Im­pact of Maoist at­tacks falls as forces gain ground

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - NATION | MY INDIA MY VOTE - Ritesh Mishra let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

RAIPUR: Maoist have struck thrice in Ch­hat­tis­garh’s Bas­tar since elec­tions to five states were an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 6, but their in­flu­ence and abil­ity to stage strikes ap­pears to be wan­ing with se­cu­rity forces turn­ing up the heat, po­lice data shows. Bas­tar will go to the polls on No­vem­ber 12 .

Till No­vem­ber 8 this year, 203 in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence in­volv­ing Maoists and se­cu­rity forces were re­ported from the state against 265 in 2017, ac­cord­ing to po­lice data. In this pe­riod, the num­ber of rebels killed by se­cu­rity forces was 103, up from 77 last year – an in­crease of about 33%. But the num­ber of se­cu­rity per­son­nel killed fell to 48 from 59 last year – a de­crease of about 18%.

If com­pared to 2013 (the last state elec­tion year), the num­ber of ca­su­al­ties have fallen dra­mat­i­cally. There were 143 in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence that year, in which the Maoists killed 159 civil­ians and 111 se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

Among the civil­ian ca­su­al­ties were 24 Congress lead­ers, in­clud­ing then state party chief Nand Ku­mar Pa­tel and for­mer state min­is­ter Ma­hen­dra Karma, who were killed in an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice (IED) ex­plo­sion in Sukma.

Ac­cord­ing to spe­cial di­rec­tor gen­eral of po­lice (anti-naxal op­er­a­tions) DM Awasthi, the Maoists have tried to step up vi­o­lence ahead of this year’s polls pri­mar­ily to scare vot­ers but they have not been able to pull off a mas­sive strike as they did dur­ing pre­vi­ous elec­tions. Still it isn’t for want of try­ing; in the past 52 days forces in the re­gion have un­earthed 42 IEDs, a se­cu­rity forces of­fi­cial said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

On Thurs­day, the Maoists blew up a bus with an IED in Dan­te­wada, killing four civil­ians and a CISF jawan. On Oc­to­ber 30, three po­lice­men and Do­or­dar­shan cam­er­ap­er­son Achyu­tanand Sahu were killed in a Maoist at­tack in Dan­te­wada. Three days be­fore that, four CRPF per­son­nel were killed and two in­jured when the rebels blew up a bul­let-proof bunker ve­hi­cle in Bi­japur.

In 2013, af­ter the elec­tions were an­nounced, there were 35 in­ci­dents of Maoist vi­o­lence, po­lice data shows. “The re­cent at­tacks this year were by the Maoist jan mili­tias (foot sol­diers), not by the bat­tal­ions that are known for am­bushes,” Awasthi said. The num­ber of se­cu­rity per­son­nel killed has come down from 111 in 2013 to 48 till No­vem­ber 8, 2018.

The po­lice have listed mul­ti­ple fac­tors for the diminu­tion in Maoists’ strik­ing power. “Bet­ter mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity has helped us to im­prove in­tel­li­gence and roads have pro­vided the forces ac­cess to new areas in the Bas­tar re­gion,” Awasthi said.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice of­fi­cers, the core areas of Maoist in­flu­ence are now lim­ited to three dis­tricts in Bas­tar re­gion — Sukma, Bi­japur and Dan­te­wada — as com­pared to seven about a decade ago. But Alok Pu­tul, a Raipur­based ex­pert on Maoists, said con­fin­ing the rebels to three dis­tricts did not mean they were get­ting weak. “Since they are ex­perts in guer­rilla war­fare, they know when and where to at­tack. Re­cruit­ment and train­ing by Maoists is go­ing on,” he said.

Congress spokesper­son RP Singh ac­cused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gov­ern­ment of be­ing “in­ef­fec­tive” in erad­i­cat­ing vi­o­lence in Maoist-af­fected areas.

“In 2003, when the Congress was in power, there were only three blocks that were Maoist-af­fected. Now, 15 dis­tricts are un­der the grip of the Maoists. Even the chief min­is­ter’s dis­trict Kawardha is af­fected, which re­flects the in­ten­tion and ca­pa­bil­ity of the BJP gov­ern­ment,” Singh said.

BJP spokesper­son Sacchi­nand Upasane claimed that devel­op­ment reached Bas­tar for the first time un­der BJP rule and weaned away peo­ple from the rebels’ in­flu­ence. “They (Maoists) wanted to cre­ate hur­dles in the elec­tion process but they will not be suc­cess­ful due to pres­sure by se­cu­rity forces,” Upasane said.

The Elec­tion Com­mis­sion has de­ployed 65,000 ad­di­tional se­cu­rity per­son­nel for the two-phase Ch­hat­tis­garh elec­tions on No­vem­ber 12 and 20

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