Maoist: Targeting Intelligence Flows
On August 30, 2022, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres killed Irpa Rama Rao (30), the deputy Sarpanch (head of the Panchayat, village level local self-Government institution) of Kurnapally Gram Panchayat, branding him a ‘police informer’, in the Cherla Mandal (administrative sub-division) of Bhadradri Kothagudem District, Telangana. Police disclosed that four CPI-Maoist came militia (people’s army) members went to Rao’s residence late in the night of August 29, woke up his wife Kanak and told her that they were taking Rao with them. In the early hours on August 30, the militia members brought him back to the village, smashed his head with an axe and left him dead in a pool of blood on the outskirts of the village. A letter from the CPI-Maoist Cherla-Sabari Area Committee was left at the spot, stating that the deceased had been working as a ‘police informer’ and was consequently punished. The letter also cautioned the public not collaborate with the Police for greed of the money offered.
On August 27, 2022, a youth, identified as Ramlal Podai, was killed by CPI-Maoist cadres on the suspicion of being a ‘police informer’ at Khadkarao village under the Forestgaon Police Station limits in Narayanpur District, Chhattisgarh. A group of around 15 armed Maoists stormed Khadkarao village located on the Odisha-Chhattisgarh border late in the night of August 26, barged into Podai’s house and dragged him out to a place on the outskirts of the village where they slit his throat. A letter recovered from the site accused Podai of working as an ‘informer’ for the Police and stated that he was punished for passing on information about Maoist activities in the area. The letter issued by the ‘East Bastar division’ of the CPI-Maoist, also threatened the Police officials of the Forestgaon Police Station.
On August 23, 2022, CPI-Maoist cadres killed Katte Kalyan, a young tribal man, on the pretext of being a ‘police informer’, in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. Armed Maoists went to Kalyan's house and took him out to 'Praja court' (people's/Kangaroo Court held by the Maoists) at some distance from the village. The Maoists tied his hands and then killed him. A Maoist poster stating that Kalyan had been passing on information to the Police for the past few years was found near the dead body.
On August 18, 2022, CPI-Maoist cadres killed Ananta Rout, suspecting him of being a ‘police informer’, at Dhekunpani village located in the Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary in the Nuapada District of Odisha. A native of Chhattisgarh, Rout had relocated to Dhekunpani more than a decade earlier. The Maoists had been after him for the past two years. Rajesh Pandit, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, South-western Range, noted, “Maoists were after him (Rout) for quite some time. They were suspecting that he was acting as informer for the local police.” The CPI-Maoist ‘Mainpur-Sunabeda divisional committee’ pasted a poster soon after the incident claiming responsibility for the incident and warning people against working on behalf of the Police. In pamphlets and posters, the ultras declared that Rout was punished as he was a ‘police informer’.
On August 18, 2022, a villager was shot dead by CPI-Maoist cadres on suspicion of being a ‘police informer’ in the Balaghat District of Madhya Pradesh. The victim was identified as Lalu Dhurve of Jagla village. The Police found handwritten notes near his dead body, which declared that he was punished by the ‘Malajkhand Area Committee’ because he helped the Police.
According to partial data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 26 civilians (16 in Chhattisgarh; three in Maharashtra; two each in Madhya Pradesh and Odisha; one each in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Telangana) have been killed by the Naxalites (Left Wing Extremist), labelling them as ‘police informers’, since the beginning of the current year (all data till September 4, 2022).
In the corresponding period of 2021, at least 17 civilians were killed (eight in Chhattisgarh; three in Odisha; two in Bihar; one each in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra), accused to be ‘police informers.’ In the remaining period of 2021, another 10 civilians were killed (three in Chhattisgarh; two in Madhya Pradesh; one each in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Telangana), on the same pretext.
Significantly, out of 3,930 civilians killed across the country by the Naxalites since March 6, 2000, when SATP started documenting Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence in the country (data till September 4, 2022), as many as 823 civilians were killed by Naxalites, branding them as ‘police informers’. Importantly, the first such incident of killing was recorded on March 28, 2000, when People’s War Group (PWG) killed a former activist of the Radical Youth League in Nizamabad District of Andhra Pradesh. A maximum 76 such killings were reported in 2010.
The geographical distribution of such killings indicates that, since March 6, 2000, Chhattisgarh has recorded 198 such fatalities and was the worst among the 11 States where such fatalities were recorded over this period. Odisha, with 162 such fatalities ranked second; Andhra Pradesh, with 155, third; Jharkhand, with 131, fourth; Maharashtra, with 79, fifth; Bihar, with 49, sixth; West Bengal, with 27, seventh; Madhya Pradesh, with 10, eighth; Telangana, with seven, ninth; Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, with two each, a joint tenth.
As the Maoist insurgency across the country has been successfully contained with strong action by the Security Forces (SFs), and with the Maoists losing their erstwhile strongholds, the suspicions of the Maoists fall increasingly on civilians, on the assumption that their movements have been compromised by a leakage of information. To check their cadre losses, the Maoists have been killing civilians on the suspicion of their collaboration with the police. In most of these civilian killings, the Maoists leave a letter/leaflet/pamphlet, warning villagers not to help the Police, on pain of death.
Meanwhile, according to an August 26, 2022, report, the Maoists released a chilling video of a 'Praja court' trial, to create an atmosphere of terror among civilians living in the Maoist-affected areas. The purported video hearing, somewhere in the dense forests of Telangana, depicted a person being blindfolded, with hands tied behind his back, who had abandoned the Maoists and surrendered to the Police, to join the mainstream, and was suspected of helping the Police.
With SFs strengthening their position more and more against the Maoists in the latter’s erstwhile strongholds, the Maoists have once again intensified their campaign against suspected ‘police informers’, hoping to eliminate ‘moles’ or ‘spies’. Such killings had declined between 2018 and 2021, but are now on the rise again in 2022. The rising number of executions suggest growing pressure on the Maoists, even as they will inevitably result in greater alienation of the people from the rebels’ cause, and a loss of their mass base.