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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

GALLERY: Shahrukh – The Face Of Delhi Violence

The 33-year-old Mohammad Shahrukh, a resident of Shahdara, opened 8 rounds fire at Delhi Police.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Maoists Showing Resilience In Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum

The leftist terrorists are desperate to regain their stronghold in West Singhbhum.

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On April 19, 2020, cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) shot dead a civilian, identified as Raj Kishore Gope (35), a resident of Bhalurungi village in the Sarjamburu Forest under Goilkera Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District. The Maoists killed Gope suspecting him to be a ‘police informer’.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Indrajeet Mahatha disclosed that about 20 Maoists intercepted Gope in the forest area while he was returning home late in the evening and shot him dead.

Before fleeing, the rebels planted three Improvised Explosive Device (IED)-fitted arrows near the body to target the Police, who they believed would reach the incident site. The IEDs were, however, detected and subsequently defused by a Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS).


On April 4, 2020, three women cadres belonging to the Suresh Munda squad of the CPI-Maoist were killed in an exchange of fire between the Maoists and Security Forces (SFs) at Chirung village under Gudri Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District. SFs recovered over 500 rounds, arrow bombs, two IEDs, and Maoist literature from the incident site. SP Indrajeet Mahatha said that the rebels were present at the village to motivate the villagers to join their movement.

These two incidents of killing have been reported in West Singhbhum during the current year (data till May 10, 2020). During the corresponding period in 2019, no fatality was reported in the District.

However, three civilian fatalities were reported in two separate incidents in the remaining period of the year in the District. West Singhbhum recorded two fatalities (both civilians) in 2018.


Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence across India, West Singhbhum recorded 177 fatalities (55 civilians, 75 SF personnel, 43 Left Wing Extremists, Naxalites, and four Not Specified) in such violence.

There are 80 Districts across 10 States which have recorded fatalities in both Maoist and SF categories since March 6, 2000.

Only 24 of these, spread across six States, have recorded a kill ratio that favours the Maoists. West Singhbhum is one such District, where the overall kill ratio stands at 1.74:1 in favour of the Maoists.

This is despite the fact that the District saw its last SF killing on September 3, 2013. In that incident, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was killed in an encounter with the Maoists in the Tebo Valley of West Singhbhum District. SFs suffered 18 fatalities in 2002, 20 fatalities in 2004, 15 fatalities each in 2006 and 2009, five fatalities in 2010, and one fatality in 2011.

It was in 2010 that the Maoists suffered their maximum of 21 fatalities (in the District) in a year, including 10 fatalities each in the month of June and September. Since September 2010, the SFs have suffered only three fatalities.

The successful offensives launched by SFs in the District in 2010 dealt a major blow to the Maoists who, since then, have failed to take on the SFs directly. Sadly, the Maoists have increasingly directed their violence against civilians.


Of 55 civilian fatalities recorded in the District since May 2000, 38 were reported between 2011 and 2020 (data till May 10). Between 2000 (since March 6) and 2010, nearly the same duration, there were just 17 fatalities in this category.

Located at the Southern part of Jharkhand bordering Odisha, West Singhbhum is the largest District in the State, covering 5,351.41 square kilometres, of which 53 per cent (around 2836.24 square kilometres) is under forest cover.

The District borders Khunti in the North; Saraikela-Kharsawan in the East; Simdega (all three in Jharkhand) and Sundargarh (in Odisha) to the West; and Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts of Odisha on the South. The steep mountains and deep forests in the District make it a formidable challenge for SFs.

Significantly, all these bordering Districts (barring Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj) as well as West Singhbhum,  are among the 90 Districts in 11 States listed as LWE affected, according to a Government release of February 5, 2019.

Further, Khunti and Simdega, along with West Singhbhum, fall among the ‘30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts, across seven states in the country, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA).

West Singhbhum is also listed as one of the Aspirational Districts included in the ‘Aspirational Districts Programme’.

The programme focuses on five main themes – Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure – which have a direct bearing on the quality of life and economic productivity of citizens.

Not surprisingly, the Maoists always had a strong base in the District. However, after facing reverses in their erstwhile stronghold in the Saranda Forest in the District, the Maoists reportedly shifted to the adjoining Sundargarh District of Odisha. Several Maoist cadres hid themselves in the villages in Saranda in the guise of cultivators.

Worryingly, however, a November 25, 2019, report observed that the Maoists were trying to re-infiltrate the District through the porous Sundargarh border linking up to the Saranda Forest. Working on a changed strategy, the Maoists move in small groups, occasionally using the forests under Bisra Police Station limits and the Bonai sub-division on the Sundargarh side of the border, as hideouts.

