BUOYED BY recent success in encounters with Maoists, security forces in Chhattisgarh are planning to push harder and target the “Jan Militia”, or local sympathisers of the left-wing extremists, through arrests and detention, a senior CRPF officer told The Indian Express.
“Thanks to good coordination with the state police, we have been conducting successful operations in the last couple of years, and the Maoists have been pegged back. We believe it is now time to shift focus to the Jan Militia,” the officer said.
“These are local villagers, mainly tribals, who are increasingly being used as footsoldiers to plant and trigger IEDs, and place spikes on jungle paths. They were operating with impunity because our focus was on the armed fighters,” the CRPF officer said.
Wary of being accused of human rights violations, the security forces operating in the region had so far not targetted the “Jan Militia” who are primarily farmers or villagers who live off the forest. Instead, they have focussed on the commanders or leaders of “dalams”, or Maoist units, to destabilise the movement.
“We are working out strategies to identify these Jan militia, arrest them and put them on trial. We have to ensure they understand the consequences of helping Maoists. A majority of tribals help the Maoists out of fear. If we push back the dalams and target the Jan militia, we will be able to give the people a sense of security,” the officer said.
Senior security officials, however, warn that there are “serious challenges” to any such move.
“If not handled properly, there is a fair chance of the move backfiring with greater alienation of tribals, and the state coming across as an oppressor. Such a move needs to be coupled with massive civic outreach and confidence-building measures. The forces will need to win the hearts of the local people,” said a senior official. “The problem is the state administration is still missing on the ground. There are no teachers in school, no doctors in hospitals. There is no connectivity in terms of roads. Unless the state appears to be giving and protecting more than the Maoists, the tribals will not warm up to the forces,” the official said.
According to data available with the Home Ministry, 177 Maoists have been killed in encounters up to August 2018, mainly in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli and Chhattisgarh’s Sukma. The data show that 135 Maoists were killed in this region in 2017, 221 in 2016 and 102 in 2015.
At the same time, the data show that IEDs and spikes are increasingly being used by Maoists to thwart the movement of forces in the jungles — the CRPF recovered 116 IEDs and 464 spikes in Chhattisgarh till October this year.