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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Rockets in Maoist Arsenal

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Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist)], or Maoists in short, have been using rockets in their assaults on the security forces since the past, at least, eight years. Confirming this, Minister of State for Home Affairs RSN Singh informed the Lok Sabha, in reply to a question, on May 6, 2013, that the Maoists were “manufacturing improvised hand grenades and rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) in units that have come up in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh”.

More than a year earlier, on March 4, 2012, the West Bengal police arrested Sadanala Rama Krishna, the head of the Maoists’ Central Technical Team, in 24 North Parganas district, and seized rocket launcher manufacturing equipment, Rs 36 lakh in cash and documents from his flat. Two days later, on March 6, in a joint-effort between the police forces of Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, police in the Chhattisgarh State capital Raipur recovered 80 boxes containing material/equipment for manufacturing rockets and mortars. At that time, Senior Superintendent of Police of Raipur, Mr Dipanshu Kabra, said: “There is no doubt that the seized material was meant for the Maoists. It is surprising that such hardware equipment for rocket launchers and mortars was stored in a busy area of (the State capital).”

The story of rockets being present in the Maoist arsenal is ten year’s old. Speaking to the media on May 26, 2003, the then Director General of Police, Andhra Pradesh, Mr P Ramulu, said that for the first time the police recovered the designs of an RPG during a raid on a dump of the then Communist Party of India [Marxist-Leninist (People’s War)], PW in short –– the earlier avatar of the Maoists –– in the Kalimela forests, along the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border.

In fact, a few years later, on January 10, 2007, police in Bhopal busted an arms making-cum-R&D unit of the Maoists, on a tip-off provided by the Andhra Pradesh police. During the raid, Madhya Pradesh Police recovered designs of cross-sections of RPGs and rocket launchers.

A year earlier, on September 7 and 8, 2006, in raids in Mahabubnagar and Prakasam districts, Andhra Pradesh, the police unearthed and recovered 875 empty rocket shells and 30 rocket launchers. Investigations led the police to the Ambattur industrial estate, a suburb of Chennai, where these were manufactured in seven separate industrial units/workshops. The complex trail of manufacturing and transshipment of the empty shells and rocket launchers involved five States, viz. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

The complete story of the effort to design and manufacture rocket launchers and rockets is quite interesting. The Maoists, in their earlier avatar as the PW, constituted a technical team comprising Sande Rajamouli @ Krishna, a member of the Central Military Commission, who was later killed in an encounter, Akkiraju Hara Gopal @ Rama Krishna, Central Committee member and the then secretary of Andhra Pradesh State Committee, Sakhamuri Appa Rao @ Ravi, who later became the chief of the Maoist’s Military Intelligence Wing and was also killed in an encounter with the police, Matta Ravi Kumar @ Sreedhar, who, too, was killed in an encounter with the police. The technical team nominated Thota Kumara Swamy @ Tech Madhu, a native of Warangal district, Andhra Pradesh, to carry forward the effort to design and manufacture rocket launchers and rockets.

The first such piece was tested in the Malkangiri forests, Odisha, in 2003. After this, Tech Madhu was asked to proceed to Chennai and get the rocket launchers and rocket shells manufactured. The Maoists envisaged executing “Project Rocket Launchers” in two phases –– “Rocket Launchers – I” and “Rocket Launchers – II”.

“Rocket Launchers – I” was a pilot project undertaken ahead of elections to the Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly in 2004. The plan was to manufacture 25 Rockets with launch pad (rocket launcher) at a cost of Rs 950 per rocket. In the process, five rockets each were distributed to Anantapur, Guntur and Nallamala. Five others were tested at Burugundala, Yerragondapalem mandal, Prakasam district, and five more were set aside for further trials in order to develop the next version.

“Rocket Launcher – II” was a project for the development of shoulder-fired rockets and launcher. These were tested in September/October 2004, again at Burugundala, by fastening the rocket to a tree in order to gauge its effective range, accuracy and impact. As one senior IPS officer told this researcher, in an interview in Hyderabad, in February 2007, “the Maoists, following the trials, were of the opinion that the rockets were neither effective enough nor accurate, but had nuisance value”.

