In a move that will severely hit the operational strength of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in Jharkhand’s most affected regions, the Latehar Police and 11th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have nabbed a zonal commander who was involved in multiple killings in the region for over a decade. Narayan Yadav alias Kaushal (40) was nabbed early this morning when he was visiting his lover’s house Palleya village under the Manika Police Station in Latehar.
With a total of 25 cases registered against his name, Yadav carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh on his head and his arrest will severely dent the insurgent group’s capability.
“It is a big boost for us. Yadav’s association with the Maoists runs deep. He has been involved with them since 1998, when it was called the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC),” said Dr. Michael Raj, Superintendent of Police, Latehar. He was arrested in the past but had managed to flee from the prison, a decade ago.
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Giving details of the operation, being termed as an intelligence-based one, an officer revealed, “We got an input about him coming to meet a woman he was in love with. This input came in by 11:30pm last night and we mobilised a platoon (nearly 30 men) and trekked into the region for nearly four hours to reach the spot.” When the place was identified, it was cordoned off and Yadav tried hiding but troops stormed in and made the arrest. Yadav was alone at the time of his arrest. From the site, the joint team recovered his personal .315 rifle, four cartridges, two detonators as well as Maoist literature – an indication of how he was unguarded and not expecting an arrest.
As of now, Yadav has been remanded to judicial custody and the police will seek his custody soon. A native of the same village where he was arrested, Yadav joined the ranks when the entire area was dominated by the Maoists.
BOX: Recent incidents in Latehar, Jharkhand
January 2013: 11 men from the CRPF were killed when they were ambushed in the Katiya forest
March 2013: 24 LPG cylinders, 18 pressure cookers and six kilograms of explosives recovered
April 2013: Maoists blew up railway tracks at 10:30pm, roughly 309 minutes before the passage of Rajdhani Express
April 2013: Seven Maoist cadres gunned down in a gun battle
June 2013: Eight Maoists shot down in a gun battle
September 2013: Maoists abducted ten children to recruit them as soldiers. One of them died while he was being trained.
November 2013: Five security forces personnel injured in an encounter
November 2013: 22 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) seized by forces
It is a discovery which has shaken the security forces operating in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected areas of central India. Indications are that the insurgents may no longer remain confined to the rural regions, launching attacks using outdated modes.
A camp belonging to the splinter group of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) in Jharkhand’s Simdega district which was busted in the last week of December 2013, has revealed the presence of remote control and timer-based Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), a first of sorts. “It was a camp of the PLFI, which we see as a splinter group of the Maoists which was busted and what was revealed is indeed something new. They have utilized these devices recently in the district and around and it is a worrying trend.” He went on the state how the PLFI has utilized these devices for pursuing criminal ends and not to target security forces. “But with the discovery of such a capability, we can not rule out anything,” said Asim Minz, Superintendent of Police, Simdega, which lies the south eastern region of the state in proximity to West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which, in an inter-state operation, stumbled upon this manufacturing unit has termed this discovery a success.
“This unit had the capability of manufacturing close to three hundred weapons. It also had lathe machines and generators which had been stolen from a BSNL tower. Additionally, we recovered close to 70-kg of explosive from there,” said Director General (DG) CRPF Dilip Trivedi.
Former Home Secretary RK Singh, reacting to this discovery, stated, “This was being anticipated. The insurgents have been attempting at upgrading their weaponry. What these remote-controlled and timer devices do is that they take away the need for deploying an individual, which has been their practice. It is a big challenge before our agencies to bust this enhancement especially the links that these insurgents have with underground groups in north eastern states.”
The Maoists, who have been indoctrinating children and using them for their missions for decades, recently suffered a setback to their catch-them-young agenda.
The rebels first deployed children as spies, couriers and most recently, foot soldiers – a trend associated with the Taliban or African insurgent groups. However, the death of a 10-year-old boy during a training session and subsequent escape of many other children from captivity reveal that their plans are going awry.
————————————————————————————————————————————–Pardeshi Lohra was one among the 10 people – eight children and two adults – abducted recently by the Maoists from tribal-dominated Bandhua village in Latehar, one of the Naxal hotbeds in Jharkhand. He was killed while planting a bomb. Around 48 hours after he was abducted on September 13, Lohra’s injury-riddled body returned home wrapped in a blanket. The parents were asked to bury the body and keep quiet. In the subsequent days, the remaining nine somehow escaped from the rebels’ clutches, but the harrowing experience has forced them to flee the village. “Lohra did not connect the wires properly,” said Bhamru (name changed) – one of the children who fled the Maoists’ captivity – referring to what the police believe is training in laying Improvised Explosive Device (IED) gone wrong.
