Monday, February 08, 2010

Cops brace for more hit-&-run attacks, blasts

TNN, 9 February 2010, 02:47am IST

In a tactical war against state forces across the entire eastern zone, Maoist are now more concerned with their defence. They have been forced to change their tactic after facing heavy assaults from security forces in Jangalmahal, who are now better trained, more attuned to the terrain and are determined to fight back.

In a head-on battle, Maoists are always at a disadvantage because of their shortage of ammunition and lack of experienced fighters. This deficiency they often cover with their excellent guerrilla tactics and sound knowledge of the lay of the land. But with the forces showing more aggressiveness and pushing for confrontations, the guerrillas are on the back foot.

As part of the defensive strategy, the Maoists are turning their focus to securing their movement corridors. This is their last refuge in a do-or-die battle. And in this, they mostly depend on their 'special security platoon' and local militias, who are battle-hardened and know the ins and outs of the forest corridors.

To secure their routes, they have stopped their expansion tactic, say sources. And to divert the attention of the forces, they are launching hit-and-run attacks in new areas like Birbhum.

There has also been a reorganisation of their network. Before the Lalgarh movement, Maoists had five squads and one platoon active in Bengal and the bordering areas of Jharkhand & Orissa. According to organisational structure then, the area was under the Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa zonal committee.

But recently, after successful territorial expansion in Jangalmahal, the Maoists had delinked their West Bengal chapter from BJO zonal committee and created a new zone — Bankura-Purulia-Midnapore — and selected Bikash as the zonal secretary. From this organisational structure, Bikash — whose real name is apparently Mansaram Hembram — is the second-in-command after military strategist Kishanji. Which means that in Kishanji's absence, it is Bikash who will control both the organisational and military activities of the outfit in Bengal.

Accordingly they have formed new squads. There are at least 10 squads active in Jangalmahal now, say sources.
The security forces are throwing everything they have at the guerrillas — from aerial patrols, satellite monitoring and cellphone surveillance to mortars, machine-guns and more sophisticated firepower. In such a situation, the Maoists are adopting 'hit and run' tactics and strengthening their local information network.

Some months ago, the Maoist leadership had chalked out a blueprint to combat the impending assault, where the emphasis was on small squads and regular shifting of camps. Following the plan, in the past two weeks, Maoists have shifted most of their camps from the forest villages in Lalgarh and Salboni and moved towards new locations believed to be closer to the towns. Most of the time they mingle among the villagers.

As their members are more friendly with the forest routes and village roads, they prefer to move after sundown. Even Kishanji is reportedly visiting Lalgarh villages after dark to maintain the Maoist influence on villages they have been forced to quit. These are the same villages that police claim to be dominating.

At hamlets like Madhupur and Garwa of Salboni block, once known as Maoist strongholds, the scene has changed. During the daytime, you no longer see armed Maoists moving about freely. There is no sign of the guerrillas. But at night, the rebels sneak in, collect information from villagers and keep their supply lines intact.

With a strong local network, Maoists keep getting information about police movements and manage to swiftly change their hideouts.

Kishanji's three close shaves in the last few weeks prove how swift they are getting information about police movement even without any sophisticated communication system. "Small groups of guerrillas are watching the situation patiently and waiting for a suitable moment to counterattack," said a source.

The weakest or isolated part of a force — the last straggling van, a supply vehicle or an exhausted patrol party — will be their target.

More Maoists in Bengal are now armed with sophisticated arms like AKs, SLRs, Insas rifles and even improvised mortars. But their trump card is still the IED — a weapon of sheer terror for the forces. There may be more IED attacks in the days to come.

No comments: