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News :: Human Rights : Politics : War and Militarism
Indian Maoists unleash new terror in the 'heart of India'
12 Feb 2008
By P.V. Ramana, IANS

BOOK "The Naxal Challenge - Causes, Linkages and Policy Options" (Pearson Longman)

Cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), also known as Naxalites, are believed to be operating in over 200 districts across 17 states. The ultimate objective of the rebels is to capture state power through a protracted people's war and herald a New Democratic Revolution. Speaking in Kerala in January, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar said the cadre strength of the CPI-Maoist was 15,000 armed men and women.

Of all the affected states, Chhattisgarh is at present the worst hit by Maoist activities. The affected area is Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh, comprising five districts: Kanker (northern Bastar), Bastar (Jagdalpur), Dantewada (southern Bastar), Bijapur and Narayanpur. The total area of these districts is 39,000 sq km, a little larger than Kerala and a little smaller than Haryana.

The region is in the heart of India. But because it is remote, highly underdeveloped and largely unconnected, so little is known about the area and fewer still is written in the national media about what happens there. Normally, media interest is evoked after the rebels conduct a daring raid, or launch a spectacular attack, such as the massacre of 55 security personnel, including those of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force and Special Police Officers, on March 15 in Rani Bodli.

Even as their killings have turned chilling, the rebels' arsenal too has undergone a vast change. From fielding farm implements, they have come a long way and now deploy SLRs, AK series rifles and INSAS rifles. Lately, they have also developed crude rocket launchers that are not accurate but have nuisance value. Besides, the Maoists have acquired a certain degree of versatility in fabricating landmines and Improvised Explosive devices (IEDs), a technique which they initially learnt from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Taking further their ingenuity in fabricating explosives, the rebels have now begun to plant pressure mines. Speaking on May 16, 2006, the then district police chief of Visakhapatnam said: "These mines will kill anyone who steps on them. The mine doesn't distinguish between a policeman and a civilian. It is also for the first time in the country that the Visakhapatnam police have unearthed pressure mines."

Typically, these bombs are made by placing TNT or other explosives in a small, spherical container and attaching a blasting cap at the top of the container. The size of the blast depends upon the size of the container, and the amount of explosive material packed inside. Pressure bombs are made with readily available materials and can be as simple or as complex; all depends on the fabricator's choice.

"These bombs are easy to conceal. They are planted just below the surface of the earth. The pressure that a person walking normally would exert when he or she steps on it accidentally is all that is needed to trigger an explosion," G.P. Singh, the superintendent of police (Bastar), told this writer.

For the past couple of years, the Maoists have been widely planting pressure mines in Bastar. The intended target is the security staff on patrol. While on duty, the fear of a blast constantly lurks in one's mind and one has to be very cautious while walking - this is a distraction. On the other hand, if he is careless, he might get injured and lose a limb permanently; occasionally he may also die. An injured trooper is more expensive for the state as it raises the cost for fighting the rebels; the injured has to be tended to and a replacement found for him.

It is sad and abhorring that the unintended target has been civilian population and innocent, speechless animals. Many civilians have been killed and many more injured with their limbs amputated in pressure mine blasts. Also, on a number of occasions ordinary cattle grazing in the forest have been killed or injured.

During a visit to Bastar a few months ago, this writer was shocked when he met with, and spoke to, in Narayanpur, Triveni Devangana, a school teacher who was hit by a pressure mine. She was on her moped three feet away from the blast site when the pressure mine got triggered. A young lad with a cattle herd fiddled with the device planted adjacent to a bore well, just a few feet away from her school. Normally, security force personnel halt there to quench their thirst.

The herd was injured. While the head master of her school was hurt in the right eye, Devangana lost sight in the right eye, suffered partial damage in the left eye and received burn injuries in the face. A mother of two children and a Sahitya Ratna in Hindi, her family of modest economic status spent Rs.110,000 for her treatment. The government offered no assistance to her while the Maoists did not even care to apologise, which they do occasionally when innocents fall victim to their violence.

In Bastar, it appears, the Maoists do not play by any rules and the lives of innocent civilians simply do not matter. Their so-called larger objective of waging a revolution is all that matters to them.

(P.V. Ramana is Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. His book, "The Naxal Challenge - Causes, Linkages and Policy Options" (Pearson Longman), was published in November 2007. He can be contacted at talepuramana (at)
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