After the second set of trials, Tech Madhu was instructed to have 1,600 rockets and 40 rocket launchers manufactured. Accordingly, he headed to Chennai and got 1,550 rockets and 40 rocket launchers manufactured. Tech Madhu was given Rs 35 lakh to execute the plan.

These rockets (RPGs) might, presently, be having mere nuisance value. However, when the Maoists acquire the versatility to manufacture rockets which could be fired with accuracy, then their lethal impact would be enormous and mind boggling. Many strategic and static locations would come under threat with disastrous consequences.

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Originally published by Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (www.idsa.in) here .
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Dr. P. V. Ramana is a student of South Asian security studies. His MPhil dissertation was entitled Role of the Navy in India's Security (1996) and his Doctoral dissertation was entitled Military R&D in India: Programmes and Processes (2000).



Since 2002, Dr. Ramana has been trying to understand the Naxalite-Maoist movements in India and the other South Asian countries, and has conduced field visits every year since 2002 in Naxalite-affected parts of his native State, Andhra Pradesh, and in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.



Dr. Ramana has contributed over 70 publications on the Naxalite movement in India –– chapters in books, research papers, articles in reputed newspapers like Indian Express, Tribune, Deccan Herlad, the vernacular Prabhat Khabar, and popular websites such as Rediff.com. 


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DEFENCE-SECURITY

Army Foils Attack on J&K Air Force Station

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An attempt by two-three militants to attack a Water Pump House outside Air Force Station at Awantipora in Pulwama District was foiled by alert guards on February 20.

“2-3 (militants) fired and lobbed a grenade at the Air Force Water Pump House Malangpora located outside Air Force Station Awantipora at around 1730 hours today [February 20]. The fire was effectively retaliated by alert sentries,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.

“The (militants) fled. There is no loss of life or property (in the incident),” the spokesman said, adding searches have been launched to trace the attackers. “The search operation is underway,” the spokesman said.

A Police officer said that Army and Police cordoned off area but militants managed to escape. “No arrests were made so far,” the officer said.

Police and 55 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) of Army cordoned off Narbal village of Pulwama District after reports about the presence of militants in the village on February 20 evening.

As the Security Forces (SFs) laid the cordon, people of the village came out and pelted stones at the SFs who fired in the air to disperse them. They also fired tear smoke to disperse the protesters. The cordon was, however, on when last reports came in.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Al Qaeda Claims the Killing of a Separatist Leader in Jammu and Kashmir

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File Picture of Zakir Musa, the Head of Al Qaeda (India)

A week after two unidentified gunmen killed former militant commander and Kashmiri separatist leader, Mohammad Yusuf Rather, shooting him dead inside a passenger vehicle, the police are investigating claims made by al Qaeda’s Kashmir head, Zakir Musa, that the killing was carried out to warn Hurriyat parties against pursuing secularism.

Rather, who was associated with All Parties Hurriyat Conference-Geelani (APHC-G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani for the last 14 years, was killed by two gunmen on February 12, when he was travelling from Beerwah in Budgam to his house in the same district. Two pistol-wielding men who were sitting in the back seat of a vehicle fired at his head and later fled from the place.

League of India had reported the story here:
http://leagueofindia.com/internal-challenges/separatist-leader-shot-dead-in-jammu-and-kashmir/

Later, Zakir Musa allegedly released an audio file claiming that he ordered his men to kill the Hurriyat leader. He also said that Kashmir’s battle will not be political but in order to establish the rule of Islam. In the audio clip, he is heard saying:

“These dishonest Hurriyat leaders don’t understand. If they want to run their politics, they shouldn’t become a thorn in our way, or else we will chop off their heads and display them at Lal Chowk. This is why we had to kill Mohammad Yusuf Rather.”

