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Disturbing Trend

Disturbing Trend

Deepak Kumar Nayak | | 23 Jun 2015, 03:46 pm
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management On June 16, 2015, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) killed a 42-year old Christian pastor, Ramesh Majhi, of Puijhari village under the M. Rampur Police Station limits in Kalahandi District of Odisha, suspecting him of being a 'Police informer'. A Maoist poster recovered near the body stated that Majhi was punished at the Praja Court ('people's court') for working as a 'Police informer'.

Earlier, on June 8, 2015, Maoist cadres killed a villager, identified as Sodi Chandra Singh, on suspicion of being a 'Police informer' near Polamapalli in the Sukma District of Chhattisgarh. The statement issued by the Maoists' Konta 'area committee' of South Bastar Division, on a note left near the dead body, declared, "Sodi Chandra Singh had been associated with the Police's intelligence network since 2013. He continuously provided inputs of our People's Liberation Guerrilla Army [PLGA] meetings to the Police. He was the informer for Police when a team of STF [Special Task Force] came to Pidmed on April 10 to attack the PLGA."

On June 5, 2015, a village guard, identified as Jaga Khilo, was killed by the Maoists at Petru village under Pottangi Police Station limits in Koraput District of Odisha. The Maoists left a handwritten letter, suspected to be from the Srikakulam-Koraput Division of the CPI-Maoists' Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), near the body of the deceased in which they alleged he was a 'Police informer'.

So far in 2015 (all data till June 21), 24 'Police informers' have been killed by the Maoists across different Naxal(Left Wing Extremism, LWE)-affected States. The total number of civilian fatalities in Maoist violence across the country, in the current year, stands at 44. Thus, 54.54 per cent of civilians killed during this period were tagged by Maoists as 'Police informers'.

Such killings have been rampant since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004. According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 499 civilians, tagged as 'Police informers' have been killed by the Maoists across different Naxal-affected States, since this date. The total number of civilian fatalities in such violence, during the same period, stood at 2,800. 17.82 per cent of civilians killed during this period were labeled 'Police informers'.

Odisha recorded the highest number of such killings during this period, 113 out of a total of 273 civilian fatalities (41.39 per cent); followed by Jharkhand with 95 out of a total of 596 civilian fatalities (15.93 per cent); Chhattisgarh 88, out of 691 civilian fatalities (12.73 per cent); Andhra Pradesh, 76 out of a total of 261 civilian fatalities (29.11 per cent); West Bengal, 53 of a total of 544 civilian fatalities (9.74 per cent); Maharashtra 51 of a total of 139 civilian fatalities (36.69 per cent); Bihar, 18 of a total of 284 civilian fatalities (6.33 per cent); Uttar Pradesh, two of a total of two civilian fatalities (100 per cent); Telangana two of three civilian fatalities (66.66 per cent); and Karnataka one of seven civilian fatalities (14.28 per cent).

Though the percentage of such killings has varied from year to year, since Maoists violence has been on a declinesince the beginning of 2011, the killing of alleged 'Police informers' has recorded a continuous rise, with the exception of 2013.

The situation may well be worse. According to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data, available only since 2010, the number of alleged 'Police informers' killed by Naxalites between January 1, 2010, and April 15, 2015, stood at a staggering 901. Total fatalities recorded by UMHA among civilians during the same period was 2,039. Thus, alleged 'Police informers' constituted 44.18 per cent of all civilian killings. The annual percentage variation, however, has been irregular within a limited band.

Killings tends to be the final step, and the Maoists frequently harass people, issuing warnings and threats and administering lesser punishments against people they suspect of 'collaborating' with the Police. In one of such incidents, on June 3, 2015, around 60 tribal families of Andrapalli and Panasput villages under Kudumuluguma block in the Malkangiri District of Odisha left the Chitrakonda camp where they had been housed by the administration, reportedly as a result of Maoist threats and intimidation, following allegations of 'collaboration with the Police'.

The Maoists have admitted to having suffered cumulative and crippling losses over the past years, and their mistrust of local populations grows with each successful operations by the Security Forces (SFs). The Maoists believe that SFs have succeeded in weakening their leadership with the help of 'Police informers' and are urgently trying to infuse fear among the locals through targeted executions. Referring to a September 13, 2014, killing of a former Maoist, who was branded a 'Police informer', on the East Godavari-Visakhapatnam border in Andhra Pradesh, Deputy Chief Minister and State Home Minister N. Chinarajappa noted, on September 14, 2014, "Extremists are making a frantic bid for existence." Significantly, Gudsa Usendi aka G.V.K. Prasad Rao, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), who surrendered in Andhra Pradesh on January 8, 2014, disclosed that one of the main reasons for his leaving the party was indiscriminate and excessive killing of innocent tribals by branding them as 'Police informers'. Interestingly, in 2010, Prasad had defended the killing of 'Police informers', arguing, "We have to kill informers. If we don't, we will not be able to survive. We give them several warnings, but if they still divulge information [to the Police] we kill them."

Both central and the State SF personnel depend on the information provided by local villagers regarding geography, topography and Maoist activity, to carry out combing operations. An unnamed officer conceded, "Our forces are always dependent on the locals for information regarding the rebels' movement and operations. By eliminating the informers, they directly target our operations." It is, consequently, imperative that the Government device an effective strategy to secure the lives of people who provide critical information to the Forces, despite the relentless Maoist offensive against them.