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