The villagers, according to the police, are facing such hardships for flouting the Maoists’ diktat by felling trees. “They had cleared some trees for agricultural purposes, which the Maoists had objected to. Enraged rebels asked the villagers to shell out Rs.5,000 per tree felled, something they cannot afford,” Michael Raj, superintendent of police in Latehar, said.
Those who defied the diktat got another option – one member from each family should join the Maoists’ fold. “According to the villagers, that’s why they abducted 10 people,” Raj said. Getting a tonsure ahead of his son’s funeral, Bhilokhan Lohra told Mail Today, “How will I make Rs.5,000? My son wanted to study.”
Though the village is located around 10km from the Herhanj police station, the police received news of Lohra’s death only 48 hours after his burial. The police and the CRPF men then arrived at the village and exhumed Lohra’s body and sent it for autopsy, which confirmed blast injuries as the cause of death.
The houses of those who escaped from the Maoists were locked. Despite the district administration’s repeated assurances that the escaped children would be sent to residential schools, where they will be provided with free food, accommodation and education, they chose to leave the village.
“The villagers have little faith in the administration and are sure that such incidents would recur. We don’t want to make things difficult for us. Maoists have been coming here for years.
They demand food sometimes but never have they harmed us,” said Kaleshwar Lohra, a villager. District Collector Aradhana Patnaik said a special team was probing the incident. “We will, if need be, provide the villagers with new ‘pattas’ of land.
Freed trio stares at uncertainty
Magan (16), Ram (14) and Sudesh* (12) are clueless about what the future holds for them, but they know the worst is behind them. More than a year ago, the three were picked up, on separate occasions, at gunpoint by the insurgents and inducted into the ‘party’.
Ram was given a gun, and the other two cooked for the platoon. The memories of their time under abduction still fill them with terror – they recalled how their parents’ desperate entreaties to the Maoists for their release would be answered with death threats.
“Party members never said anything (to us). They only made me walk endlessly and then cook. Whenever I said I wanted to go back, I was abused,” Sudesh recounted. The trio was eventually rescued by the police, but is still being kept away from their families, because of a looming threat of retribution by the rebels.
As a stretched police force tries hard to “at least keep them healthy and secure”, the children await formal education; their future yet uncertain.
Eyeing young blood to reinforce ranks
If the security forces are to be believed, Maoists are reeling under a severe manpower crunch – the fact that recruitment is low does not help. By abducting children, the red rebels are reportedly looking to reinforce their ranks with young blood. Says Latehar Superintendent of Police Michael Raj: “Since 2011, their cadres have dwindled owing to regular arrests and encounter deaths. By abducting children and training them, they get young blood with a mind that is like a clean slate, making it very easy to plaster their ideology on them.”
In the recent past, several senior leaders of CPI (Maoist)’s local hierarchy have been arrested or killed. They include:
1. Prabhat Mochi, member, Special Area Committee2. Anup Thakur, member, Special Area Military Committee3. Indrajeet, company commander of the Eastern Regional Bureau (ERB)-1
4. Pawan Ganju, zonal commander
5. Umesh Yadav, zonal commander
6. Shyamlal Yadav, sub-zonal commander
7. Shekhar Kurva, company commander ERB-1 (killed)
8. Naresh Kerwal, sub-zonal commander (killed)
Coping with silence
One of the eight children abducted, Bhamru (name changed) was with Pardeshi Lohra when the explosive the latter was reportedly trying to plant went off. The police say the Maoist abductors were training the children in planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Recalling the incident, Bhamru said timidly: “He did not connect the wires properly.” When we met him, Bhamru was wearing something closely resembling a school uniform, and was visibly reluctant to meet our gaze, perhaps still haunted by his experience in Maoist custody.
He was not ready to talk about it, and only revealed that his captors made him walk a lot. And that he walked for hours on end to escape them once out of their clutches.
The ghosts are likely to haunt him for a long time – especially as the administration has made no efforts to get the children counselled to help them deal with the trauma they have just experienced.
Three days after the incident in Jharkhand’s Chatra district where ten members, including top zonal leaders of the outlawed CPI Maoist, were killed by a lesser-known group Tritiya Prastuti Committee, an audio tape has been released supposedly by Gopal’ji’ of the Bihar-Jharkhand-Uttari Chattisgarh Special Area Committee.
