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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

Maoists In Gadhchiroli Seem To Be Maintaining Strategic Restraint

The declining trend in violence does not necessarily imply that Maoist capacities are at a terminal stage.

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On May 17, 2020, two Police personnel, Sub-Inspector Dhannaji Honmane and constable Kishore Atram, were killed and another three were injured in an exchange of fire with Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres in the Poyerkothi-Koparshi forested area under Bhamragarh Tehsil (revenue unit) in Gadchiroli District.

The Superintendent of Police (SP) Shailesh Balkawade disclosed that the gun-battle took place when Maoists opened fire at a Quick Response Team (QRT) from Bhamragarh and C-60 commandos of Gadchiroli Police, who were out on a joint anti-Naxal [Left Wing Extremism, LWE] operation.

On May 2, 2020, a senior CPI-Maoist woman ‘commander’ was killed in an encounter with Security Forces (SFs) in the forests of Sinbhatti under the Pendhra Division near Jaravandi village under Jarawandi Police Station limits in Gadchiroli District.


The slain ‘commander’, identified as Sujanakka aka Chinakka aka Jaini (48), was on the wanted list of the Police in Maharashtra, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh. She carried a reward of INR 1.6 million on her head. SP Balkawade stated, “Sujanakka had joined the Naxal movement in 1988 and was the wife of CPI-Maoist Central Committee member Devji. She was involved in 144 crimes, including ambushes on Police and civilian murders.” Sujanakka was the ‘divisional commander’ of Kasansur Dalam (armed squad) in Gadchiroli at the time of her death.

On April 8, 2020, Maoists shot dead a former Special Police Officer (SPO), identified as Jivte Ramteke (45), after branding him a ‘police informer’ at Kohoka-Mokasa village under Kotgul Police Station limits in Gadchiroli District. The Maoists reached his village and dragged Ramteke out of his house and shot him dead. Reports indicate that the Maoists had earlier, erected a banner mentioning Jivte’s name and warning him of dire consequences for ‘making money’ by becoming a ‘police informer’.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Gadchiroli has recorded six fatalities (two civilians, two SF personnel, and two Maoists) in Maoist-linked violence this year, so far (data till June 7, 2020).


During the corresponding period of 2019, 39 fatalities (13 civilians, 15 SF personnel and 11 Maoists) were recorded in the District. Total fatalities through 2019 stood at 50 (18 civilians, 15 SF personnel and 17 Maoists) lower than the 58 fatalities (five civilians, two SF personnel and 51 Maoists) recorded in 2018.

Overall fatalities had increased for three consecutive years between 2016 and 2018 – 22 in 2016, 24 in 2017, and 58 in 2018. Notably, fatalities in 2015 were the lowest recorded in the District since 2008 when the District had recorded 13 fatalities.

Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on LWE-linked violence across India, Gadchiroli has recorded 613 fatalities (176 civilians, 165 SF personnel, 260 Maoists and 12 Not Specified). After reaching a peak of 99 fatalities (10 civilians, 52 SFs and 37 Maoists) in 2009 the District saw a decline in the level of violence, though a cyclical trend has been observed thereafter.

The decline in overall fatalities in the District in the current year demonstrate that the tremendous success achieved by the SFs against the Maoists in the District in 2018 has now started to show real impact on the ground.

Significantly, 40 Maoists were killed at one go in the Kasnasur-Boriya area of Etapalli Tehsil in twin encounters on April 22 and 23, 2018. During the year a total of 51 Maoists were killed, the maximum in a single year.


Moreover, combing operations and raids have resulted in the arrest of seven Maoists in the District in the current year (data till June 7, 2020), in addition to 10 in 2019 and 11 in 2018. Mounting SF pressure has led to surrender of 50 Maoists since 2018 (16 in 2018, 33 in 2019 and one in 2020).

