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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

ISI’s Khalistani Foster Babies Pose A Challenge In Punjab

However, the separatist agenda is rejected by all but a tiny extremist fringe among the Sikhs.

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On July 5, 2020, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology reportedly took down 40 websites run and operated by the pro-Khalistan Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), on a recommendation from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA). These websites were being used to propagate anti-India sentiment across the world and for trying to recruit young Sikhs to join militant ranks.

Also Read: ‘Narco-Terrorism’ Rising In Punjab?

Though both these ministries refused to disclose details of websites that were blocked, one of the prominent websites associated widely with the group – www.referendum2020.org – through which the SFJ sought support from Sikh youth for the formation of a separate ‘Khalistan State’, is not accessible.


The SFJ’s Facebook page has already been blocked in India.

The spokesperson of the UMHA said that the action (blocking the websites) was taken subsequent to the outfit launching online voter registration for ‘Referendum 2020’. On July 4, 2020, SFJ launched its online voter registration for ‘Referendum 2020′ for people in Punjab through a Russian portal, www.punjabfree.ru. ‘Referendum 2020’ seeks to “liberate Punjab from Indian occupation”. The website was blocked in India, shortly after going online.

Unconfirmed reports, meanwhile, indicate that SFJ, without announcing any new dates, has deferred its ‘Referendum 2020’ programme to 2022, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as its reason.


The possibility of deferment had been in the air since Pakistan-based Khalistani leader Gopal Singh Chawla had stated on May 29, 2020, “Neither is it written in Quran nor in Guru Granth Sahib that ‘referendum 2020’ has to be held in 2020 only.” There is now no clarity over the ‘referendum’ date.

On July 1, 2020, UMHA declared nine persons, including Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the United States (US)-based legal adviser of SFJ, terrorists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for their involvement in acts of terror and pushing the Khalistan movement. UMHA in a release observed:

These individuals are involved in various acts of terrorism from across the border and from foreign soil. They have been relentless in their nefarious efforts of destabilizing the country, by trying to revive militancy in Punjab through their anti-national activities and through their support to and involvement in the Khalistan Movement.

The other designated terrorists included: Wadhawa Singh Babbar, Pakistan-based ‘chief’ of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI); Paramjit Singh, United Kingdom-based ‘chief’ of BKI; Lakhbir Singh, Pakistan-based ‘chief’ of International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF); Ranjeet Singh, Pakistan-based ‘chief’ of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF); Bhupinder Singh Bhinda, Germany-based key member of KZF; Gurmeet Singh Bagga, Germany-based key member of KZF; Paramjit Singh, Pakistan-based ‘chief’ of Khalistan Commando Force; and Hardeep Singh Nijjar:, Canada-based ‘chief’ of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).

Significantly, SFJ had earlier been designated an unlawful organisation, on July 10, 2019. KZF, BKI, ISYF, KCF, are also among the list of 42 groups banned by the UMHA. KTF is yet to be banned.


On June 22, 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Pargat Singh, one of the key conspirators and “recruiter of radical Sikh youth while working under the directions of handlers located abroad to further the activities of SFJ”.

Since April 5, 2020, NIA is investigating a case pertaining to  “carrying out of propaganda activities both online and on ground and campaigns in support of Referendum 2020/SFJ, including pasting of posters in Delhi and various parts of Punjab, committed by groups of radicalised youths under direction of and financial assistance from SFJ handlers located abroad”. Investigations have so far revealed that arrested accused persons, including Pargat Singh, had received funds from their foreign handlers through various Money Transfer Service Scheme (MTSS) platforms.

In its notification of July 10, 2019, banning SFJ for five years and declaring it as an “unlawful association” under the UAPA, UMHA observed, inter alia,

…SFJ is involved in anti-national and subversive activities in Punjab and elsewhere, intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; SFJ is in close touch with the militant outfits and activists, and is supporting violent form of extremism and militancy in Punjab and elsewhere to carve out a sovereign Khalistan out of territory of Union of India; SFJ is encouraging and aiding the activities for secession of a part of the Indian territory from the Union of India and supporting separatist groups fighting for this purpose in India and elsewhere …

When the SFJ opposed the ban, the Union Government on August 7, 2019, constituted a Tribunal “for the purpose of adjudicating whether or not there is sufficient cause for declaring the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) as unlawful association.” On January 6, 2020, the Tribunal upheld the Government’s decision.

