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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Manipur And India Governments Can’t Take The Pressure Off Terrorism Containment

There is a need to actively address the Hill-Valley divide in Manipur.

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On March 22, 2020, unidentified militants lobbed a grenade at a Border Security Post (BSF) post located at Wangjing Tekcham Leikai in Thoubal District. There was no report of any causality in the incident.

On March 13, 2020, a Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) militant was killed in a factional clash with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) at Longchai village in Tamenglong District.

On January 8, 2020, a bullet ridden body of a non-local, identified as Nilesh Baburao Jadhav, was recovered from Terapokpi Chingdol in Imphal West District.


According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), two fatalities have been recorded in the state since the beginning of 2020 (data till March 29, 2020).

Through 2019 the State registered nine insurgency-linked fatalities (four civilians and five militants) as against 23 [seven civilians, seven Security Force (SF) personnel, and nine militants] recorded in 2018. Total fatalities thus saw a decline of 60.86 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018. Overall fatalities in the State in 2019 were the lowest since 1992. A previous low of 23 was recorded in 2018. At the peak of insurgent violence in 1997, the State registered 495 fatalities.

Significantly, fatalities 2019 in all categories (civilians, SFs and militants) were the lowest recorded in single year since 1992. The number of civilians killed, at four, was the lowest since seven such fatalities were recorded in 2018.  At peak, 266 civilians were killed in 1993.


For the first time since 1992, no fatality was recorded in the SF category in 2019. A low of six fatalities in this category was recorded twice: in 2010 and 2013. At peak, 111 SF personnel were killed in 1997.

The number of militants killed (5) in 2019 was also the lowest in any year since 1992. A previous low of eight was recorded in 2016. The peak fatality in this category was in 2008, when 341 militants were killed. Meanwhile, SFs continued to operate against the insurgents, leading to the arrest of 259 militants in 2019, adding to the 172 arrested in 2018.

Incidents of killing also registered a steep decline. Seven incidents of insurgency-related killing were recorded in 2019, as compared to 22 such incidents in 2018.

The geographical area of insurgent activity also shrank. Incidents of killing were reported from five of the State’s 16 Districts in 2019: Kangpokpi (three fatalities in two incidents), Pherzawl (two fatalities in one incident), Tengnoupal (two fatalities in one incident), Noney (one fatality in one incident), and Bishnupur (one fatality in one incident). Incidents of killing were reported from eight Districts in 2018: Noney (seven fatalities in seven incidents), Imphal West (five fatalities in five incidents), Chandel (three fatalities in three incidents), Churachandpur (two fatalities in two incidents), Kangpokpi (two fatalities in two incidents), Thoubal (one incident with one fatality), Tengnoupal (one incident with one fatality), and Kamjong (one incident with one fatality).

Despite the decline in violence, areas of concern persist, such as extortion and abduction by militants.


According to the SATP database, three extortion cases were reported in 2019, as compared to two in 2018 (such incidents tend to go grossly under-reported, as individuals under threat incline to reach private settlements with the militant groups).

There are several national projects under construction in the State and the private companies that execute these projects routinely targeted for extortion. Most prominent amongst them is the INR125.24 billion Jiribam-Imphal Railway Project that will connect State Capital Imphal to rest of India.

A Noney District resident, who received compensation in lieu of his land acquired for the project, in an interview to The Wire, disclosed that, out of the money he had received, he had to pay 20-30 per cent to ‘underground groups’. The report mentions the presence of NSCN-IM, ZUF, Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) and Kuki National Front (KNF) in the area.

The SATP database shows that 16 persons (10 incidents) were abducted in 2019 in addition to 24 persons (in 12 incidents) abducted in 2018. As with extortion, abduction cases most likely are a fraction of the actual incidents in the State.

Moreover, violence continues to affect small pockets of the Hill Areas. Out of the five Districts from where killings were reported in 2019, four are Hill Districts, while one lies in the Valley. In 2018, out of the eight Districts from where killings were reported, six were Hill Districts (Noney, Chandel, Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and Kamjong), and two were Valley Districts (Imphal West and Thoubal). Manipur has a total of 16 Districts: 10 Hill Districts (Chandel, Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul, Pherzawl, Noney, Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi, Kamjong and Churachandpur) and six Valley Districts (Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, and Jiribam).

And the reason is simple. Talks with major militant formations representing Naga and Kuki communities residing in the Hills have not resulted in any final outcome. These groups include NSCN-IM, ZUF, KNO, and UPF.