In the same audio clip, Musa further added:

“Our Kashmir’s battle is for ensuring glorification of Islam and we will establish the Shariah system of Islam. My appeal to all who want to enforce religion is that it should be followed first by oneself. We should become dear to Allah and tie the rope of the Almighty with strength and not repose faith on anyone else.”

Zakir Musa is the head of al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, and the fresh audio release came a few months after he had accused Pakistan of ‘back-stabbing militants’, following US’ attack on Afghanistan.

In his previous audio message, he had said that even as foreign militants were fighting in Kashmir, the Pakistani government got militants killed, and even closed the training camps.

However, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range, Ghulam Hassan Bhat, said that a case has been registered after Rather’s killing, and they are looking into the audio clip as well. “We are also going through call records of the deceased, and have questioned the driver in whose vehicle Rather was heading home,” Bhat said.

According to Police officials, two pistol-wielding persons were sitting in the back seat of a vehicle on February 12. At around 4.40 pm, they fired at Rather, killing him immediately. The police then handed over his body to Rather’s family members, after which a case was registered.

APHC-G spokesman Gulam Ahmad Gulzar said that as the general secretary of the separatist outfit Tehreke Wahadati Islami, Rather was associated with the Geelani-led faction since 2004. He said that he was the deputy chief commander of the now non-existent militant outfit Hizb-ul-Momineen in the early 1990s before he joined the separatist conglomerate. “He was an important Hurriyat (G) leader and a member of our executive council,” he said.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

A Day After the Killing of a NCP Leader, IED found in Meghalaya

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Security Forces (SFs) on February 20 recovered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) at Nengmandalgre in East Garo Hills. Police suspect Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) to be behind the incident, in an attempt to sabotage the ensuing election in the state.

Earlier on February 18, a National Congress Party (NCP) leader was killed with three others in East Garo Hills in an IED explosion.

The Meghalaya Police suspect GNLA ‘chief’ Sohan D Shira to be behind the February 18 IED blast in East Garo Hills District.

Separately, Police Observer for West Garo Hills District along with General Observer reviewed the law and order situation in East Garo Hills on February 20. The Police observer stated that they were in touch with Border Security Forces with regard to the movement of militants in border areas. Moreover, the election candidates and their agents have placed their request for additional security while highlighting few sensitive polling stations in their respective constituencies.

East Garo Hills Police Superintendent of Police (SP) stated that ‘We are strongly suspect the involvement of the GNLA chief behind this IED blast since we had carried out an operation on Monday (February 19) night after receiving inputs that Sohan was a village’. However, the militant escaped following which operations have been intensified in the whole area.

Moreover, Meghalaya Director General of Police (DGP) stated that evidence to the killing of the NCP candidate points to the role of the GNLA outfit and said credible leads are being obtained.

While clearly indicating the role of GNLA, DGP also voiced concern over the presence of surrendered rebels in the company of the slain politician. He also added that they were seeking more Paramilitary Forces from the Government of India.

In addition, DGP also added that standard security procedures were allegedly not followed by the NCP candidate leading to the attack. The NCP candidate is said to have informed district authorities about his election campaign meetings for a few select villages in Samanda block. But, he reportedly overstepped his area of the political campaign by going deeper into the remote region where previous militant activities have taken place.

DGP also added that ‘It is a known fact that GNLA ‘commander-in-chief’ Sohan Shira has been targeting former members of his group who surrendered to authorities. Last year’s killing of their surrendered finance secretary Rakkam Shira and former ‘action commander’ Kamdat are examples of the outfit’s intention’.

Also, threatening posters against the NCP candidate who was killed on February 19 were found in Chimagre, Nengkhra Darimgre, Damagre, Chisobibra and Samanda Dolwagre in East Garo Hills District.

Similar posters were visible even prior to the 2013 Assembly polls in parts of Williamnagar and the role of the suspected GNLA outfit was pointed out then by the deceased candidate. According to sources, the militants, though less in number had better human intelligence network compared to police as far as the incident in Williamnagar is concerned.

Moreover, the Police and election authorities’ machinery had not expected such a violent incident since militancy was on the downslide in Garo Hills.

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