According to the notification details, SFJ has been found involved in several disruptive activities. Most recently, according to a June 28, 2020, report, Intelligence agencies warned that anti-India activities were being guided by a handler of Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), named Abdullah, in close coordination with SFJ’s ‘founder’ Avtar Singh Pannu, a United Kingdom resident.

SFJ, which was formed in 2007, has emerged as a challenge for the security establishment in Punjab in particular, and India at large, since 2018. The group came into prominence in August 2018, after its August 12 ‘London Declaration’ where it called for the ‘Referendum 2020’ for Khalistan. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the face of the outfit, declared:

SFJ in its London Declaration [in August 2018] has announced to hold the first ever non-binding referendum among the global Sikh community on the question of secession from India and re-establishing Punjab as an independent country. SFJ has announced to hold polling for referendum in November 2020 which it has planned to hold in Punjab along with major cities of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Kenya and the Middle Eastern Countries.

However, it is pertinent to recall that “Referendum 2020” was conceptualised by SFJ, way back in June 2014. Not surprisingly, the ISI, which has for long been relentless in its efforts to destabilize Punjab (as well as India as a whole), using all means, has been supporting the SFJ since then. After its ‘London Declaration’, SFJ has become prominent among terrorist/disruptive instruments of the ISI operating against India.


According to intelligence sources, ISI has launched a secret operation code-named as ‘Express’ to fund and promote the ‘Referendum 2020’ campaign.

Significantly, on November 22, 2018, when India’s Cabinet approved the decision on the construction of the Kartarpur Corridor, Pakistan gave permission to SFJ to open its office in Lahore, Pakistan (on the same day).

Just days later, on November 28, 2018, the SFJ leadership declared “the Kartarpur corridor is a bridge to Khalistan” clearly indicating ISI’s intent.

More recently, according to a June 15, 2020, report, Indian Intelligence agencies have identified more than 20 phone numbers of Khalistan extremists, originating from different countries, including Pakistan, used in spreading audio messages in various Districts in Punjab. Most of these numbers are being used by the SFJ to spearhead the anti-India campaign under “Referendum 2020”.

Further, a June 22, 2020, report claimed that ISI was using its diplomatic missions, particularly in London, to ‘fund and foment’ anti-India hate campaigns. At the behest of the ISI, an officer of the rank of Colonel in the Pakistan Army was instrumental in funding pro-Khalistan groups, including SFJ, which has an office in London.

SFJ has direct links with several Khalistan terrorist groupings, all of which work with the support of the ISI.  According to a June 28, 2020, report, the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) was working in tandem with the SFJ.

On June 27, 2020, the Delhi Police had neutralized a KLF module and arrested its three members, who were allegedly planning to execute targeted killings and extortions in various north Indian states. One of the arrestees, Gurtej Singh, was in direct contact with SFJ leader Avtar Singh Pannu in the UK, and Gopal Singh Chawla, based in Pakistan. Chawla is a close associate of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, ‘chief’ of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Another arrestee, Mohinder Singh, had earlier been closely associated with BKI.

Meanwhile, with the ISI strongly behind SFJ, providing funds and guidance, the separatist group has made several fraudulent offers to Sikhs in India.

Soon after Pakistan announced that that it would charge a USD 20 ‘facilitation fee’ from each pilgrim using the Kartarpur Corridor to visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, SFJ leader Pannun declared, “People of Punjab who will visit Kartarpur Sahib between November 1 and 30 will have to submit proof of their visit to SFJ and receive USD 20 service fee reimbursement via Western Union.”