The Hill Districts based militant groups – Kuki National Organisation (KNO), United People’s Front (UPF), and NSCN-IM – are demanding ethnic homelands exclusive for the respective tribes that they claim to represent, often excluding other tribes inhabiting the common area, creating an atmosphere of deep distrust.

At times, even local conflicts between neighbouring villages of different ethnicity are projected in community terms, leading to widespread violence.

For instance, on March 16, 2020, some miscreants suspected to be from the Naga community set ablaze a jhum (slash and burn) cultivation of some Kuki villagers on ‘disputed’ land in the Kamjong District. In retaliation, Kukis set ablaze a Naga owned petrol station at Chassad and blocked a major road in the Sampui area.


On March 17, Nagas from Kamjong village went to the site to clear the road, leading to a clash between the two sides during which over 50 houses were set ablaze. The Administration had to impose Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of four or more persons) in the area and curbs on internet usage throughout the State to contain the fallout.

Nevertheless, after the latest round of talks held between the Naga militant groups and Government of India (GoI), on an October 31, 2019, deadline, initially at least it appeared that the issues between NSCN-IM and GoI had been amicably resolved. However, increasingly it appears that this is not the case.

On March 9, 2020, the emissary of the NSCN-IM collective leadership V.S. Atem in his meeting with Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi conveyed:

“Until and unless, GOI [Government of India] recognises the Naga national flag and Naga constitution (Yehzabo) as inseparable from the agreement which would be chalked out, there would be no solution because that would be tantamount to deviating from the principle of the Framework Agreement. A solution without a flag and constitution can never be honoured.”

Also, after the talks, on October 31, 2019, civil society groups based in Imphal Valley Districts [Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, and Jiribam], fearing possible implications of GoI’s negotiations with NSCN-IM on Manipur’s territorial integrity, took to the streets.

Understandably, on December 20, 2019, the Manipur Legislative Assembly reaffirmed the earlier adopted resolution No 121 to protect the territorial integrity of Manipur. Resolution 121, adopted on July 23, 2018, seeks an amendment to the present Article 3 of the Indian Constitution, incorporating the requirement of mandatory prior consent of the State Legislatures of affected states while forming a new State or changing boundaries or names of existing States.

Meanwhile, the Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement with the Kuki militant conglomerates KNO and the UPF, was extended on February 21, 2020. The SoO Agreement now will be valid till August 31, 2020. On June 25, 2019, in the seventh round of the ‘political dialogue’ between Kuki conglomerate (KNO, UPF) and the Governments (Union and State), there was a discussion on the creation of a Territorial Council for the community.

KNO ‘spokesperson’ Seilen Haokip, observed:

“To be precise we are doing a comparative study of the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC). Based on the BTC pattern, we are pushing with our demand for Territorial Council (TC) and trying to find a way to improve it (TC)”.

Later, on November 23, 2019, GoI interlocutor for the Kuki talks, A.B. Mathur, stated:

“Talks are underway. We are hoping to arrive at an agreement soon. We cannot put a timeline on it as it is a complex issue, and we are looking at the charter of demands the groups have placed before us.”

Valley-based major militant groups – United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Kanglei Yawaol Kanna Lup (KYKL) – present in Myanmar continue to benefit from the porous Indo-Myanmar border. A February 2020 report indicated the presence of a large number of militants in the southern zone of the Sagiang Division in Myanmar. The report mentioned the presence of UNLF with 3,000 cadres; PLA with 2,000; and around 1,000 cadres of KYKL in the zone. This is in spite of measures such as the 2015 surgical strikes by India and 2019 operations by Myanmar’s Tatmadaw, which forced these groups to shift deeper inside Myanmar territory.

Another potentially polarizing issue was the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA 2019) facilitating citizenship to ‘illegal migrants’ from six non-Muslim minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhist, Christians and Parsis – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

However, after the approval of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime for the State, which automatically puts the State out of CAA purview, the agitating public has become calmer.

The outbreak of Novel Corona Virus 2019 (COVID-19) in India, with some early cases detected in Manipur, could severely undermine the State finances, as the lockdown restricts economic activities.

This could potentially add to existing financial burdens of Manipur, leading to a diversion of the Government’s attention away from development projects, to meet the immediate public needs of food, essentials and emergency health services.

A June 12, 2019, report mentions that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) banned all transaction of funds from the account of the Manipur Government due to a mounting overdraft, forcing the Government to freeze recruitment in all State Government Departments.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is, moreover, an unprecedented situation, the likely long-term impact of which will be visible in the coming months and years; intuitively, it is certain to impact the State Economy negatively in the immediate future.

As we witness continuous declines in violence in Manipur over the past few years, there is a need to actively address the Hill-Valley divide in the State.

