Friday, July 31, 2009

Maoists seek to push link-up plan

K. Srinivas Reddy

RAIPUR: The sudden surge in attacks by Maoists on security forces in Chhattisgarh in the last three months points to the implementation of a plan to link up the areas under their control in adjoining Orissa, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, with their base in the Bastar forests of Chhattisgarh.
In addition to a rash of incidents targeting the security forces, the increased movement of the rebels in areas so far relatively peaceful has been causing concern to the Chhattisgarh government.

In four attacks in the last three months, as many as 67 personnel were killed in Jagdalpur, Dhamtari, Rajnandgaon and Dantewara districts. The death roll has even surpassed the casualty figures of security forces in the North East and Kashmir, police officers say.

The spatial spread of the attacks shows that the Maoists have put in place mechanisms to spread their control beyond Abuz Maad in Bastar, and to link up their struggle areas in the neighbouring States. The rebels, however, have been unsuccessful in inching their way into Andhra Pradesh.

The latest offensive is also aimed at dousing any ardour of the para-military forces and the Chhattisgarh police for taking up counter-insurgency operations.

Significantly, the dramatic increase in violence comes in the backdrop of the Centre’s decision to deploy more battalions of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in Chhattisgarh.

The recent attacks occurred at Risgaon of Dhamtari district (11 CRPF men were killed on May 9), Kokawada of Jagdalpur (11 CRPF personnel were killed on June 20), Madanwada of Rajanandgaon (29 State policemen, including the district Superintendent of Police, were killed on July 12), and Barsur of Dantewara (6 CRPF men were killed on July 26).
The strategy seems to be to push the security forces into a strategic defensive mode in these districts and establish control as they did in Abuz Maad.

If they succeed in this, the contiguous area under rebel control would stretch from Gadchiroli and Gondia of Maharashtra, and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh on one side, to Koraput and Malkangiri of Orissa, on the other. The rebels would then plan a re-entry into Andhra Pradesh.

Dhamtari, one of the focus areas, borders Kanker, where Maoist control is already established. The other district, Rajnandgaon, saw rebel activity earlier as it abuts districts in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, but the naxal presence has increased dramatically in recent times. Over 200 naxals were believed to have participated in the July 12 ambush.

Similarly, naxal activity in Jagdalpur was limited to the western side of National Highway 221. With rebel movement increasing on the eastern side, the Maoists could succeed in providing a link to the struggle areas in Koraput and Malkangiri.

The latest ambush between Gidam and Barsur on July 26, which killed six CRPF men, is being seen as a deliberate attempt to discourage the para-military forces from participating in counter-insurgency operations. And the rebels seem to have succeeded — all counter-operations have now been halted in the State in view of the martyrs’ week being observed by the Maoists.

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