Vilas Kolha (44), a former ‘divisional commander’ of the CPI-Maoist Chatgaon Dalam, who surrendered before Gadchiroli Police on February 28, 2020, sees an uncertain future for the armed rebel movement in the District. Kolha, who was wanted in over 147 cases in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, including 22 murders and several cases of firing on the Police, revealed:

“The party seniors goad us to regroup the Dalams, revive the village base by getting close to people and execute some reverses on the police but now it’s a tough ask. Youngsters are no longer coming to us. Unlike in the past, there is no support from villagers as police are winning them over some or the other way (sic).”

Clearly, there is waning support from villagers, resulting in declining recruitment of cadres.

Nevertheless, worries remain. 2019 accounted for the maximum civilian fatalities, 18, since 2011, when there were 36 fatalities in this category. Similarly, in 2019, 15 SF personnel were killed, the highest since 2009, when there were 52 fatalities in this category.

Further, a February 3, 2020, report, revealed that, even though the number of Maoist attacks in the District was on the decline, there had been a massive rise in the destruction of private property by Maoists over the preceding three years. SP Gadchiroli, Balkawade thus noted:

“Recently, Naxals have prioritized disrupting road construction work, especially in villages bordering Chhattisgarh and Telangana. They do not want roads to be built in interior areas. In our assessment, we have found that their first target is road construction activity, followed by forest goods and government vehicles and machinery.”

More recently, protesting against the killing of Sujanakka – the ‘divisional committee member’ and ‘commander’ of Kasnasur Dalam – on May 2, 2020, the Maoists set ablaze four vehicles near Kulbhatti and Gajamendhi villages in Dhanora Tehsil in the District on May 20, 2020.

Located in the north-eastern part of Maharashtra, Gadchiroli has been the epicentre of Maoist violence in Maharashtra. The District has a total area of 14,412 square kilometres, of which 11,694 square kilometres fall under forest cover (78.40 per cent). This serves as ideal terrain for the Maoists and makes the task of locating and sanitizing Maoist hideouts difficult.


Further, Gadchiroli shares borders with four Districts – Bijapur, Kanker, Narayanpur, and Rajnandgaon of Chhattisgarh, the worst Naxal-affected Indian State and two Districts – Adilabad and Karimnagar of Telangana, and is used as a transit area between the two States.

Significantly, all these Districts (barring Karimnagar)  are among the 90 Districts in 11 States listed as LWE affected, according to a Government release of February 5, 2019. Further, all the Districts (barring Adilabad and Karimnagar), along with Gadchiroli, fall among the ‘30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts, across seven states in the country, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA).

Moreover, Gadchiroli covers parts of the Abujhmadh forest (along the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border), which has been developed as a Maoist fortress, from where its leaders manage the rebel movement.

According to a March 7, 2020, report, a document seized by Gadchiroli Police during an operation (date unspecified) in the District, suggested that the Maoists have no plans to shift their base from the forested and hilly Abujhmadh region. The seized document clearly stated, ‘last blood would be shed at Abujhmadh’ implying that the Maoists plan to make their last stand in the region.

Gadchiroli SP Balkawade thus asserts, “Abujhmadh occupies a place of pride among Maoists, which is unlikely to get replaced, going by the documents we have seized.”

The Maoist document puts to rest any speculation regarding developing forested terrains of Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh as an ‘alternative base’, despite repeated strikes on Abujhmadh by SFs of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.

The declining trend in violence in the District does not necessarily imply that Maoist capacities are at a terminal stage.

The Maoists in the District currently appear to be maintaining strategic restraint. It would be premature to conclude that the Maoist insurgency in Gadchiroli is ending, despite sustained SF successes. The gains would need to be continuously consolidated through aggressive operations, if they are not to be eroded.

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

Bangladeshi Terror Group JMB Failing To Make Inroads In India

The SFs have so far been able to thwart all attempts by JMB to make any major inroads in India.

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On May 29, 2020, Abdul Karim, a top leader of the Bangladesh-based terror group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), was arrested from Jangipuar in the Murshidabad District of West Bengal in India. “He is one of the top JMB operatives in India. We had been looking for him for quite some time,” an unnamed Police officer stated.

