Do not carry mobile phones with SIM cards, do not access websites on the radar of Intelligence agencies, store important documents in memory cards, tap WhatsApp. These are some of the guidelines issued by the Maoist leadership in Chhattisgarh to the cadre, marking a significant update in their propaganda’s tech machinery, according to a document retrieved by state police.
The 25-page document, recovered after an encounter in April, states that for the first time, cadre up to the level of divisional commander have been allowed the use of mobile phones and tablets for easy access to reading material.
As The Indian Express reported Tuesday, the document also reveals plans to create a new zone of operations along the state’s western border, covering pockets in districts such as Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, Gondia in Maharashtra, and northern Rajnandgaon and parts of Kabirdham and Mungeli in Chhattisgarh. The New Red Lines: Read the full series here
The document, which describes the new area as the MMC (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Confluence) zone, confirms that “mobile phones and WhatsApp” are now being used to spread information about the party in these areas.
Under a paragraph titled “The spread of propaganda”, the document states: “Propaganda is being carried out via pamphlets, banners, posters, statements and these days through mobile phones and WhatsApp. After taking decisions, we must concentrate quickly on propaganda material and this must also be planned… We cannot depend only on computers.”
In a separate section on the use of mobile phones and tablets, it says permission has been granted to cadre up to the level of divisional commander for “leadership expansion and the ease of reading material as opposed to carrying books”.
These are some of the other guidelines mentioned in the document, which was examined by The Indian Express:
# “Sim cards should not be used in these phones. Every electronic device has a microchip which conducts its primary functioning. And every one has an IEMI number which recognises other devices. These days, every smartphone or tablet has GPS tracking facilities. When your phone comes into mobile service or WiFi internet service, it gets registered on their servers.”
# “It is wrong to believe that locations are not revealed if you download from the internet. Special websites are under the watch of intelligence agencies, and it is noted that what site is being accessed from where how many times. This has to be kept in mind while downloading.”
# “Do not keep important documents in the inbuilt memory of phones. Keep these in a separate memory card and use it when needed. For other documents keep a separate memory card.”
# “Attach your device to an updated computer and scan for viruses every six months. Acquire an anti virus that can be put in the phone if possible.”
# Keep WiFi switched off on the phones. When a download is required, give permission to your device, or else ordinarily keep it on the mode where permission is not granted. Switch on Bluetooth when required or keep it off.”
Senior Chhattisgarh Police officers, who have studied the document, told The Indian Express that this shift in stance was likely due to two reasons.
“Often, after an exchange of fire, even if there are no casualties, the Maoists have to leave their camps in a hurry, leaving material behind. This literature tells us of their status, strength and other strategic aspects. If they begin to use memory cards in phones, which they carry on their person, we will potentially only get this information if there is an arrest, or a body recovered,” said an officer.
“Secondly, even though there are connectivity blackout areas deep inside the forests of Rajnandgaon and Kabirdham, the mobile network is better than in Bastar. That may also have prompted this decision, because there is a need to adapt,” the officer said.
According to police officers, the instructions, believed to have been drafted by the “MMC leading team”, may have been passed on to other area committees and zones as well.
“This would not have happened without the clearance of the central committee or senior leadership, and it is possible that these principles apply to parts of or entire zones, divisions and committees as well,” said another officer.