Sagacious political accommodation is needed to avoid ethnic tensions getting linked with the inevitable financial crisis, to undermine the relative peace that has been established.

Active vigilance is required by the State and SFs to preempt or contain ethnic violence between the major Hill tribes, as there might be conflicting interests over emotive issues like land, with both sides trying to reach an agreement with the Government. Besides, the Valley-based outfits holed up in Myanmar can potentially strike at any time, to reclaim legitimacy, if there is a settlement with the Hill tribes that is not acceptable to Valley formations.

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.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Giriraj Bhattacharjee is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

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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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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Maoist Threat Diminishing In Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh

Four ITBP battalions are currently deployed for anti-Maoist operations in Rajnandgaon, in addition to the regular security deployment.

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On May 8, 2020, four Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres and a Police Sub-Inspector (SI) were killed in an exchange of fire in a forested area near Pardhoni village under Manpur Police Station limits in Rajnandgaon District.

The four slain Maoists were identified as Ashok Rainu (35), a ‘divisional committee member (DCM) of the CPI-Maoist’sRajnandgaon-Kanker border division committee, carrying a reward of INR 800,000 on his head; Krishna Nareti (26), an ‘area committee member (ACM), carrying a reward of INR 500,000 on his head; and the two women cadres, identified as Savita Salame and Parmila, both members of the Local Organisation Squad (LOS), carrying rewards of INR 100,000 each on their heads. Security Force (SF) personnel recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, one Self Loading Rifle (SLR) and two .315 bore rifles from the encounter spot.

This was the first major success of the Security Forces (SFs) against the Maoists in the District since August 3, 2019, when seven CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in a gunfight with SFs in the forest near Sitagota village under Baghnadi Police Station limits in Rajnandgaon District.


The slain Maoists were identified as Sukhdev, ‘secretary’ of theDarekasa ‘area committee’ of the CPI-Maoist’s’Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (MMC) zone’; Pramila, his wife and member of the Darekasa ‘area committee’; Seema, Meena and Ritesh, members of the same squad; and Lalitha and Shilpa, members of the ‘Vistaar (expansion) Platoon No 1’. It was the most successful operation by the SFs in terms of the number of fatalities on the rebel’s side since March 6, 2000.

SFs have succeeded in eliminating three or more Naxalites in Rajnandgaon on a total of five occasions, including the two mentioned above, since March 2000. The other three operations include:

  • May 29, 2018: A Special Police team killed three Maoists at Chandiya Dongari under Bortalav Police Station limits in Rajnandgaon District. The slain Maoists included Azad alias Gopal alias Sudarshan, a ‘deputy commander’ of the Darekasa ‘area committee’ of the CPI-Maoist ‘MMC zone’. Sudarshan a resident of Gondpipari town in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra carried a reward of INR 500,000 on his head. Police recovered one rifle, one pistol, ammunition, walkie-talkies, and other material from the encounter site.
  • October 25, 2017: Three Maoists were killed in an encounter with the SFs in the forest near Kopenkadka village under Khadgaon Police Station Limits in Rajnandgaon District. Those killed were identified as Mahesh, an ‘area committee member (ACM)’; Rakesh, ACM; Pallemadi ‘LOS commander’; and Ranjit, Pallemadi ‘LOS ‘deputy commander’. The trio hailed from the Bastar region of the State and were carrying rewards of INR 500,000, INR 500,000 and INR 300,000, respectively. Police recovered three automatic weapons – AK 47 rifle, one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle and one SLR – from the spot.
  • June 18, 2017: Three Maoist cadres, including two women, were killed in an encounter with SFs at Aundhi village in Manpur Tehsil in Rajnandgaon District. One of the women Maoists killed was identified as Sameela Potai, ‘secretary’ of the local ‘area committee’ who had been active in the region for over a decade and carried an award of INR 800,000. The other woman cadre, identified as Rammo, was a LOS member and carried a reward of INR 100,000. Three weapons – one SLR, one INSAS assault rifle and a .303 rifle were recovered from the encounter site.

All these operations took place during the last four years, beginning 2017.


The success of operations since 2017 has helped SFs consolidate their hold in the District. The SF:Maoist kill ratio since 2017 works out to 1:5.6, a clear indication of the dominance of the SFs on the ground.

Between 2001 and 2016, an adverse ratio of 11:1 prevailed against SFs, although this was principally due to a single particularly bad year, 2009, when 37 SFs lost their lives, while not a single Maoist was killed.

Successes of the recent years aside, Rajnandgaon is one among 27Districts where the overall kill ratio stands in favour of the Maoists, at 1.53:1.

