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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Threat Of Islamist Terrorism In India Is Real

Islamist terrorist and extremist organisations continue to target India in their campaigns for jihad.

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The global terror outfit Islamic State (IS, Daesh) has been relentless in its efforts to make some inroads into India. In 2020, it has already made at least five clarion calls to carry out attacks in India:

  1. In an article written in the third issue of the Voice of Hind magazine released on April 21, it suggested multiple ways to its ‘supporters’ in India to carry out attacks in the country.
  2. In the second issue of the magazine released on March 24, it had urged its ‘supporters’ in India to carry out strikes, exploiting the preoccupation of the Forces in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. On May 24, Daesh denounced the ‘revocation’ of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and called for jihad.
  4. On February 27, Daesh called on India’s Muslims to join its Jihad.
  5. The inaugural issue of the Voice of Hind magazine released on February 24, included a piece titled, “So where are you going? A call to Muslims of India.”

The IS online media outlet Al Qitaal Media Center launched this new online magazine in February 2020.

Similarly, another global terror outfit, Al Qaeda, has already made two separate calls for jihad in the current year:

  1. Responding to ‘anti-Muslimism violence’ in India, the Al Qaeda in Indian Sub-Continent (Al Qaeda’s regional wing) on March 27 called for ‘lone wolf’ attacks in response to the communal flare-up in the national capital, Delhi, in February 2020, which resulted in the death of 52 persons.
  2. On January 23, AQIS decried the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA 2019) and urged Muslims to revolt and embrace jihad.

There were at least five similar calls by these two global terror outfits – three by Al Qaeda and two by IS – through 2019. Moreover, the IS on two separate occasions called for attacks on Indian interests in Indonesia and the Arabian Peninsula.


These calls, however, failed to have any noticeable impact on Muslims in India.

Since 2014, when the IS announced its ‘interest’ in India and the Al Qaeda followed, announcing the opening of its regional chapter, the AQIS, these two outfits have succeeded in ‘inspiring’ a minuscule number of supporters. Indeed, (Al Qaeda has been making attempts to establish some sort of influence in India since 1996 when Osama bin Laden first referred to India as a legitimate target of jihad.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a total of 99 persons from India are confirmed to have joined Daesh in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Of these, 48 are already confirmed dead and 35 have returned to the country. In October 2019, the National Investigation Agency disclosed that 127 Daesh sympathisers had been arrested across India for criminal conspiracies or criminal activities linked to Daesh; and 70 others were ‘detained’, counselled and released. Thus, a total of 296 individuals have been ‘inspired’ by the IS ‘ideology’ to engage in some sort of associated activity. There are roughly 207 million Muslims in India.


Meanwhile, as in the past, some activities associated with these two terrorist formations were recorded in India through 2019. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered three cases against these global terror outfits in 2019. These include:

  1. On January 1, 2019, the NIA registered a case for “Criminal conspiracy and waging war against Syria; an Asiatic power at peace with the Government of India, by joining the terrorist organization Jund-al-Aqsa and Jabhat al Nusrah and committing terrorist case.” The NIA said it had received credible information that from 2013 onwards, some youth, originally from Kerala and Karnataka but based in Qatar, had hatched a criminal conspiracy to wage war against Syria. The youth conducted preparation or travelled to Syria and joined the terrorist organizations Jund al-Aqsa and Jabhat al Nusrah with the intention to commit terrorist acts. Both these terrorist formations are affiliated to Al Qaeda and operate in Syria.
  2. On May 30, 2019, the NIA registered another case, “That Muhammed Azharuddin resident of Coimbatore and his associates are propagating the ideology of the proscribed terrorist organization ISIS/Daesh recruiting vulnerable youths with a view to carrying out terrorist attacks in South India especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.”
  3. On July 9, 2019, the NIA registered the third case, “The Central Government has received credible information that a group of Pro-ISIS and Al Qaida organisations variously called as Wahadat-e-Islami, Jarnaat Wahadat-ul-Islam-al-Jihadiya, Jihadist Islamic Unit and Ansarallah have been formed to establish Islamic rule in India by resorting to violent Jihad. A Hasan Ali Yunusmaricar @ Abu Dujana of Tamil Nadu who is closely associated with ISIS is actively recruiting individuals to strike terror in India. The information also indicates that Syed Bukhari who heads Wahadat-e-Islami organization in Tamil Nadu is also the head of now underground Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) which is a proscribed organization. Credible information makes plain that Hassan Ali @ Abu Dujana and Syed Bukhari have entered into a conspiracy to destabilize the democratic polity of India to establish Islamic rule in India by violent Jihad against the Government of India.”

NIA has already registered two such cases in 2020. The first case was registered on January 19, 2020, while the second was registered on January 21, 2020.

Apart from these two global terror formations, the Bangladesh-based transnational terror group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) also attempted to create trouble in India. The NIA registered two cases against the outfit in 2019: on July 29, 2019, and December 21, 2019.

The first of these related to “seizure of 05 improvised hand grenades, 03 fabricated grenade caps, 03 circuits of IEDs, 01 timer device, 02 rocket bends, one body of rocket, one 09 mm bullet, one air-gun, suspected explosive powders and various other incriminating materials used in fabrication of hand grenades/IEDs, from the place rented by members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), in Chikkabanawara, Bengaluru on 07.07.2019”.