Indeed, a February 4, 2020, report observed that, in an attempt to step up activities and violence in eastern India, particularly Bihar and Jharkhand, prominent CPI-Maoist leaders such as Nambala Keshav Rao aka Basavraj, held a meeting in Saranda forests of West Singhbhum District, in which they decided to replace the ageing Prashant Bose aka Kishan da (74) with Ranjit Bose aka Kabir (63). The latter is known for his expertise in mobilising masses against SFs, and carries a bounty of INR 10 million on his head.


Meanwhile, Raj Kumar, Inspector General (IG), Jharkhand Sector, CRPF, stated on April 7, 2020:

“The recent incidents in the District vis a vis the State demonstrate that they (the Maoists) are active. The tri-junction of Ranchi, Khunti, and West Singhbhum Districts, the Parasnath Hills in Giridih and Budha Pahar in Bokaro, are some of the rebel hotspots in the State.”

Further, according to an April 5, 2020, report, intelligence sources have revealed that the Maoists have restarted influencing the local residents in the District to come into the LWE fold. The report mentioned that the rebels were targeting areas in Sonua, Goelkera and Porahat region of West Singhbhum District to extend their base.

Following intelligence inputs, SFs have now been asked to intensify anti-insurgency operations in the District. On April 6, 2020, Jharkhand Finance Minister Rameshwar Oraon categorically stated, “The Police have been given complete freedom to rein in crime and Naxal incidents.”

On the ground, the administration has increased Police patrolling in the border areas of the District and has also deployed increased numbers of paramilitary personnel in areas of a potential attack.

Further, a May 4, 2020, report noted, the State Police has set up six CRPF camps at Saranda and another six are in the process of being installed.

The Maoists are desperate to regain their stronghold in West Singhbhum, creating a resurgent challenge for the SFs along the poorly governed inter-State border areas.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Dr Indrajit Sharma

Indrajit Sharma is associated with the South Asia Terrorism Portal at the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi based think tank focusing on Conflict and Terrorism in South Asia. He holds an M.Phil. and a PhD in Security Studies from Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

India: Many Battle Points, One Brittle Peace

Negligence at this stage could facilitate the resurgence of forces inimical to India.

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The average terrorism/insurgency-linked fatalities per day in India dropped to 1.38 during the first four months and three days of 2020 (data till May 3, 2020), from 2.13 during the corresponding period of 2019. This is the lowest daily average fatality recorded during this period of the year since 1986. A previous low of 1.95 was recorded in January-May 1, 2015.

Significantly, the daily average fatality through 2019 worked out at 1.44, the lowest at least since 1986. A previous low of 1.99 was recorded in 2015. In 2018, the average stood at 2.57.

2019 recorded the lowest fatalities in a year since 1986. There was a total of 621 fatalities [159 civilians, 132 Security Force (SF) personnel, and 330 terrorists/insurgents] in 2019. Since 1986, a previous low of 729 fatalities was recorded in 2015. 2018 accounted for 940 fatalities. 2020 has so far accounted for 179 fatalities.


It is useful to recall that, at the peak of terrorism/insurgency in 2001, the country had recorded a total of 5,504 fatalities (1,508 civilians, 883 SF personnel, 3,005 terrorists/insurgents, and 108 unspecified), working out to a daily average of 15.07.

Other parameters of violence like incidents of killing, explosions, recovery of arms, also witnessed significant improvements. 2019 saw the lowest number of incidents of killing, 332, since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling comprehensive data on conflicts in India. A previous low of 437 incidents was recorded in 2015.

The number of incidents of killing was 476 in 2018. 2019 recorded 1,787 terrorism-linked incidents, the lowest since March 6, 2000, significantly bettering the previous low of 2,119 recorded in 2018.


The geographical spread of violence also diminished. 84 districts reported fatalities in 2018. The number came down to 75 in 2019. 33 districts have recorded fatalities in 2020, thus far. India currently has a total of 733 districts. In 2001, at the peak of violence, 138 of 593 districts then in existence, reported insurgency/terrorism linked fatalities.

According to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, internal security issues in the country can broadly be categorized as follows:

  • Terrorism in the hinterland of the country
  • Left-Wing Extremism in certain areas.
  • The security situation in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Insurgency in the North Eastern States.

2019 witnessed significant improvement in the security situation across all these theatres.

Despite sustained efforts, the intelligence and enforcement apparatus in India successfully thwarted all attempts by Islamist terror formations – global, transnational and Pakistan based – to carry out any attack in India’s hinterland through 2019.

