Context: Ten security personnel returning from a counter-insurgency operation and a civilian driver were killed when Maoists blew up their vehicle in Dantewada of Chhattisgarh. The deceased jawans were members of the District Reserve Guard (DRG), a locally-raised force designed to carry out anti-Maoist operations. The tri-junction of Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Odisha located right at the southern tip of Sukma district in the south Bastar region is an area that witnesses the highest number of such incidents including the deadly 2010 Maoist ambush in Dantewada where 75 CRPF and one Chhattisgarh police personnel were killed.
Current trends in Left wing extremism in India:
- The influence of Maoists and associated violence has been falling consistently in the country because of multiple factors, including a stronger push by security forces in Maoist strongholds, roads and civic amenities reaching the interiors to a greater extent than earlier, and a general disenchantment with the Maoist ideology among the youth, which has deprived the insurgent movement of new leadership.
- Maoist violence in the country has gone down by 77% since 2010. The number of resultant deaths (security forces + civilians) has come down by 90 % from the all-time high of 1,005 in 2010 to 98 in 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)
- The government has cut the number of districts declared to be Naxal-affected from over 200 in the early 2000s to just 90 now, and claims that the geographical spread of violence is actually restricted to just 45 districts.
- The presence of Naxals is said to be minimal to zero in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Jharkhand, and Bihar, which were at one time their strongholds.
Timing of the attack?
- The CPI(Maoist) carries out Tactical Counter Offensive Campaigns (TCOCs) between February and June every year, in which the focus of its military wing is to inflict casualties on security forces
- This period is chosen because with the onset of the monsoon in July, it becomes difficult to conduct offensive operations in the jungles. With the onset of the monsoon, both the Maoists and the security forces return to their camps.
- Almost all major attacks by Maoists on security forces, including the 2010 Chintalnar massacre of 76 CRPF personnel, have taken place during the TCOC period.
Why Chhattisgarh still remains contested?
- It is the only state in the country where Maoists continue to have a significant presence and retain the capability to mount big attacks. In the last five years (2018-22), 1,132 “violent incidents[were perpetrated by Left Wing Extremists”, in which 168 security forces personnel and 335 civilians lost their lives.
- Chhattisgarh has accounted for more than a third of all Maoist-related violence in this period but the problem is the share in death is extremely high wherein it had a share of 70%-90% of deaths.
- The violence graph in the state for this period has been up and down. Maoists mounted 275 attacks in 2018; the number fell to 182 in 2019, but rose to 241 in 2020. It then declined to 188 in 2021, but rose to 246 in 2022.
- It is a widely accepted principle in counter-Maoist strategy that the war against Left Wing Extremism can only be won by the state police and not central forces. This is because the state police have local knowledge, understand the language, and have local networks that are essential for the generation of intelligence.
- It was through the active involvement of local police in the leading role that states such as Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand were able to end their Maoist problem. All these states formed special units of their police forces with personnel and officers drawn from the state, gave them special training, and won the battle with concerted security and development efforts.
- This process, security establishment started late in Chhattisgarh. By this time, police of neighbouring states had pushed Maoists from their states to Chhattisgarh, making it a concentrated zone of Maoist influence.
- The special unit of the Chhattisgarh Police, the DRG, was raised from the local tribal population and trained to fight Maoists only a few years ago, and has become active relatively recently.
- The absence of roads in the interiors of Bastar has stymied the operations of security forces.
- Minimal presence of the administration in the interiors of South Bastar has ensured that Maoists continue to have influence in the region and enjoy local support through a mix of fear and goodwill.
- Further security officials cite the lack of fool proof technology to detect IEDs and the increasing desperation of Maoists, who are avoiding direct combat with the forces, for such incidents.
Government measures to tackle Left Wing Extremism (LWE)
- Central Government supports the LWE states through Security Related Expenditure (SRE), which focuses on equipping security forces to fight Maoists
- Further the Special Infrastructure Scheme (SIS), which aims to strengthen local police and intelligence set ups
- Special Central Assistance for building infrastructure such as roads in LWE districts, the Centre has maintained a massive presence of the CRPF in the affected states for almost two decades.
- The Centre is also pushing for the erection of mobile towers in the interiors, which would help the local people connect with the mainstream, and also generate technical intelligence
- The Centre has also unleashed the counter-terrorism National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate on CPI(Maoist) cadres, leaders, and sympathisers with the aim to choke their funding.
- The CRPF has also raised a Bastariya Battalion the recruits for which were taken from the local population, who knew the language and terrain, and could generate intelligence. This unit now has 400 recruits and regularly conducts operations in Chhattisgarh.
- Further the CRPF has been consistently enlarging its footprint by opening new camps close to 20 forward operating bases have been set up in Bastar