Chhattisgarh’s demand for additional firepower against Maoists and the assurances it has got from the Centre come at a time when the Maoists have consolidated in key pockets, BJP leaders are facing allegations of an understanding with the rebels, and when the party won most of the Lok Sabha seats in Naxal-dominated districts across states.
After Chief Minister Raman Singh presented Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with a list of demands Monday, the state government has issued a statement expressing satisfaction with the Centre for approving 12 battalions and promising additional helicopters.
The new government at the Centre was sworn in, coincidentally, a year almost to the date after the attack on a Congress convoy in Darbha on May 25, 2013. Since then, there has been little progress in the offensive against Naxals. The NIA is yet to file a chargesheet on the attack, while Darbha saw two more attacks during the recent polls, leading to 23 deaths.
The Centre had sanctioned Rs 150 crore for 75 police stations in Maoist-hit areas of Chhattisgarh years ago, but not one has been completed. “Fifty-six are under construction and a proposal for a change of place for 15 is pending with the Centre,” says a police officer. For some existing police stations, such as Bhadrakali in Bijapur, one needs to boat across a river. Others, like the one in Farsegarh, look like hutments.
Gains amid losses
Last month, the CPI(Maoist) brought on board the group CPI(ML) Naxalbari, which operates in Kerala and Karnataka. “The recent expansion in the southern part of the Western Ghats is proof that the flames of revolution will continue…,” read the merger statement by CPI(Maoist) general secretary Muppala Laxman Rao alias Ganapathy and CPI(ML) Naxalbari secretary Ajith.
In a January 22 letter to top police officers of Maoist-hit states, the home ministry had noted that Ganpathy has managed various factions well in difficult times. The acknowledgment came after the Maoists too had been admitting setbacks.
Last year, The Indian Express had reported a resolution from a CPI(Maoist) central committee meeting in which top leaders admitted having lost their base, weaponry and acdres across zones. This year, the Maoists have noted some recovery amid the setbacks. “The recruitment target was achieved in south region (Sukma, Bijapur and Dantewada). Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign was also achieved in south region,” reads a resolution, again accessed by The Indian Express, from the Dandakaranaya Special Zonal Committee’s annual meeting in February.
It goes on to describe the setbacks: “TCOC failed in north and west regions. We failed to stop deserters…” The resolution attributes desertions to “enhanced low-intensity conflict of the enemy, our lack of confidence, non-proletariat inclinations and our moral mistakes, the degradation of communist ideals… non-resolution of issues of cadres.” It notes that several cadres promoted too quickly later deserted.
The Maoists had set up unified commands in all three regions of Dandakaranaya last year. The resolution notes that the southern unicom worked well and the northern and western ones did not.
It acknowledges as a mistake the killing of journalists Sai Reddy and Nemichand Jain. “If… mediapersons are found to be involved in anti-party activities, then it should be thoroughly probed… They should be given a warning more than once, and elimination should be only the last resort.”
BJP in red zone
Of the 19 Lok Sabha seats in the 26 districts nationwide that the home ministry identifies as severely hit by Maoists, the BJP has won 13 and its ally the LJP one.
If police investigations have often hinted at a BJP understanding with Maoists, the electoral performance has revived such allegations. “Curiously enough again, during elections, your party has never targeted the BJP candidates in Chhattisgarh, who have continued to get elected all these years — even from constituencies which are your base areas. Can you please explain this intriguing phenomenon?” wrote veteran journalist Sumanta Banerjee, once associated with the Naxal movement in Bengal, in an open letter to Ganapthy.
“Curiously enough, your landmines have not targeted any top brass of the Sangh Parivar and its gangsters. Why? Is there any tacit understanding between your armed squads and the local BJP politicians, and corporate houses in your areas of control?”
He ended his letter by urging Ganapathy: “Can you please ask your cadres to preserve their firepower, and keep dry whatever little gunpowder is still left in your armoury, to be able to fight the agents of Hindu fascism?”