Significant improvement was evident in 2019 in areas afflicted by Left Wing Extremism (LWE). Indeed, on February 4, 2020, the Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), G. Kishan Reddy, confirmed in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament), “Left Wing Extremism (LWE) related violence and geographical spread have declined over the years”.


Jammu & Kashmir, though it went through an upheaval forced by the ruling political establishment for petty political gains, nevertheless saw significant improvement in the situation relating to terrorism in 2019. The trend of increasing fatalities, on year on year basis, established since 2016, had been reversed in 2019. Fatalities which had touched a 10 year high of 452 in 2018. There were 538 fatalities in 2008, with continuous declines thereafter till 2012, and then a steady inching upwards came down to 283 in 2019.

Insurgency in the Northeast was at its lowest ebb in 2019. On March 4, 2020, MoS Kishan Reddy stated in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Indian Parliament),

The security situation in the North-Eastern States has improved substantially since 2014. Compared to 2013, there has been a 70% reduction in insurgency incidents, 80% in civilian deaths and 78% in security forces casualties in the year 2019.

Punjab also remained terror-free through 2019 despite the relentless efforts of Pakistan backed Khalistani terror groups. Buoyed by the improved security situation, Dinkar Gupta, Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab, in an interview on January 1, 2020, observed, “We have been fortunate that 2019 has gone without any terror crime.”

Indeed, India was safer in 2019 than any other year since 1986, purely in terms of terrorism-related incidents, even as the broader security situation improved considerably.

However, worries persist. There are over 40 banned terror outfits in the country. MoS Reddy on March 3, 2020, informed Parliament, “As on date, the First Schedule to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 contains names of 42 Terrorist Organisations”.

Islamist terrorist and extremist organisations, including global terrorist formations such as Islamic State (IS, Daesh) and al Qaeda, as well as the Pakistan sponsored groupings such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen (HM), continue to target India  in their campaigns for jihad. Though they found mobilization among the Indian Muslim population extraordinarily difficult, the patterns of politically engineered communal polarization, particularly by majoritarian political formations, have enormously escalated over the past years, driving up the risks, though not the current manifestation, of Islamist terrorist and extremist mobilization.

Left-Wing Extremists continued to make renewed efforts to halt their downward slide. According to an April 16, 2020, report, the Maoists were using the nationwide lockdown amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to regain strength, as a large group of the rebels entered the South Bastar region of Chhattisgarh from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, and even Nepal. The report citing intelligence inputs noted,

“…[Maoists were] continuously conducting meetings in the core areas in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district and in the Darbha Division in Jagdalpur District of the State and part of Dantewada District there under the supervision of top Maoist leaders. They are also organising villagers for confronting the Government on the issue of fixing a minimum price for plucking up of tendu leaves and compensation for death or injury of villagers involved in the plucking off the leaves.”


Pakistan has also stepped up efforts to create more trouble in Kashmir.

On March 4, 2020, the Government informed the Parliament:

?There have been 1,586 incidents of ceasefire violations in 2019 and 646 incidents of Ceasefire Violations during the first two months of 2020 [January/February (up to 23rd February)], on Indo-Pak International border as well as Line of Control after August 5, 2019.”

According to official data, there was a total of 3,168 ceasefire violations in 2019 as against 2,140 such incidents through 2018, and a much lower 881 in 2017 and 449 in 2016.

According to media reports, the first four months of 2020 has already recorded 1,231 ceasefire violations as against 919 recorded during the same period in 2019.  The continuing political misadventures of the ruling dispensation at New Delhi are likely to provide more ammunition to Pakistan’s disruptive designs.

Though there are no such worries in the case of insurgency in the Northeast, since the region has recorded continuous improvements in the security situation, periodic ethnic clashes (four such clashes recorded in 2019) remain a worry. Moreover, the long delay in concluding the talks between the Government of India (GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) may have a cascading effect.

Punjab despite an extended period of peace, always has a looming threat. On January 1, 2020, DGP Dinkar Gupta cautioned,

It is difficult to say what the future holds for us, but when you are dealing with a neighbour like Pakistan, there will be attempts to foment trouble in Punjab. So, we have to be always vigilant.

In the meantime, the Government has taken several measures to deal with these threats across several theatres. Referring to one such measure, MoS Kishan Reddy stated in the Lok Sabha, February 11, 2020,

The Union Government has created an all India digital network – Crime & Criminal Tracking Networking System (CCTNS) in 15152 out of 15985 police stations of the country which has digitised police processes like registering complaints, FIRs, Investigation details, etc. 100% FIRs are being recorded in 14,992 police stations.

