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Maoists: Desperate Measures
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On December 16, 2016, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres hacked Dharmendra Kudami (33) to death in the Kurrempara area of Metapal village in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh on the suspicion of being a 'police informer'. Kudami's wife Ratna Kudami is the sarpanch (head of the Panchayat, the village local-self government institution) of Metapal village. An unnamed Police officer disclosed, `A group of Maoists, armed with bows and arrows, axes and knives stormed into the victim's house and murdered Dharmendra in front of his family. Though the exact reason for the attack is yet to be ascertained, preliminary investigation suggests the ultras accused him of being a police informer.`
On December 12, 2016, Jeevan Singh Munda (38), the mukhiya (village headman) of Jargo panchayat was dragged out of his home by CPI-Maoist cadres masquerading as the Police and shot dead in the Tamar block area of the Ranchi District in Jharkhand. Commenting on the incident, Superintendent of Police (SP) Rajkumar Lakra, Ranchi (Rural), stated, `Four Maoist posters found near his body said he had paid the price for being a police informer. But, there is nothing on record to prove that the deceased was an informer.`
On December 5, 2016, a group of Maoist cadres killed Budhram Mudma (55) at his village, Mandem, under Farsegarh Police Station limits in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh. Maoist pamphlets recovered from the spot claimed that Mudma was killed because he was a 'police informer'.
On November 11, 2016, Maoists tortured and killed Kartik Dhurve (23) in the Balaghat District of Madhya Pradesh on the suspicion that he was a 'police informer'. An unnamed official stated, `They may have seen him talking to some senior police officials at some point of time and suspected him to be an informer.`
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 49 civilians labelled 'police informers' have been killed by the Maoists in 2016 (data till December 18). The highest number of such killings has been reported from Chhattisgarh (15), followed by 10 in Odisha, nine in Jharkhand, six in Maharashtra, four in Bihar, three in Andhra Pradesh and two in Madhya Pradesh. During the corresponding period of 2015, Maoists had killed at least 57 civilians after branding them 'police informers': 17 in Chhattisgarh, followed by 16 in Odisha, eight in Maharashtra, six in Jharkhand, four each in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, and two in Telangana. Significantly, the total number of civilians killed by the Maoists so far in 2016, stands at 116, as compared to 93 during the corresponding period of 2015.
Since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, at least 2,965 civilian fatalities have been recorded in Maoist-linked violence. Out of these, 581 (19.59 per cent) were killed as alleged 'police informers'.
These numbers, however, appear to be gross underestimates. Indeed, according to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data, available only since 2010, the number of alleged 'police informers' killed by Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists, LWEs"> between January 1, 2010, and November 30, 2016, stood at a much higher 1,081. The total fatalities recorded by the UMHA among civilians during the same period were 2,361. Thus, alleged 'police informers' constituted 45.78 per cent of all civilian killings.
The targeting of alleged 'informers' is an established Maoist policy. While some of the victims of such violence are abducted and subsequently killed with pamphlets left near their bodies, others are killed in front of villagers and family members. Often, a kangaroo court (Jan Adalat or `people's court`) orchestrated, and a 'sentence of death' is pronounced and quickly and publicly executed as a warning to others. During 2016, at least 20 Jan Adalats were held by Maoists, while 40 such Adalats were held in 2015. No information is available regarding the number of civilians who were 'punished' by these 'courts'.
The proportionate surge in such killings recorded since 2013 has obviously been prompted by the significant gains registered by the SFs in areas of earlier Maoist dominance, and overwhelmingly based on successful intelligence-led operations. The Maoists believe that this has occurred because of the deep penetration by intelligence agencies into 'their areas' with the help of the local population. Indeed, CPI-Maoist's East Division 'secretary', Pratap Reddy aka Ramchandra Reddy aka Appa Rao aka Chalapathi, in an interview published on July 21, 2016, stated, `... I must add that in the conspiracy to eliminate the Maoists party, the ruling classes and the State Government have been exploiting people in the tribal areas by converting them as police informer and agents. Such people are being given arms by the police and a special police officer (SPO) network created. It is such elements that we are eliminating.`
A continuous flow of information from Maoist areas has been critical to the cumulative successes that have decimated the Maoists over recent years, and will remain the core of future successes. The Maoists can naturally be expected to fight back with everything available to them, and targeted killings are likely to rise with the reverses they suffer. Sustaining intelligence flows and protecting their sources are, consequently, urgent operational imperatives. An environment of security needs to be progressively consolidated, and ending targeted killings by the Maoists is an integral element of any strategy to do so.
Deepak Kumar Nayak
 is a Research Assistant at Institute for Conflict Management