Again, in March 2020, SFJ offered to give cash grants to low-income families living in Punjab members of which had tested positive for COVID-19. More recently, after the India-China face-off in Galwan Valley along the Line of Actual Control, SFJ offered INR 5,000 plus salary to Sikh soldiers in Indian Army to join its ‘Khalistan movement’ and support the ‘referendum’.

It also made pre-recorded calls to prominent persons like journalists, doctors and lawyers to instigate them for referendum campaign’. Significantly, there is no evidence of even a single payment on any of these offers actually being disbursed.

SFJ’s ‘strategies’ have failed comprehensively. SFJ’s ‘voter registration’ dates have been revised several times as, on each occasion, they failed to enthuse any significant response.

SFJ, working under the aegis of the ISI, certainly poses a challenge for the security establishment in Punjab at a time when the state is facing some risks of a terrorist revival.

However, the failure of virtually all of SFJ’s initiatives to secure significant traction among Sikhs, both in Punjab and among the Diaspora, is evidence of effective state responses as well as a rejection of the separatist agenda by all but a tiny extremist fringe among the Sikhs.

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

SUCCESS: Maoists Finding No Place To Hide At Andhra-Odisha Border Region

AOB region saw 23 Maoist-linked fatalities in 2019, including seven civilians, one trooper, and 15 Maoists.

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On August 3, 2020, two civilians, identified as Mondipalli Ajay Kumar and Mondipalli Mohan Rao, were killed in a landmine explosion near Chintalaveedhi, located in the interior part of the ‘Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB)’ region, in Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh.

According to the Police, the two tribal youth ventured into the forest in search of cattle when they inadvertently stepped on a landmine, planted by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), leading to their death on the spot.

On July 26, 2020, a CPI-Maoist cadre was killed in an exchange of fire with the Security Forces (SFs) at Gangaraju Madugula, in the AOB region, in Visakhapatnam District.


According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the AOB region – comprising of four north coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh (East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam) and the five Districts of southern Odisha (Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati and Ganjam) – have recorded five Maoist-linked fatalities (three civilians and two Maoists) in the current year, thus far (data till August 16, 2020).

During the corresponding period in 2019, the AOB region had recorded 12 fatalities (five civilians and seven Maoists).

Maoist-linked fatalities in the AOB region stood at 23 (seven civilians, one trooper, and 15 Maoists) through 2019.

Since 2001, when the ‘Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC)’ was formed, the AOB region has recorded 820 fatalities (314 civilians, 219 SF personnel, 273 Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) and 14 Not Specified, data till August 16, 2020). A high of 96 fatalities was recorded in 2008, while a low of 13 was recorded in 2004. Overall fatalities in the region have followed a cyclical trend.


The security situation in the region has, however, seen constant improvement over the past few years. Civilian fatalities, a key index of security in an area/region, have fallen, on year on year basis, since 2017. As against 22 fatalities recorded in this category in 2016, there were 21 fatalities in 2017, nine in 2018, seven in 2019, and three in 2020 (data till August 16, 2020).

During these years (2017-2020), SFs have also made considerable gains on the ground. The SF:LWE kill ratio since 2017 stands at 1:3.18, much higher than the overall ratio of 1:24, albeit at much lower levels of total fatalities. Significantly, in the 10 years, between 2001 and 2010, the ratio was in favour of the Maoists, at 1.49:1.

SFs have arrested two Maoists in the region in the current year (data till August 16, 2020), in addition to 21 in 2019, 60 in 2018, and 32 in 2017. Mounting SF pressure has also resulted in the surrender of 23 Maoists in the current year, in addition to 43 in 2019, 51 in 2018, and 102 in 2017.

The twin encounters in the Bejingi Forest area between Ramgarh and Panasput in Malkangiri District on October 24 and 27, 2016, resulting in the death of 28 and two Maoist cadres, respectively, dealt a major blow to the outfit in the AOB region.