Karim was reportedly involved in a case relating to recovery and explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) near Kalachakra Maidan in Bodhgaya in the Gaya District of Bihar on January 19, 2018. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which registered the case on February 3, 2018, filed a charge sheet on September 27, 2018, against three accused. In the supplementary charge sheet filed on January 28, 2019, the NIA included the names of another five accused, including Karim.

Investigation in the case by the NIA have revealed:


…accused formed a terrorist gang and hatched a conspiracy to carry out the incident of planting the IEDs in Bodhgaya temple complex and other symbols of the Buddhist faith. The motive was to attack symbols of Buddhism in retaliation to the alleged atrocities committed on the Rohingyas in Myanmar and to overawe the Government of India by the terrorist act.

A JMB militant was arrested on March 18, 2020, from Raghna village in North Tripura district in Tripura. The arrestee was identified as Abdul Malik. Police stated that “during preliminary interrogation by the police and intelligence officials, the JMB cadre confessed that he is a Bangladeshi national and settled in India with fake documents.”

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since the October 2, 2014, Burdwan Blast, the Security Forces (SFs) have arrested at least 96 JMB cadres in 62 incidents of arrest from across India. 11 JMB cadres were arrested (six incidents) in 2014, 19 (13 incidents) in 2015, 27 (12 incidents) in 2016, one (one incident) in 2017, eight (six incidents) in 2018, 28 (22 incidents) in 2019, and two (two incidents) in 2020 (data till May 29, 2020).


The JMB came under the scanner of India’s security establishment more prominently subsequent to the October 2, 2014, blast in a rented house at Khagragarh in Burdwan in West Bengal. Two persons were killed and another was injured in the incident. It was found that those killed and injured and others who were present in the house were JMB cadres.

A case was registered by the Burdwan Police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on October 10, 2014. So far it has filed one charge sheet and three supplementary charge sheets against a total of 22 persons in the case. The NIA investigations, inter alia, have also revealed that

The members of JMB had established a network of terrorist training camps at selected Madrasas and other hideouts in India where selected Muslim youths were indoctrinated into violent Jihadi ideology and trained for violent action by using explosives/IEDs and firearms.

This was undertaken with the larger objectives of subverting a section of the vulnerable Indian population, exploiting their common religious and linguistic identities across the border, in Indian states and districts bordering Bangladesh, to join the JMB and utilise them for their movement to overthrow the existing democratically elected Government in Bangladesh and to establish a hard-line Sharia-based Islamic rule in Bangladesh.

The NIA took over three JMB-linked cases in 2019. These include:


  • Bengaluru (Karnataka) JMB Module Case: Five improvised hand grenades, three fabricated grenade caps, three circuits of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), one-timer device, two rocket bends, one rocket body, one 9mm bullet, and various other incriminating materials used in the fabrication of hand grenades/IEDs, were recovered from a place rented by JMB cadres in the Chikkabanawara area of Bengaluru in Karnataka on July 7, 2019. A case was registered by the local police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on July 29, 2019.
  • Tripura JMB Case: On March 6, 2019, a JMB cadre identified as Najir Sheikh aka Patla Anas, was arrested from West Tripura District. A case was filed by the Police on the same day. The NIA took over the case on March 22, 2019.
  • Recovery of Arms at PS Barpeta, Assam: On July 30, 2019, seven JMB militants who were associated with Sahanur Alam aka Md. Sahanur Alom (charge-sheeted accused in the Burdwan Blast Case) were arrested from Barpeta District in Assam. The local police registered the case on the same day. The NIA took over the case on December 21, 2019.
    On April 3, 2020, the NIA filed its first supplementary charge sheet in the Barpeta case. According to an NIA release:

An investigation has revealed that the accused persons have undergone training as JMB cadres in Barpeta at the house of Sahanur Alom and some of the accused were also trained at Simulia Madrasa in West Bengal. Accused persons procured weapons and ammunitions in a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in pursuance of the Jehadi Ideology of JMB.