There are 80 Districts across 10 States which have recorded fatalities in both Maoist and SF categories since March 6, 2000. Only 27 of these, spread across six States, have recorded a kill ratio that favours the Maoists.

Worryingly, Rajnandgaon is one among 48 Districts where the civilian fatalities outnumber Maoist fatalities, out of 99 Districts across 11 States which have recorded fatalities in both Maoist and civilian categories since March 6, 2000. ”


Rajnandgaon is also currently among the ’30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts, across seven states in the country, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA).

Furthermore, the District is among the 90 Districts in 11 States that are considered LWE affected, according to a Government release of February 5, 2019.

Rajnandgaon is also listed as one of the ‘Aspirational Districts’ included in the ‘Aspirational Districts Programme’, which focuses on five main themes – Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure – which have direct bearing on the quality of life and economic productivity of citizens in ‘underdeveloped’ pockets.

Rajnandgaon covers an area of 8,222 square kilometers, of which more than 11.90 per cent (around 978.87 square kilometres) is under forest cover. The District shares its borders with Kabirdham, earlier known as Kawardha in the north and Durg in the east, both in Chhattisgarh; Gadchiroli and Bhandara Districts in Maharashtra, and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh, in the west; and Bastar in Chhattisgarh, in the south. All these Districts, with the exception of Durg and Bhandara, are LWE-affected.

The District’s strategic location makes it an ideal choice for Maoists to include it in their scheme of things. According to an August 12, 2019, report, following a decision taken in the ‘Central Regional Bureau (CRB)’ meeting in 2014, CPI-Maoist is trying to develop the ‘MMC zone’. Broadly, parts of Rajnandgaon, along with Kabirdham and Mungeli in Chhattisgarh;Balaghat, Mandala, Dindauri (Dindori) in Madhya Pradesh; and Gondia, Nagpur and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, come under the ‘MMC Zone’.

The ‘MMC Zone’ is intended to be developed as an entity like the ‘Dandakaranya (DK) Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC)’ in Bastar, which is predominately tribal, forested and hilly, and consequently suitable for guerrilla warfare. Significantly, a 25-page-long Maoist document, retrieved by the Chhattisgarh Police in April 2017 had revealed the rebels’ plans about the ‘MMC zone’.

Evidently, the Maoists, who are facing severe reverses across the country, including in Chhattisgarh, are struggling to recover the few places where they retain some hold. This is where the ‘MMC zone’ fits in. Senior officers (names withheld) involved in counter-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh believe there are about 180 armed Maoists now in the ‘Vistaar Dalam’ (expansion armed squad) of the ‘MMC zone’, who are trying to establish their grip in the ‘MMC zone’.

The ‘MMC zone’ is said to be a refuge for top Maoists of Bastar and other regions.

Revealing that the Maoists were also exploring the ‘urban support network’, Police arrested 12 ‘sympathisers’ for their alleged links with the CPI-Maoist, in Rajnandgaon District on May 14, 2020. The arrested persons were supplying materials for uniforms, shoes, wires, and walkie-talkie sets, besides cash, in lieu of being allowed to function as road contractors in the Bastar Division.

Earlier, an April 24, 2020, report, had given details about the Maoists ‘urban support network’, after Chhattisgarh Police arrested seven sympathisers from Rajnandgaon (three) and Kanker (four). The ‘sympathisers’ were allegedly transporting a huge consignment of shoes, fabric and walkie-talkie sets, meant for the Maoist rebels.

These disclosures confirm the residual threat of the Maoists in the District.


Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Director General of Police (DGP), DM Awasthi, on February 1, 2020, asked officials to prepare a strategy for the succeeding five months and to conduct operations accordingly. DGP Awasthi later instructed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Superintendents of Police (SPs) from Rajnandgaon and Kawardha to chalk out a five-month strategy in advance for conducting anti-Naxal operation in their regions. He also told the Rajnandgaon Police to involve the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and District Force in the anti-Naxal operations.

Four ITBP battalions are currently deployed for anti-Maoist operations in Rajnandgaon, in addition to the regular security deployment. Significantly, according to a May 5, 2020, report, the Centre has decided to deploy eight battalions (over 8,000 personnel) of ITBP in Chhattisgarh on a permanent basis from 2021, as a step towards uprooting the Maoists in the region. Over 3,000 ITBP personnel were first deployed in Rajnandgaon District in December 2009.

The Maoists continue to struggle to recover their erstwhile strongholds, including Rajnandgaon. The SFs need to sustain operational intensities to end any prospect of the rebels making a comeback in the District.

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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