Among the nine Districts of the AOB region, Malkangiri recorded the highest of 349 fatalities (135 civilians, 108 SF personnel, 105 LWEs and one Not Specified) followed by Koraput, with 173 fatalities (72 civilians, 54 SF personnel, 44 LWEs and three Not Specified); Vishakhapatnam, 152 fatalities (67 civilians, 19 SF personnel, 63 LWEs and three Not Specified); Rayagada, 57 fatalities (19 civilians, 10 SF personnel, 27 LWEs and one Not Specified); East Godavari, 34 fatalities (five civilians, 11 SF personnel, 13 LWEs and five Not Specified); Vizianagaram, 23 fatalities (seven civilians, six SF personnel, nine LWEs and one Not Specified); Gajapati, 22 fatalities (two civilians, 10 SF personnel and 10 LWEs); Srikakulam, six fatalities (four civilians, one SF trooper and one LWE); and Ganjam, four fatalities (thee civilians and one LWE).


The AOB region has for long served as a safe haven for the Maoists because of its terrain and dense forest cover. Part of the region adjoins the geographical spread popularly known as Swabhiman Anchal, earlier called as the ‘cut-off area’, which falls in the east of the Balimela river sandwiched between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The ‘cut-off’ area was a long-time sanctuary and stronghold for the Maoists.

Nonetheless, of late, this Maoist safe haven has been eroding with a steady decline in their presence as well as a growing crisis in leadership.

A June 13, 2020, report observes that CPI-Maoist cadres in the erstwhile ‘cut-off’ area of AOB were facing a leadership crisis, as the link between the cadre base and the main leadership has reportedly been severed.

According to the report, after the October 2016 twin encounters, the Andhra Pradesh Police have been on the offensive. This was well supported by the Odisha Government, which not only increased the footprint of its Special Operations Group (SOG) and District Voluntary Force (DVF) in the ‘cut-off area’ but also increased the presence of the Border Security Force (BSF) by setting up new camps in Jayapayi, Hantalaguda and Darlabeda. On the Andhra Pradesh side, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has set up two new outposts at Nurmati and Rudakota.

Further, according to Superintendent of Police (SP), Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh, Attada Babujee, with the coming up of the armed outposts and BSF camps and increased surveillance and combing, the Maoists have been pushed back to a small pocket to the north of the ‘cut-off area’.

Fearing exposure, the main leaders such as Akkiraju Haragopal aka Ramakrishna aka R.K., ‘Central Committee’ member; Gajarla Ravi aka Uday aka Ganesh, ‘secretary AOBSZC’; and Chalapathi, Central Committee member, have reportedly moved to the Gumma region of Odisha.

150-odd villages of Kudumulu Gumma Block (administrative unit) were separated from the rest of the Block by the Balimela Reservoir and were consequently called the ‘cut-off area’. However, with the inauguration of the Gurupriya Setu (bridge) on July 26, 2018, the area and its more than 20,000 people got connected to the mainland of Malkangiri District.

According to a July 26, 2020, report, with the efforts of the District administration, the development outreach was being extended to the remotest corners of the area.

The region is now known as Swabhiman Anchal (Self-respect Zone).

The collector of Malkangiri, Manish Agarwal, observed:

“The Gurupriya bridge has facilitated the construction of several kilometres of roads inside Swabhiman Anchal. Bus and ambulance services have been introduced in the area. Also, the administration has dug more than 250 tube-wells, electrified villages and strengthened the primary education system and healthcare in the area on a priority basis.”


Moreover, a June 28, 2020, report noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the Maoists hard, as the usual supply routes for procuring their rations through the interior villages in the AOB region have been sealed. An unnamed Police officer observed:

“Naxal movement along the borders is very common. Because of the difficult terrain, the Andhra-Odisha border area is a haven for their activities. Maoists get their essentials from weekly markets or towns. Since vehicular movement is restricted, Maoists are entirely dependent on villagers who are now reluctant to go out of their homes amid the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The recent crises faced by the Maoists have been capitalized on by the SFs as well as the administration, which have been focusing on developing the area.

