharkhand and Bihar leads the Ministry of Home Affairs to claim that the final phase of operations against Left Wing Extremism has been launched and the menace will be eliminated shortly. Here are the details with examination of the possibility of elimination of Naxalism in the months ahead.
A Ministry of Home Affairs Press release on 21 September indicated that fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of Left Wing Extremism Free India and Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah's zero tolerance policy against extremism, the Ministry of Home Affairs has reached the final stage of decisive battle against Left Wing Extremism across the country. The occasion was clearance of ‘Budhapahad’ a hilly and forested area situated at the border of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and the extremely inaccessible areas of Chakrabandha and Bhimabandh of Bihar in the districts of Gaya, Aurangabad and Munger.
All these areas were strongholds of top Maoists and a huge quantity of arms, ammunition, foreign grenades, Aero Bombs and IEDs were recovered by the security forces at these places stated the release. Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah congratulated the CRPF and the State Security Forces.
After successfully ousting the Maoists from their strongholds, permanent security forces camps have been set up. Deepak Kumar Nayak writing for South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) highlights that, “20 Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) have been established in Jharkhand, of which 11 had come up only in the preceding six months”.
The operations have reportedly spanned through the year and included a series- Operation Octopus, Operation Double Bull, Operation Chakrabandha. 7 Maoists were killed and 436 arrested/surrendered in Chhattisgarh/ 4 Maoists killed in Jharkhand and 120 arrested/surrendered. 36 Maoists arrested/surrendered in Bihar. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, 3 Maoists have been killed by security forces. This success becomes even more important because many of these Maoists killed had bounties of lakhs and crores of Rupees on their heads like Mithilesh Mahto had a reward of Rs. 1 crore said the Release.
The most successful of these operations was Octopus which secured Budha Pahar. Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) Neeraj Sinha along with his team reached Budha Paahar which has been 'safe hideout' for top Maoists leaders for decades situated on the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh border. Its area is spread over 55 sq km. Budha Pahar is adjacent to Latehar and Garhwa and Balrampur of Chhattisgarh state. Because of this, this area has been a safe haven of Maoists. During the campaign, the police constructed a bridge across the Budha river near Tisia village with the help of the villagers. With the construction of the bridge, the police could reach Budha Pahad.
Data on Violence
There has been a steady decline in both the incidence of violence and its geographical spread said the release. In 2022 in comparison to 2018, there has been a 39% reduction in the incidents of Left Wing Extremism related violence, 26% reduction in the number of sacrifices made by the security forces, the civilian casualties has reduced by 44%, the number of districts reporting violence has decreased by 24% and the number of these districts has been reduced to just 39 in 2022.
Compared to before 2014, incidents of Left Wing Extremism violence have come down by 77 percent. Incidents of violence have come down from the highest level of 2258 in 2009 to 509 in 2021. The death rate due to violence has also come down by 85 percent. In the year 2010, death toll was at highest level of 1005 which has come down to 147 in the year 2021 and their sphere of influence has decreased significantly. Simultaneously, the area of influence of Maoists has also reduced significantly and the influence of Maoists has reduced from 96 districts in the year 2010 to only 39 districts in 2022.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has rightly heralded success in clearing of the Maoists from the strong holds in Bihar and Jharkhand. This success has been feasible due to extensive planning and sustained pressure being maintained on the Maoists in the hilly terrain which was inaccessible in the past. Thus logistics planning to increase access through infrastructure build up and construction of bridges on rivers and nullahs also had a major role to play.
Helicopters were also use effectively to support the operations, landing in areas which had been hitherto inaccessible even for the choppers due to proximate presence of Maoists in close vicinity. The Central and State police forces have also demonstrated effective capability in planning and conduct of operations on the lines of the military.
However, it would be too early to state that the final campaign to eliminate Left Wing Extremism (LWE) has been launched. The number of Maoists eliminated in the operations in Jharkhand and Bihar are low indicating that the fighting cadres of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) has possibly escaped the drag net.
In general, the Naxals adopt a strategy of avoiding fight when the security forces are dominant. They are also adept at moving into areas such as Madhya Pradesh or Telangana where the footprint of counter Naxal forces is limited.
Never the less a concerted campaign by spreading security forces forward operating bases (FOBs) in the hilly and forested zone while integrating the people in the process of development in the tribal belt in Central India will remain the way ahead.