Earlier, on January 1, 2020, the NIA had filed the charge sheet in the case.

In between, on February 18, 2020, the NIA filed a charge sheet in the Bengaluru (Karnataka) JMB Module Case. In a release dated February 18, 2020, the NIA stated,

Today, NIA filed a charge-sheet against eleven accused… Investigation revealed that A-1 to A-12 being members of JMB, a proscribed terrorist organization were involved in a criminal conspiracy to commit terrorist acts or preparation thereof, raising funds by committing dacoities for their terrorist activities, organising terrorist camps, recruiting persons for committing terrorist activities, harbouring group members, procurement of explosive and ammunition for anti-national activities.

A further investigation against absconding accused B.D. Arif @ Nasim (A-4) and other suspects whose names surfaced during investigation continues u/s 173(8) of CrPC.

Since 2014, JMB has been making all efforts to create trouble in India has become more relentless in its approach in recent years. Concerned over these developments, the Government of India banned JMB in May 2019. A press release dated May 24, 2019, stated,

The Central Government vide notification dated 23rd May 23, 2019, has banned the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan and all its manifestations under clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 with immediate effect.

The notification states that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and its formations like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India or Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Hindustan and their manifestations have committed acts of terrorism, promoted acts of terrorism and have been engaged in radicalisation and recruitment of youth(s) for terrorist activities in India.

According to the notification, the JMB had plans for


…making permanent bases within 10-kilometres, along the India-Bangladesh border in the districts of states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura and of spreading its network in South India with an overarching motive to establish Caliphate in the Indian subcontinent.

Later, on October 12, 2019, raising concern over the outfit’s activities in India, NIA chief Y.C. Modi said JMB had spread its activities in Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala as well, in the guise of Bangladeshi immigrants, adding, “The NIA has shared with states concerned a list of 125 suspected activists who have close links with the JMB leadership.”

On the same day, Alok Mittal, Inspector General, NIA, disclosed that JMB had started its activities in India, first in 2007, initially in West Bengal and Assam, and then in other parts of the country. He added, further, that from 2014 to 2018, JMB had set up 20-22 hideouts in Bengaluru and tried to spread its bases in South India.

The SFs have so far been able to thwart all attempts by JMB to make any major inroads in India. However, continuing efforts will be needed on the ground to destroy the remaining active cells of the group, to ensure that it fails in its efforts to cause disruption in India at any point in the future.

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

Jharkhand Gradually Breaking The PLFI Grip

The PLFI is a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).

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On May 28, 2020, three People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) cadres, including a woman, were killed during an encounter with Security Forces (SFs) in the hilly terrain of Manmaru forest within the Tebo Police Station limits in West Singhbhum District. The slain cadres were identified as Patras (40), Dadu Nag aka Champa da (30) and his 26-year-old wife (name not available).

Rajiv Ranjan Singh, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Kolhan range, disclosed, “An unidentified cadre who sustained injuries in the gunfight has been admitted to the government hospital in Chakradharpur while a fifth rebel, identified as Manoj, has been arrested.”

SFs also recovered one AK-47 rifle, live cartridges, explosives and Naxal [Left Wing Extremism, LWE] literature from the encounter site.


The PLFI is a splinter group of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).

On May 17, 2020, a PLFI cadre was killed in an exchange of fire with SFs in a forested area near Benduchuan village in the Jaldega Police Station limits in Simdega District. The identity of the slain cadre is yet to be ascertained.

Sanjeev Kumar, Superintendent of Police (SP), stated, “One PLFI cadre has been gunned down by the STF while another member of the group, who claims himself as ‘area commander’ of Bano area in Simdega, Praveen Kandulna, has received serious bullet injuries and has been rushed to the hospital.” Police added that five other cadres were also arrested. Their identities are being ascertained. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was also recovered.