On June 19, 2020, the Director-General of Police of Odisha, Abhay, asserted that the CPI-Maoist violence is on the decline in the Swabhiman Anchal in the region. The DGP noted,

Three security vacuums have been filled up in the erstwhile cut-off region in the last six months. They include enhancing Police presence in the region, operationalization of BSF camps in Jantapai, Hantalguda, and Darlabeda and accelerating development works.

More recently, on 24 July 2020, DGP Abhay said that “apart from carrying out anti-Maoist operations, development activities in the affected areas have also helped curb Naxal activities.” The officer further added that seven major roads are under construction in Malkangiri.

Currently, as a part of the focused initiatives of the Odisha Government to usher development, road connectivity has been given top priority and several road projects have been taken up in the area. These are:

  • Badapada to Jantapayi (work completed)
  • Jantapayi to Jodambo (Single layer BT completed)
  • Jodambo to Guarasethu to Panasput (work is being started)
  • Janturayi to Gajalmamudi (metalling work underway)
  • Darlabeda to Kutunipadar (metalling work going on)
  • Jantapayi to Papermetal to Dhuliput to Singabaram (metalling work in progress)
    and
  • Hantalguda to Kalibandha to Bandhaguda (metalling and BT work in progress)

Nonetheless, worries still persist. A July 31, 2020, report highlighted that, despite strict vigilance by SFs, the Maoists observed their ‘Martyrs Week’ (July 28 – August 3) in a grand way at a “martyrs’ pylon” close to the Andhra Pradesh borders in the AOB region and paid tributes to their ‘martyrs’. They conducted a meeting with the people of around 15 villages in the ‘cut-off area’ of Malkangiri, in which their top leader and ‘AOBSZC secretary’ Gajarla Ravi aka Uday aka Ganesh addressed the gathering.

Earlier, on July 23, 2020, the ‘East Division Committee secretary’ of CPI-Maoist, Aruna aka Venkata Ravi Chaitanya, while giving a call to the public to observe ‘Martyr’s Week’, conveyed that the ‘East Division’ would continue to fight for the people’s rights and support the people’s movements.

Following this, on July 25, 2020, the Maoists dug up a road between Tamilawada and Chintagupa to disrupt the vehicular movement of SFs in the Visakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh.

Further, according to a July 28, 2020, report, the ‘Koraput-Visakha Secretary’, Benu, released an audio message in which he talked about the alleged atrocities of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha Governments and urged the local masses to join the Maoist ‘revolution’.

The AOB region remains a significant shelter zone for the Maoists and they are currently desperate to make every effort to keep the remaining safe havens in the region intact.

SFs of both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha need to continue to act in coordination and sustain their offensives to transform the AOB region into a Maoist free zone.

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

Maoists’ KKBN Division Fails To Take Ground In Odisha

The Maoist power is undeniably fizzling out in the ‘KKBN division’ and across Odisha.

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on July 23, 2020, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, including a woman, were killed in an exchange of fire with the Security Forces (SFs) in the Srila Reserve Forest area under Tumudibandha Police limits in the Kandhamal District of Odisha.

Director-General of Police (DGP) Abhay disclosed, “The Police Forces fired in self-defence. After the exchange of fire ended, the SOG [Special Operations Group] and DVF [District Voluntary Force] spotted two bodies – a male and a female. Both were in Maoist uniforms. We also recovered one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle, one carbine, and two country-made firearms.”

The identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained.


On July 6, 2020, a CPI-Maoist cadre was killed in an exchange of fire with the SFs, again in the Sirla Reserve Forest area under the Tumudibandha Police Station.

According to an Odisha Police release, “On Monday at 6.30 p.m., Maoists opened fire from an advantageous position and lobbed grenades at SOG and DVF jawans [troopers]. Police party immediately took cover and asked Maoists to stop firing and surrender. Some police personnel sustained injuries.”

The body of a slain Maoist along with two country-made weapons was recovered from the encounter site. The identity of the slain Maoist is yet to be ascertained.


