Ranchi, March 5: Six civilians allegedly killed by rebels over the last weekend give credence to a peculiar problem that Jharkhand, the worst “LWE-affected” Indian state in 2013 (LWE a government shorthand for left-wing extremism), is grappling with.
According to police records tabled till February 25, 2014, rebel violence has gone down but the number of civilian casualties is unchanged since 2011.
If rebel violence comprises the whole spectrum — attacks on thanas, outposts, pickets and railway infrastructure; encounters, landmine explosions and lives lost directly and indirectly in them; so-called capital punishments awarded at kangaroo courts or jan adalats — civilian casualties refer to specific targets, usually police informers and rival groups (see box).
In 2014, till February 25, 35 incidents related with Naxalite violence have occurred, with nine civilian casualties. This does not include the four deaths in Gumla and two Simdega over the past weekend.
Civilian casualties have increased due to the mushrooming of splinter groups. Besides CPI(Maoist), breakaway factions and splinter groups include TSPC (Tritiya Sammelani Prastuti Committee), PLFI (People’s Liberation Front of India), JPC (Jharkhand Prastuti Committee) and lesser known SJMM, RCC and JJMP.
Splinter groups are trying to emerge as heavyweights in their own way. In 2013, of the total 349 cases of rebel violence, members of CPI(Maoist) were involved in 123 and in 221, names of other groups cropped up.
But as newbies challenge the turf of the CPI(Maoist), the scale of violence in inter-faction rivalry has increased.
State police inspector-general (IG) who also happens to be its spokesperson, Anurag Gupta maintained that reduction in rebel-sponsored violence was a “good indication”.
However, Gupta could not provide a satisfactory answer on the big number of civilian casualties. “We have not analysed these so minutely, but overall, reduction of rebel-related violence is good for the state,” he said.
Despite being the worst-hit rebel state in India and the fact that special taskforces such as Jharkhand Jaguars have not reached the stature of say, the Andhra Pradesh commando Greyhounds, state police are bandying about some real achievements since the past six-eight months.
On Union home ministry’s directives in mid-2013, Jharkhand police initiated a phase-wise training on detection, handling and defusing of IEDs commonly used by rebels to target moving police parties. The deadline to complete training of district police personnel was before the start of the election process for Lok Sabha.
With the election schedule announced today, that deadline has just expired.
Police also point to a remarkable downslide in the number of jan adalats or kangaroo courts that rebels called to settle rural disputes, suggestive of the fact that Maoists and splinter organisations are rapidly losing their base.
In 2011, 31 jan adalats were reported, which in 2012 slid down to 20 followed by 10 in 2013. In 2014, so far not a single kangaroo court has been reported.
Also, the amount of levy recovered by the police from rebels is more. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, the corresponding amounts were Rs 36.29 lakh, Rs 48.73 lakh and Rs 46.59 lakh.
Besides police machinery, Jharkhand has over 20 battalions of CRPF as well as two Indian Army Mi-17 armoured choppers to combat rebel operations.