On May 6, 2020, a tribal woman, Vinita Oraon, killed a PLFI ‘area commander’, identified as Basant Gope, in a bid to protect her family from a group of rebels at Brinda village in Gumla District. According to the Police, as many as six armed PLFI leaders barged into Oraon’s house and reportedly started manhandling members of her family. Vinita attacked them with a sickle in an act of self-defence. The rebels fled after one of them – the deceased ‘area commander’– sustained injuries. SP Hrudeep P. Janardhanan later disclosed, “The insurgent, who was stabbed, sustained severe injuries. We found his body at a nearby forest during search operations.”


SFs in the state have eliminated another four PLFI cadres in the current year (data till May 31, 2020). During the corresponding period of 2019, SFs had eliminated at least 10 PLFI cadres. No other PLFI cadre was killed by the SFs during the remaining period of 2019.

Significantly, at least 55 PLFI cadres have been eliminated in the State by SFs since 2007, when PLFI was formed. During this period, another 16 PLFI cadres were killed by the Maoists in six fratricidal clashes.

Further, 18 PLFI cadres were killed by civilians in nine incidents. Thus, the PLFI has a lost a total of 89 cadres during this period. At least 533 PLFI cadres have been arrested since 2007, including 10 in the current year. 30 PLFI cadres have surrendered since the formation of the group.

The PLFI was formed in 2007 Reports indicate that Dinesh Gope, founder and current ‘chief’ of the outfit, a renegade Border Security Force (BSF) trooper, was the younger brother of Suresh Gope, a petty criminal who operated in areas around Ranchi. Suresh had a rivalry with another gangster, Jayanath Sahu aka Samrat, principally over collecting ‘levies’ (extortion revenues) and expanding turf. Suresh was killed in an encounter with the Jharkhand Police on December 22, 2003, when he had gone to collect ‘levy’. Dinesh took charge of the gang and worked to extend its area of operation. The gang was initially named the Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT) in September 2004. Later, in July 2007, Masih Charan Purti aka Masih Charan Munda, a renegade senior CPI-Maoist ‘commander’, defected with several of his ‘followers’ and joined Dinesh Gope. While Masih was being hunted by the Maoists, Dinesh was looking for ways to out-gun Jayanath due to the continued rivalry. It was a win-win proposition and Masih Charan and Dinesh joined hands to create PLFI. Masih Charan created the rudimentary structure of the outfit, even as PLFI declared itself a sworn enemy of CPI-Maoist. Though Masih Charan was arrested a year later, in 2008, PLFI continued to grow under Dinesh’s leadership. Other Maoist cadres who walked out of the parent outfit also joined the group.

The armed strength of the group, according to estimates, has fluctuated between 150 to 300 cadres depending on SF pressure. According to an August 19, 2013, report, Jharkhand State Police under its ‘PLFI Action Plan’, had conducted a survey on the cadre strength of the outfit, and found that there were 264 PLFI cadres across Jharkhand – 82 in Ranchi, 55 in Khunti, 44 in Simdega, 44 in Chatra, 17 in Gumla, 14 in Palamu, five in Lohardaga and three in Latehar Districts. No subsequent official figures are available regarding current strength. Compounding the problem is the fact that virtually all petty criminals operating in the area project themselves as PLFI cadres. The outfit functions through several ‘area commanders’ across an area of operation principally extending across Ranchi, Khunti, Simdega, Gumla, Latehar, Chatra and Palamu.


In the meanwhile, Masih Charan fought the 2009 Assembly Elections from jail and thereon followed his political path, consolidating links with the mafia and politicians. Though he ended a runner up in the elections, his influence has slowly increased, as money power attracted cadres as well as political patronage. The backing of the mafia purchased a measure of Police complicity, making PLFI the most prominent extremist group in Khunti and the adjoining region. Unemployed youth were lured into the group with the promise of easy money. As SAIR noted earlier, “the State Government has also been instrumental in sustaining PLFI during its initial days, using it to counter the CPI-Maoist. However, the strategy backfired and PLFI became one of the major LWE groups in the State.”