On July 5, 2020, four CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an exchange of fire with DVF and SOG personnel in the Sirla Reserve Forest. Though the individual identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained, it was found that all of them belonged to the ‘Kandhamal-Kalahandi-Boudh-Nayagarh (KKBN) Division’. Arms and ammunition, including three Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), one INSAS assault rifle, two country-made weapons, SLR 16, Maoist literature and other articles were recovered from the encounter site.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the ‘KKBN division’ – covering the Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Boudh, and Nayagarh Districts of Odisha – has accounted for at least eight Maoist-linked fatalities (one civilian and seven Maoists) in the current year, thus far (data till July 26, 2020).

During the corresponding period in 2019, the ‘division’ had recorded four fatalities (three civilians and one Maoist), and another three fatalities in the remaining period of 2019, to take the year’s tally to seven (five civilians and two Maoists).

The first-ever fatality in the ‘division’ was registered on February 15, 2008, when 14 Police personnel and two civilians were killed, and four Policemen sustained injuries, when around 500 heavily armed CPI-Maoist cadres carried out a coordinated attack targeting a Police Training School, the District armoury, and District Police Station near Daspalla in the Nayagarh District. Three Maoists were also killed in the incident.

Since then, the ‘division’ has accounted for a total of 94 fatalities, including 43 civilians, 21 SF personnel, and 30 Maoists (data till July 26, 2020), including the fatalities recorded on February 15, 2008. During this period (February 15, 2008, and July 26, 2020), Odisha has recorded a total of 760 fatalities (324 civilians, 171 SF personnel, 265 Maoists).


Thus, the ‘KKBN division’ alone accounted for 12.36 per cent of total Maoist-linked fatalities in the State.

A cursory look at the fatalities in the ‘KKBN division’ suggests that SFs, after suffering a major jolt on February 15, 2008, succeeded in putting immense pressure on the Maoists. While the overall ratio of fatalities in the ‘division’ stands in favour of the SFs at 1:1.42, it improved dramatically between 2013 and 2020, at 1:26.

The last SF fatality was recorded on June 4, 2017, when a SOG trooper was killed and six were injured in a CPI-Maoist ambush near Khamankhol under Baliguda Police Station limits in the Kandhamal District.

Moreover, since February 15, 2008, SFs have arrested at least 59 Maoists from the ‘KKBN division’, and mounting pressure resulted in the surrender of another 17 (data till July 26, 2020). In addition, combing operations by the SFs resulted in the recovery of arms and ammunition on 59 occasions between February 15, 2008, and July 26, 2020.

Most recently, on July 2, 2020, SFs busted a CPI-Maoist camp in the Samarbandha Forest area under Phiringia Police Station limits in Kandhamal District and recovered 15 kilograms of explosives containing urea, gunpowder and other substances, 28 detonators, digital multimeters, bags, blackcaps, rechargeable batteries, camp equipment, Maoist banners, posters and literature.

Despite SF successes, however, civilians continue to suffer, though significant improvement have been recorded between 2013 and 2020, as the SFs have come to dominate the region. 20 civilian fatalities were recorded during these seven years and seven months, as compared to 22 fatalities in the preceding four years and 11 months (approximately) between February 15, 2008, and December 31, 2012.

The ‘KKBN division’, spread over a geographical area of 22,562 square kilometres, offers crucial strategic advantages to the Maoists. The forest cover in the ‘division’ is 11,604 square kilometres, i.e., about 51.43 per cent of the total area. The ‘division’ is situated to the south of the state, and is mostly surrounded by currently Maoist-affected or erstwhile Maoist-affected Districts of the State.

To the south, the ‘KKBN division’ shares its borders with Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada; to the north, with Angul, Bolangir and Subarnapur; to the east with Cuttack, Ganjam and Khordha; and to the west, with Nuapada, as well as Raipur in Chhattisgarh State.