In the 5:36m long message, the speaker has shared his side of the story.
“On the 27th of March, our members from the PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army) were camping in Lakramanda Tola. They were subsequently encircled and fired upon by a team consisting of TPC members and the local police. (Mind you the tape does not mention CRPF) The firing lased from 3pm to 12 midnight, completing depleting our ammunition. That is when we surrendered.
Our senior leaders were then take hostage and assaulted. Some were killed by their heads being crushed under heavy stones and others were shot in cold blood. Around 25 members of that team surrendered. We fear for their lives.
Towards this, we shall observe April 6 and 7th as bandh in Bihar and Jharkhand and will avenge these deaths.”
Troops fighting Naxal violence continue to be denied the technological edge already paid for by the govt. On the other hand, an ‘upset’ Home Ministry will duplicate assets and splurge thousands of crores because the spy agency NTRO rides roughshod with them
Sitting 50 yards away from the site of the deadly encounter which claimed the lives of nine of his ‘boys’ in Latehar, Jharkhand, in the first week of January, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer said, “But for a UAV, the tables would have turned. We would have spotted their ambush and planned accordingly.” This commander’s suffering is neither new nor unattended to. Yet it is unlikely to be adequately addressed anytime soon.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Technological Research Organisation (NTRO), which operates the UAVs across central India for electronic intelligence, are unable to match steps. So much so that the Home Secretary RK Singh now wants CRPF to ‘reduce its dependence on NTRO/Indian Air Force’ by raising an entirely new fleet of UAVs – a complex, costly & time-consuming task.
Why the UAVs are so important
Flown and controlled from Hyderabad’s Begumpet airport, NTRO’s UAV (Israeli-made HERON) relays live images of the situation back to the control room with the help of a high-resolution camera on its belly and satellite networking, which is then shared with the troops.
For the CRPF, the entry of UAVs changed the game. Not only could the forces know the exact area of the Maoists’presence, but could also asses the topography and execute an operation – an edge they NEVER had. Seeing the utility of UAVs the CRPF is now working on establishing an Air Surveillance Unit (ASU) to ‘continuously monitor’ the movements of the insurgents. This even as there is growing clamour from within to fly more number of these assets from larger number of bases for all round coverage.
The then Director General of the CRPF, K Vijay Kumar wrote to the Union Home Secretary RK Singh in December 2011, commending the UAV’s role in the first-ever UAV-aided operation in Chattisgarh, but also warning, “The UAV almost took three hours to reach from Hyderabad and could effectively be utilised only for 3-3 1/2 hours for the area of operation.” He advised Singh to take up the issue and make NTRO shift to bases closeby.
Why the game-changer lost steam
Notwithstanding the initial success, issues have remained particularly in terms of the manpower the NTRO provided for UAV operations and unpreparedness to shift out of Hyderabad.
On November 17, 2011, the Chairman, NTRO informed the then Home Minister P Chidambaram of ‘certain logistical problems’ in shifting out of Begumpet. Not to give up, in December, Chidambaram wrote to the National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon to whom the NTRO reports. Terming the operations from Begumpet as ‘extremely limited and skewed’, Chidambaram stated that the ‘deficient crew inhibited operational efficiency’. This author in fact learned that of the 110 requests placed by the CRPF for UAVs to fly in 2012, the NTRO flew them only on 26 occasions.
A senior CRPF officer narrated, “In February 2012, we were told that two additional bases were being expeditiously created for UAV operations.” That there was no change was evident when an exasperated Chidambaram warned the NTRO in a meeting on April 20, 2012 to shift out of Begumpet ‘within two months’. “Yet even today, they continue to operate only from there,” said a source. Out of the total nine states affected by the Maoist insurgency, Begumpet base barely ensures a coverage of only Odisha, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh leaving out Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.
The road ahead
The CRPF has made it clear that UAVs will have to continue flying, with or without the NTRO. The MHA has given the go ahead to the CRPF to acquire ten mini-UAVs and also firm up their Qualitative Requirements (QRs) for regular UAVs like Heron. All of this may mean incurring more than Rs 1000 crore, besides duplication.
A senior officer from the NTRO informed that work is already in progress and within a couple of months they will begin operations from an additional base in Chattisgarh. “Our UAVs are biggest-ones available, the High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE). Thus it is not very easy to simply shift them and start operating. A lot of related infrastructure which includes an Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and specialization goes in. It takes time,” he said. It was not clear if with an additional base, the NTRO was also deploying an additional ground station.
