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Numbers released by the Chhattisgarh government and its anti-Maoist wing on Tuesday show a decrease in numbers of suspected Maoists killed, surrenders of suspected rebels and an increase in number of security personnel killed in Maoist violence.
According to the data, 135 Maoists were killed in 2016. The number falls to nearly half, 76, in 2017. Similarly, number of surrenders has come down from 1,214 in 2016 to 365, less than one-third, in 2017. Number of arrested rebels has gone up from 977 in 2016 to 1,017 and number of security personnel killed has climbed from 39 in 2016 to 59.
Senior officials acknowledged that a rise in personnel deaths was “disturbing and unfortunate”.
“The number of personnel deaths is definitely higher, and this is because of two massive Maoist ambushes in Bhejji and Burkapal in March and April, which claimed 27 lives. In active exchanges of fire, the numbers are not that high. As we push deeper into Maoist territory, it is to be expected that there will be heavier exchanges of fire,” a senior officer said.
D M Awasthi, Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations, told The Indian Express that 1,478 Maoists were “neutralised” this year, including 178 “big cadres”. “What we define as neutralise is that they were either killed, arrested or surrendered. Big cadres are those with a bounty more than Rs 1 lakh. If you look at rewards against some of the Maoists neutralised in 2017, it adds up to about Rs 4.8 crore. This is a record. This year, we have concentrated not on numbers, but quality operations, and this has shown results. We have entered areas such as Tondamarka, and Palodi, which were completely no-go areas in the past,” he said.
The data records 68 weapons recovered this year, as compared to 310 in 2016. Yet, it was in 2017 that police recovered the first LMG and 6 AK 47s as against one in 2016. There was also an increase in number of INSAS, SLR, 9 mm carbine, .303 rifles, 12 bore weapons and .315 bore rifles recovered. In 2016, 181 of the 310 weapons recovered were locally made “bharmar” rifles, with allegations that these were planted after encounters. In the Maoist hierarchy, the higher the level of cadre, the more sophisticated their weapon.
Senior officials counted among positives in 2017 the fall in allegations of human rights excesses. The year 2016 saw several allegations of fake encounters and surrenders and harassment of journalists and activists against state police. “If you look at this year, we have operated in the deepest and the most forward areas, have had higher successes in affecting their higher cadre, and have done so without any allegations of human rights excesses. This is a big bonus. There have been very few murmurs, and those too have largely been countered. This is important because credible policing is the only way forward.”
While allegations of fake surrenders, arrests and encounters have seen a dip, some allegations of fake encounters have come to the fore, especially those in Sukma and Bijapur in December.