The ‘KKBN division’ was once a stronghold of the Maoists. Unsurprisingly, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Boudh, and Nayagarh, along with another 11 Districts (Angul, Bargarh, Bolangir, Deogarh, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh) out of the State’s 30 Districts, were among the 90 Districts in 11 States listed as LWE-affected by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on February 5, 2019. Of these 11 Districts, Koraput and Malkangiri, were among the ‘30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts, across seven states in the country, according to the UMHA.

However, with the security situation improving rapidly, the Odisha State Government recommended to the UMHA to remove the names of five LWE-hit Districts from the Centre’s consolidated list of CPI-Maoist-affected Districts, for which the State receives funds under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme. On July 10, 2020, DGP Abhay, disclosed,


The UMHA has been urged to take off the names of Angul, Boudh, Sambalpur, Deogarh, and Nayagarh Districts, as the Maoist violence has been on the wane in the State and more rebels are also laying down their arms because of an intensified bid by the Security Forces to crush the internal rebellion.

The Maoist power is undeniably fizzling out in the ‘KKBN division’ and across Odisha. It is now up to the Governments – the Centre and State – to expand the necessary administrative, developmental and security outreach in the Districts of the ‘division’, as well as other LWE-affected regions of the State, to bring about more comprehensive normalcy and lasting peace.

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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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

J&K Approves Re-Allocation Of Nearly 2,000 Posts For Kashmiri Hindus (‘Pandits’)

The recruitment will be conducted only on the basis of written or skill tests for suitable candidates.

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NEW DELHI: The Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Council on Wednesday approved re-allocation of nearly 2,000 posts for Kashmiri Pandits who want to settle in the Valley, PTI reported. This was done under the prime minister’s package for the community.

The administrative council, which met under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha today, approved the re-allocation of 1,997 number of unfilled supernumerary posts for recruitment of registered Kashmiri migrants and non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who are willing to serve and settle down in Kashmir under the prime minister’s package,” a government spokesperson said.

This re-allocation is part of the 3,000 posts announced in 2015. So far, only 806 applicants have been selected and 1,997 positions remain vacant.


The Administrative Council (AC) which met under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha, today approved the re-allocation of 1997 number of unfilled supernumerary posts for recruitment of registered Kashmiri migrants and non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who are willing to serve and settle down in Kashmir under the Prime Minister’s Package.

The Administrative Council also approved conducting the recruitment only on the basis of written test/skill test, without viva-voce, for the selection of suitable candidates through the J&K Services Selection Board within six months of the referral of posts by the Department of Disaster Management, Relief, and Rehabilitation & Reconstruction.

The re-allocated posts include posts of Sub Inspector Commercial Taxes and Assistant Compiler in Finance Department (997), Field Assistant, Field Supervisor (Mushroom) and Assistant Store Keeper in Agriculture, Production & Farmers Welfare Department (150), and Depot Assistant in Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department (300), and Class IV in Revenue Department (550).


In order to fast track the recruitments, the posts have been allocated with simpler recruitment rules based on Graduation based; Higher Secondary based and Matric based qualification criteria.

The decision of re-allocation of the unfilled posts is aimed at accelerating the recruitment under the PM’s package and the benefits of employment to Kashmiri migrants and non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits.

Earlier:

Kashmir Valley’s largest group of the community, the Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti on Tuesday claimed that it was being harassed and their concerns were not being addressed by the local administration.

In a statement released, the group said, “Disaster Management Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (DMRR&R) Department is punishing left out (Non-Migrant) Kashmiri Pandits – Kashmiri Hindus for staying back in Kashmir Valley. Since abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A we the Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandits – Kashmiri Hindus living in Kashmir Valley are facing harassment and isolation at the hands of Relief Department. Despite multiple directions from Hon’ble High Court and recommendations from the Central Government through the Ministry of Home Affairs, Relief Department is playing with the life and security of the Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandits – Kashmiri Hindus living in Kashmir Valley.”


The group’s chief Sanjay Tickoo announced that he would begin a fast-unto-death until their demands were met.

The association’s main demands included 500 government jobs, which it said were promised to the community during a High Court ruling in 2016.

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