Bamboo prices to jobs, Maoists tap local issues in new zone

Warning cadre in the new zone to “proceed with caution”, it says, “Secrecy is not being kept, there is hurriedness, those we taking into the organisation are not being talked to in depth about our politics and work.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Raipur | Updated: June 15, 2017 3:33 pm
bastar maoist, chhattisgarh maoist, maharashtra maoist, madhya pradesh maoist, naxal attacks, maoists groups, maoist encounter, indian express news, india news ITBP operations in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh.

FROM BAMBOO prices to jobs and demonetisation, Maoists in Chhattisgarh are focussing on current issues that impact the local population in an effort to replicate the Bastar model in a new zone along the state’s western border, according to senior police officers. This assessment is based on a 25-page Maoist document recovered by security forces following an encounter in April, which details plans to set up a Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Confluence (MMC) zone — their first expansion in the region in eight years.

The document, examined by The Indian Express, also details their military strategy, with a focus on amassing ammunition, including “collecting” at least “50 kilos of gunpowder”, 3,000 pieces of metal or shrapnel, 25 pipes ready for Claymore bombs” every six months. It advocates swift attacks on security forces, the use of ambushes and not chases, and explosive devices as opposed to gunfire as much as possible. The New Red Line: Read the full series here

On the political strategy for the new zone, the document, believed to have been drafted by the “MMC leading team” in March 2017, states that the way forward is in the identification of “peoples problems”. It acknowledges a lack of success on land issues and highlights local issues to claim that the problems were not what the Maoists had imagined.

Senior police officers said that this strategy was similar to Maoist operations in Bastar, where they “win loyalty by advocating low rates of tendu leaves”. “It does not seem that they have established themselves enough at the moment to extract levy from bamboo, which happens in Bastar on a massive scale,” said an officer.

The document states, “We have only been able to spread propaganda on demonetisation. On the issue of bamboo prices, the area committee and divisional committee don’t have an in-depth understanding. The jungles of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are part of our zone, and all three have different rates.” Criticising the local cadre, it states, “by September we should have a plan of action on bamboo. What is the rate in every state? What is the bonus? Who is cutting the bamboo, forest protection committees, paper mills, contractors, or the forest department themselves?”

The document also states that one of the issues in Malajkhand in Madhya Pradesh, home to copper mines, is employment — at least 70 per cent of labour employed must be local, it says.

Warning cadre in the new zone to “proceed with caution”, it says, “Secrecy is not being kept, there is hurriedness, those we taking into the organisation are not being talked to in depth about our politics and work. We are talking in the air and accepting them… When meeting party leaders, caution must be exercised and they should not be met in front of new members.”

The document further lays emphasis on blending with the local populace, a strategy that has long been the cornerstone of Maoists in the region. “There is a very slow pace to some cadres learning Hindi and Chhattisgarhi. If we don’t know the language, there will be trouble blending in with the people. Enough work is not being put in to learn them,” it says.

On military strategy, the document says, “In every area in every division, we must concentrate on collecting ammunition. Every area should have at least 50 kilos of gunpowder and associated material, 3000 pieces of metal or shrapnel, 25 pipes ready for claymore bombs, 20 bundles of wire, 10 flash(bombs) and other military equipment must be collected every six months.”

Displaying close attention to detail, one paragraph even chastises cadre for not keeping “their rifles on their shoulders”.

“It is being noticed that a cadre is standing next to a tree with the rifle leaning on it. The sentries on support must also keep their weapons loaded. If there is a sound, it must be investigated if it is an animal or something else,” it says.

The document also cautions cadre to keep conversations on walkie talkies and phones short, and use standardised code. The note also warns that too much noise was being made during setting up camps, cleaning of vessels and so on. According to senior police officers, a 58-member team, lead by Maoist commander Surender, has been sent by the leadership to western Chhattisgarh, bordering Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to create the new zone, covering districts like Kabirdham and Mungeli.

They said that while this was a cause for concern, they have been aware of these attempts since April 2016 and have actively worked against it.

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