India Today - - UPFRONT - —San­deep Un­nithan

At a meet­ing on May 8 of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from ten states af­fected by leftwing ex­trem­ism, home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh asked for an es­ca­la­tion of the drive against Maoists. The day-long con­clave had been called to re­fo­cus the gov­ern­ment’s Maoist strat­egy in the wake of the deaths of 37 CRPF troop­ers in the past two months. Un­usu­ally, Ra­j­nath Singh also spoke of tar­get­ing the Maoist lead­er­ship through ar­rests.

The Maoists are man­i­fested as a tribal army trained in in­fantry tac­tics, who ambush se­cu­rity forces in cen­tral In­dia. Mean­while, the se­nior lead­ers of the banned CPI(Maoist)—seven polit­buro mem­bers and 13 cen­tral committee mem­bers, mostly from united Andhra Pradesh—are un­der­ground. The lead­ers pro­vide what a 2014 US mil­i­tary coun­terin­sur­gency man­ual calls, ‘vi­sion, di­rec­tion, guid­ance, co­or­di­na­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tional co­her­ence’ for the Maoists’ war against the In­dian state.

Seven­teen cen­tral committee and polit­buro mem­bers have been neu­tralised since 2004, the ma­jor­ity of them ar­rested. That they were ar­rested in­di­vid­u­ally shows that the lead­er­ship is dis­persed, but where ex­actly is a mys­tery. That the few ex­ist­ing pho­to­graphs— in­clud­ing of their supremo, Mup­palla Lak­sh­mana Rao, alias Gana­p­a­thy—show them in the jun­gles led to spec­u­la­tion that they are in the deep woods. Ch­hat­tis­garh po­lice of­fi­cials, how­ever, be­lieve

the lead­ers are hid­ing in ur­ban ar­eas. This would not be un­usual—Osama bin Laden, for ex­am­ple, opted to hide in the cities of Pak­istan. The pictures of the Maoist lead­ers, po­lice be­lieve, were taken at cen­tral committee meet­ings held at jun­gle re­doubts. Most of the se­nior lead­ers are tech savvy and carry lap­tops, pos­si­bly in­di­cat­ing the use of on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The home min­istry could learn from the neu­tral­i­sa­tion of the Ma­nipur­based United Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front (UNLF) in 2010. The lead­ers were ar­rested by the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency af­ter be­ing handed over by Bangladeshi author­i­ties—they were lo­cated in Dhaka via a year-long in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tion launched by the In­dian army. With­out sim­i­lar in­tel­li­gence-based oper­a­tions to tackle the Maoist ‘head’, the se­cu­rity forces could well be chas­ing the tail on the ground.

NO WAY OUT Union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh with the CMs of ten Naxal-hit states

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