Intelligence agencies warn of fresh reprisals from Naxals

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New Delhi: Is the Maoist threat poised to revive?

Reports from intelligence agencies suggest that this is indeed true and the Maoists, despite recent reverses, are regrouping and looking to expand their presence to areas beyond the so-called ‘Red Corridor’.

Not only will it undo development initiatives undertaken in the region, the revival of the Maoist threat once again threatens a fresh law and order problem.

According to intelligence reports reviewed by Mint, the Maoists are now expanding their base beyond their usual bastion of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district to the tri-junction of Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh (MMC) in order to support their existing strongholds in Sukma and Dantewada districts.

The report also reveals that under the Odisha State Committee (OSC) of the Maoists, Rayagada, Kandhamal and Kalahandi districts in Odisha are also emerging as hotbeds of Naxal activity, with the “absence of road infrastructure in these regions aiding the Naxals.”

The Andhra-Odisha border region, the report stated, is also seen by Naxals as a safe corridor between the Dandakaranya region in Chhattisgarh (areas such as Sukma and Dantewada) and the forests of Jharkhand.

“The planning of Maoists is to build a new battlefield in the MMC tri-junction area with an aim to create a new guerilla zone. They discussed the need to expand their battle zone towards the north and then the east to create a corridor with their old battle zones of Odisha and Jharkhand,” the intelligence report states.

With the Union home ministry recording 250 attacks by Maoists till April 2017, the intelligence report has warned of heightened and more stealth attacks in the summer of 2018.

Based on the intelligence gathered on the organizational structure of the Maoists, the report warns that plans are afoot to change the way these organizations are built and operated.

“The current lack of offensive (attacks) by Maoists is a calculated deception as it is currently focusing on expansion in the area. Stocking of explosives and other inputs indicate that the guerilla army cadres in these areas are training new recruits. In the coming months, the outfit is likely to target vulnerable camps and security forces at the tri-junction,” the report added.

While the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is stationed in Chhattisgarh’s Rajnandgaon, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)—which has suffered maximum hits by the Naxals this year—is stationed in the Bastar region. In addition, the Border Security Force (BSF) is also stationed in the LWE (Left Wing Extremism)-affected districts of Jharkhand.

“At the moment we are carefully monitoring the situation in the area. The number of forces deployed is not being changed as of now, but we will change that accordingly depending on the Maoist movement in these regions,” said a senior home ministry official, on condition of anonymity.

The report has also warned that Rajnandgaon is especially vulnerable, with the region bordering Gondia and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh from where heightened Maoist activity has been regularly reported.

It also stated that as per their new plan, the Maoists were targeting the Bhoramdev Sanctuary (Chhattisgarh), Pushp Sarovar Jheel (Chhattisgarh), Saroda Dam (Rajnandgaon) and the Achanakmar Sanctuary (Mugeli district, Chhattisgarh).

“Their further expansion will be towards Dhandori and Anuppur districts of Madhya Pradesh as well as the Kanha National Park,” the intelligence report added.

The report also highlighted a radical shift in training given by the Naxals to their new recruits.

“To strengthen themselves, they are planning to develop morally, militarily and their organization capabilities. They are planning to train uneducated cadres by giving them both tactical and political education. The main emphasis is to teach Hindi to overcome communication and cultural obstacles,” it said.

Experts said that state borders were more porous, given lower levels of policing.

“State borders are less policed and so Naxal movement is easy there. But there needs to be more specific intelligence on their movement and where they will hit next,” said Gurmeet Kanwal, defence analyst at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.