The second case related “to arrest of a Member of Proscribed terrorist organization of Bangladesh, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) namely Najir Sheikh @ Patla Anans, son of Lalu Sheikh of Dighir Pahar, Murshidabad, West Bengal, on charges of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act”.


It is useful to recall that another Bangladesh based terror outfit, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), had been a potent threat for a long period.  Its role was under investigation in the July 13, 2011, Mumbai blasts (13/7) which killed 26 people, among several other cases. Indian agencies believe that the suspected mastermind of the blasts, Abdullah Khan of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), was hiding in Bangladesh, under the protection of HuJI-B.

In the meantime, Islamist terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan, primarily the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), continued with their activities in Jammu & Kashmir, as well as their efforts to carry out attacks in the Indian hinterland through 2019. On March 15, 2019, the NIA registered a case against the JeM:

The Central Government has received information regarding Criminal conspiracy for strengthening the base of proscribed terrorist organisation JeM, in India, raising funds for terrorists acts, conspiracy for carrying out terrorist acts, organizing terrorists acts, conspiracy for carrying out terrorist acts, organizing terrorist camps and recruiting persons for carrying out terrorist acts, harbouring the cadres of JeM and becoming its member.

Later, on September 16, 2019, the NIA filed a charge sheet which reads,

Further, Charge is abated against accused Mudassir Ahmad Khan @ MD (A-6) (since deceased) … This case pertains to a criminal conspiracy hatched by senior commanders of JeM to carry out terror attacks in different parts of India including Delhi-NCR.

The investigation has established that the accused persons are members of proscribed terrorist organization JeM, who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks and also propagating the activities of JeM.

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

The Pakistan-based terror formations, however, continued to carry out attacks in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) through 2019 and into 2020.

The last terror attack by an Islamist terrorist formation outside J&K took place March 7, 2017, when nine persons were injured in a blast in a train near Jabdi Railway Station in Shajapur District of Madhya Pradesh.

The next day, a terrorist involved in the blast was killed by SFs in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.


The last major attack (involving more than three fatalities) by Islamist terrorists (outside J&K) was recorded on January 2, 2016, when 14 persons, including the six attackers, died in an attack on the Pathankot Airbase in Punjab.

However, the threats from these terror outfits persist.

On March 31, 2020, Delhi Police issued an advisory stating:

“A reliable input indicates that police personnel deployed at various pickets/barricades in Delhi in connection with maintaining of law and order in Delhi in view of the outbreak of COVID-19 may be targeted by some ISIS [IS] operatives. Said attack may be in form of Lone Wolf attack like stabbing, firing or ramming the picket with a vehicle. Field staff may be briefed accordingly and pickets may be reinforced with morchas and extra firepower in view of the above input.”

Significantly, the current year has already witnessed a killing by suspected Daesh terrorists.

In the night of January 8, a special Sub-Inspector of Police Y. Wilson was shot dead by two suspected IS terrorists at Padanthaalumoodu Checkpost in the Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu.

(L-R): (Murdered Cop) Y Wilson and (The accused), Abdul Shameem and Mohammed Thoufeeq

The killers were identified as A. Abdul Shameem of Thiruvithaancode (Kanyakumari District) and M. Thoufique of Malik Dinar Nagar in Kottar (Kanyakumari). The killers were also reportedly involved in the murder of Hindu Munnani activist, KP Suresh Kumar, in Chennai (Tamil Nadu) on June 21, 2014.

Reports indicate that Wilson’s killers were old associates of three IS terrorists arrested in Delhi on January 9, 2020. The duo, along with Khaja Moideen, Syed Ali Nawaz, Abdul Samad and Jaffar Ali, fled to different places after killing the Hindu Munnani activist KP Suresh Kumar.

Further, there has also been a spurt of activities of radical Islamist terrorist formations like the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The NIA registered a case against the outfit for its involvement in the killing of V. Ramalingam, a Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK, Working People’s Party) functionary in Kumbakonam, in Thanjavur District of Tamil Nadu on February 5, 2019.

In 2019 the NIA also registered five other cases against individuals inspired by radical Islamism, engaged in disruptive activities.

The last of these cases in 2019 was registered on December 29, 2019 and recorded, that [email protected] Razak and others were engaged in “anti-national activities” and transfer of money through legal and illegal channels “for the purpose of recruiting agents for collection and communication of secret information pertaining to sensitive and vital installations such as defence establishments, space research stations etc. across the country.”

Islamist terrorist and extremist organisations, including global terrorist formations such as Daesh and al Qaeda, as well as the Pakistan sponsored groupings such as LeT, JeM and HM, continue to target India in their campaigns for jihad.

They have, nevertheless, found mobilization among the Indian Muslim population extraordinarily difficult, with just a minuscule fringe outside J&K responding to their incitement and their blandishments.

Nevertheless, given the patterns of politically engineered communal polarization, that have enormously escalated over the past years, the risks of Islamist terrorist and extremist mobilization remain real.

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

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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