It is learnt that the entire UAV operations of the NTRO are controlled by an Air Vice Marshal (AVM) from the Indian Air Force (IAF), who is on deputation with his office in New Delhi. Further, the entire staff he has is also from the Air Force. An IAF spokesperson confirmed this by adding that the Air Force staff reports to the Chairman NTRO and not the Air Chief, which according to informed sources made things complicated. “Why do you think the army was forced into acquiring their aviation wing and now attack helicopters? We face similar problems with them. No effort is made to understand the ground situation. All they do is operate as per the book,” said a MHA official.
The spy agency, a creation of the post-Kargil K Subrahmanyam committee, has no independent cadre like the Research and Analysis Wing (R & AW) does. It is thus staffed by men on deputation.
VIEW my report on subject, which was aired on HEADLINES TODAY on March 5, 2012: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/video/anti-naxal-operations-drones-uavs-union-government-crpf-ntro/1/252697.html
For the men fighting the Maoist insurgency, 2013 has been a bad year. After losing ten men in Jharkhand’s Latehar district in the first week of the year, an internal study of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) compiled by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has revealed that the forces are losing their grip on the Red brigade. A copy of this assessment accessed, examines the performance of the forces over the last two years in the nine ‘affected’ states, manages to hit newer ground.
While in 2011, 72 Maoists were killed, in 2012, forces could achieve only 50 ‘kills’. Worryingly, the number of men from the CRPF, the lead agency in the anti-Maoist operations, killed rose from 26 in 2011 to 37 last year. Not surprisingly CRPF’s kill ratio, has dropped to 1.35 in 2012 as against 2.77 in 2011. The states where the CRPF lost most men last year were Maharashtra (13), Bihar (11), Chattisgarh (7), Jharkhand (4), Andhra Pradesh (2) and West Bengal (2). Casualties have drastically reduced in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.
‘Conversion’ ratio, measured as number of kills achieved per encounter, too sees the CRPF suffering a reversal with only 50 rebels killed in 148 encounters, achieving a ratio of 0.34 against 72 deaths in 161 encounters, a ratio of 0.43.
IEDs most lethal
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the most preferred weapon of the Maoists, have proved themselves yet again. “More than 62% of our deaths are on account of the IEDs, which either hit our MPVs or are anti-personnel mines,” said a senior MHA official.
In 2012, the rebels had blasted a CRPF van in Maharashtra and a Mine Protection Vehicle (MPV) in Bihar. Sources added that despite so many casualties, only now the CRPF has managed to float a new tender for better MPVs. “Maoists know our MPVs so well that they are able to blast them with ease. Yet we have been very slow,” he said.
Cross-border operations picking up
Maoist insurgents often known to seek sanctuaries by exploiting inter-state boundaries, are now facing intensive efforts. “Maximum cooperation exists today between Jharkhand and surrounding states. Results between Uttar-Pradesh-Bihar, Andhra Pradesh-Chattisgarh, & Maharashtra-Chattisgarh too are picking up,” said an officer.
The number of apprehensions too have dropped from around 1683 in 2011 to 1358 in 2012, with Bihar (346) leading the way followed by Jharkhand (263), Andhra Pradesh (239), Odisha (131), Chattisgarh (127) and Maharashtra (102). “The problem is in convicting those apprehended.
In the Dantewada massacre of 2010, where we lost 76 personnel, ten were arrested but were acquitted due to lack of evidence,” recounted a senior CRPF officer.
Home Ministry pitches for more resources
Informed sources said that the MHA has cleared several purchases for the CRPF including Light Machine Guns (LMGs), Night Vision Devices (NVDs), Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL) and assault rifles. “Also, we are improving our coordination, cross border operations and tactics. We are in a much better shape than in the past,” said a senior officer.
Admitting to the findings, a source said, “We are hitting the Naxals where they were known to be invincible like Abujmadh in Chattisgarh and Saranda in Jharkhand. These statistics should not dampen our spirits. It was also learnt that the MHA has tasked the CRPF with preparation of encounter reports on monthly and quarterly basis to have a better grip on things.
Of all paramilitary forces, CRPF has maximum deployment in Naxal-affected areas with over 75 battalions (50,000 men) spread across nine states
Survey studied data from nine states over last two years
2010 was by far the worst year, with the CRPF losing over 150 men
Lack of human and technical intelligence remains the biggest handicap