Just a year or two ago, the danger of a red corridor from Kathmandu to Kanyakumari spanning central India was considered a distinct possibility. The Maoists in Nepal have joined parliamentary democracy with full fanfare. There is now no going back for them. Though the Terai region of Nepal continues to be in turmoil, the possibility of the Red Corridor is now increasingly remote. The Naxalists in India continue to carry a punch.
Thus Chattisgarh saw continued militant IED activity with a powerful explosion in Jharaghati, Narayanpur, and Bastar which killed 7 police personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Special Armed Force (SAF) on 16 January. In another encounter in Chattisgarh in the dense forests of Timarpur in Bastar district the CRPF tracked down and killed three Maoists while two more were killed in another encounter later in the same area. The Timarpur forest area located 520 kms south of Raipur is considered to be infested with Maoists.
The wheel of Naxalism in Chattisgarh seems to have turned a full circle. While surrender is one strategy which is generally used to bring militants who are willing to give up the path of violence back into the main stream, frequently the same is used as a ploy by security forces to add numbers to the overall campaign. There were many instances in Kashmir, when even the Army considered as the most credible counter militant force in India was alleged to have manipulated surrenders and later had to retract. In the instant case, judicial custody was granted to only 43 of the 79 surrendered indicating a clear inflation of 36 by the police.
On the other hand in an encounter, in Andhra Pradesh (AP), the AP police stumbled on a Naxal hide out in Kotapalli forest in Khammam district on the AP Chattisgarh border. Two Naxalite were killed on the spot. Khamman district has also seen a large number of surrenders of Naxalite with over 23 militants capitulating over the past few weeks. Andhra Pradesh has seen a number of counter terrorist successes over the years as the state police have gained an upper hand through effective employment of surveillance and patrolling as well as creation of a special force, the Greyhound. The Greyhound has specialized in tracking and apprehending terrorists particularly in the forested areas of the state. However the AP Chattisgarh-Maharashtra and Orissa border areas continue to be a major hide out for the Naxalite over the years.
The emergence of an institutionalized support network of the Maoists was evident with an arms supplier, apprehended from Khammam district in AP during the month. Arms reportedly from Nepal were being smuggled in a vehicle when it was apprehended in Nagpur in December. Subsequent interrogation led to the arrest of the individual from Khammam. The reach of Naxalite in Madhya Pradesh was also evident with apprehension of five suspected militants from the Satnami Nagar area of Bhopal, the state capital during the month. A number of weapons parts and literature was secured from the area. These personnel were reported from Andhra and had been working in Bhopal for some time. The apprehension also led to recovery of large quantum of arms and subversive material. Madhya Pradesh has very low level of Naxal militancy with only Balaghat, Mandla and Dindori districts identified as Naxal affected. Sidhi district bordering Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh is also proposed to be denoted as Naxal affected. The number of incidents in Madhya Pradesh is also reported to be of minor nature since 1990 at approximately 390.
Large scale felling of trees to the tune of 75,000 was reported in Chattisgarh on the road from Sukma to Dornapal and Konta to Bijapur, allegedly to avoid the advantage of cover to Naxalite who attempt to ambush vehicle convoys moving on the roads. Indiscriminate felling of trees has come up for wide spread condemnation by environmentalists and appears to be the first such reported instance. No report of indiscriminate large scale felling has been received from other insurgency infested areas including Kashmir and the North East.
The Citi group advisory perhaps sums up the threat of Naxalism in India most appropriately. The global financial services company indicated that the Maoist challenge would be one of the key factors which will determine India's growth paradigm in the coming years. The adverse economic impact of Maoist activities spread in 165 districts, 14 states and 40 percent of the geographic area with 35 percent of the population in India will be greatly felt in some of the key states where industrialization is taking place such as Orissa and Chattisgarh. Orissa is of particular concern as the state has over 33 percent of India's mineral reserves and large number of projects including multi nationals as Vedanta and Posco who are in the line up for development in the state. Chattisgarh is also a mineral rich area with Rs 13000 Crore ($ 2.95 billon) planned investment in the State. From a security threat to a few years back to investment decelerator today, Naxalism in India appears to have crossed the hump.