PLFI gradually became the second-largest LWE group in Jharkhand, after CPI-Maoist. 19 Maoist splinter groups have been active in the State, each of which had broken away from the CPI-Maoist and formed independent gangs with purportedly different ideologies and purposes. Some of the other prominent splinter groups include Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), Jharkhand Sangharsh Jan Mukti Morcha (JSJMM), Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), and Tritiya Prastuti Committee-1 (TPC-1), a breakaway group of TPC. PLFI is among the largest CPI-Maoist splinters in Jharkhand.

With time, PLFI’s extortion network and activities also extended into Odisha, particularly in the Sundargarh District bordering Jharkhand. On July 8, 2012, for instance, PLFI cadres shot dead Hardeep Singh, a block-level politician of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), in Sundargarh. Further, the Jashpur District in Chhattisgarh, bordering the Simdega District of Jharkhand, has also witnessed PLFI activities. The group has been banned in Chhattisgarh since May 26, 2012. Commenting on the PLFI’s style of functioning, former Jharkhand Police spokesperson S. N. Pradhan stated, on August 7, 2013, “PLFI is a purely money-minting gang with no ideology or fundamentals.”

However, the outfit’s ‘operational capacity’ in the State has suffered during the last few years due to SF operational successes on the ground. In eight years between 2007 and 2014, the outfit lost 42 cadres, i.e. 5.25 cadres per year. Over the succeeding five years and more since 2015, it has lost 47 cadres, more than half of the total fatalities suffered by it, i.e. 8.54 fatalities per year. While these numbers seem low, the losses have been devastating for what is essentially a small criminal gang.

On the other hand, between 2007 and 2014, the outfit killed 79 civilians, i.e. 9.87 civilians per year.  Since 2015, it has killed 27 civilians, i.e. 4.90 civilians per year.

The PLFI is currently involved in efforts to regain strength and relentlessly enrich its coffers through extortion. On February 15, 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a press release stated that it had filed the first charge sheet filed in the case against the PLFI (RC-13/19/NIA/DLI) on February 14, 2020. The release noted:

An investigation has revealed that the above charge-sheeted accused operatives of PLFI used to extort levy from the contractors of governmental development projects and transporters. Further, they acquired foreign-made arms and ammunitions illegally which were used to intimidate the contractors and businessmen for committing extortion. Levies collected from them were not only used for terror activities of PLFI but also for acquiring immovable properties by their members.

The case pertains to an incident on December 3, 2018, in which PLFI cadres had gathered in the Titir Mahua Forest area of Balubhang in Latehar District and were conspiring to conduct unlawful activities. On the basis of credible information, a raid was conducted and four accused were arrested along with foreign-made arms and ammunition. The case was first registered by the local police on the same day, and by NIA on February 26, 2019.

Earlier, on October 22, 2019, an NIA press release stated that it had filed another charge sheet (RC- 02/2018/NIA/DLI) on October 21. The release noted that during investigation it was established that a criminal conspiracy was hatched relating to channelizing of the extorted levy amount collected from the contractors/businessmen engaged in the developmental projects in Jharkhand and investing these funds into dubious shell companies formed with the partnership of PLFI associates and family members of Dinesh Gope. INR 2.5 million in cash which was being deposited in State Bank of India (SBI), Branch Bero, Ranchi had been seized by the Police on November 10, 2016. A case was registered by the local Police on the same day, and by NIA on January 19, 2018.


As PLFI is primarily a criminal group, it deliberately avoids direct engagement with the SFs, but continues with its criminal activities and efforts to extend influence and areas of operation.

Indeed, PLFI’s areas of operation are among the country’s worst crime afflicted Districts. It is, consequently, imperative that the momentum of SF operations is maintained, till this group is entirely neutralized.

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.

Deepak Kumar Nayak

Deepak Kumar Nayak is a research assistant at Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research and documentation of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and insurgency in Northeast of India.

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