In addition, the Government has launched the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) which integrates the process of speedy justice by facilitating data exchange between the courts, police, prosecution, jails and the forensic laboratories.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has also been fully operationalized. On March 3, 2020, the Parliament was informed that out of 319 cases entrusted to the NIA for investigation, charge-sheets had been filed in 237 cases. Judgement had been pronounced in 62 of these 237 cases, of which 56 cases resulted in conviction, a conviction rate of 90.32 per cent.

However, several other mega institutions announced to be created under “A New Architecture of India’s Security”, way back on December 23, 2009, remain on paper.

While one of them, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), targeted to be established by the end of 2010, subsequently lost favor, the establishment of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) remains far from reality. Updating the status of NATGRID, MoS, Reddy disclosed on February 5, 2020,

NATGRID has been created as an IT platform to assist the Security and law enforcement agencies to counter-terror for national security. Physical infrastructure for NATGRID will be completed by 31.03.2020 and IT Solution will go live by 31.12.2020. NATGRID will link several databases including Railways, Police, Stolen Vehicles, Immigration, Airline, Passports, Vehicles ownership, Driving Licenses, PAN data etc.

Meanwhile, deficiencies continue to afflict the Police Force, the first line of defence terrorism. According to the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D), as on January 1, 2019, deficits in the Police Force as against sanctioned strength were 20.34 per cent. The Police-population ratio ((policemen per hundred thousand population) in the country, as on January 1, 2019, was 158.22, much lower than the projected minimum of 222 for peacetime policing. 958 vacancies existed in the apex Indian Police Service (IPS), with 4,024 officers in position, as against a sanctioned strength of 4,982, a 19.22 per cent deficit, considerably weakening executive direction of the Force.

Worryingly, funds under the ‘Assistance to States for Modernization of Police’ scheme were reduced by the Central Government. As against 7.08 billion released in Financial Year (FY) 208-19, the Government released only 4.02 billion in FY 2019-20, a reduction that can only have an adverse impact on the quality of Police Forces across the country.

Moreover, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), described as the ‘brain’ of the national security apparatus by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 23, 2019, faces acute shortages of manpower.

According to the BPR&D, as on January 1, 2019, as against a sanctioned strength of 40,650 personnel, the IB had only 29,784 personnel in position. A deficiency of 26.73 per cent in the ‘brain’ of the security establishment is indeed worrisome.

It is imperative for the Union Government to take all necessary measures to overcome these deficiencies within the fighting forces and intelligence apparatus to help SFs maintain the hard-earned peace. Any negligence at this stage could facilitate the resurgence of forces inimical to India.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Ajit Kumar Singh

Dr Ajit Kumar Singh is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research on conflicts in South Asia. After completing his M.Phil. on "Emergence of Afghanistan as Buffer between Tsarist Russia and British Indian Empire (19th Century)", from JNU, New Delhi, he was awarded Ph.D. on "The Ethnic Conflict and State Structure in Afghanistan: 1989-2001".

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

A Repeat Of Pulwama Terror Attack Averted By Security Forces

Security forces avert a major vehicle-borne IED blast in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir.

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PULWAMA (Jammu-Kashmir UT): The security forces have prevented a major terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said the terrorists had planned a major terror attack on the lines of the Pulwama attack of February 2019, in which 40 CRPF personnel were martyred.

The security forces recovered a car carrying an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. It is suspected that the terrorists were planning to place the explosive-laden car at a strategic location in order to target a convoy of the security forces or hit a defence installation.

Terrorists had placed the IED inside a blue drum which was being transported in the car. The white coloured car was flagged by security forces at a mobile vehicle checkpoint but the driver of the vehicle sped away prompting the security forces to fire few shots at the vehicle which they found abandoned some distance away.


Instead of defusing the explosive, the security forces decided to explode the IED along with the car, the video of which has now been released by the authorities:

IG Police, Vijay Kumar congratulated the security forces for this success. He said in a briefing that Pulwama police received credible information yesterday that a terrorist was moving with an explosive-laden car. He informed that car was carrying about 45 kgs of Ammonium Nitrate explosive.

A timely action of security forces averted a major tragedy. A suicide attacker jumped two checkpoints before leaving the vehicle behind another late night yesterday at Ayegund area of Rajpora, Pulwama”, he said.


In a joint operation of Army, J&K Police and CRPF, the security forces blasted the vehicle and subsequently averted a major catastrophe that could have arisen out of the vehicle-borne IED blast.

The person driving the car, suspected to be a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, managed to flee in the cover of darkness following a short gunfight with the security personnel.

Initial investigation into the matter has revealed that the car, a white colour Santro, was being driven with the number plate of a two-wheeler, registered in the name of a resident of Kathua in Jammu.

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