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Is Centre ready to storm Maoist HQ in Chhattisgarh?

July 27, 2009 17:03 IST

The Maoists suspect that the Centre might launch an assault on their de facto headquarters in Chhattisgarh's forest areas soon after the monsoon and have asked their party and cadres to prepare for the 'new brutal offensive being unleashed by the United Progressive Alliance government'.

In a 15-page document called 'Post-election situation -- Our tasks', the Maoists said the current UPA government, by virtue of its decisive mandate, is determined to deal with Left-wing extremism with an iron hand.

"The unfolding state terror and state-sponsored terror under [UPA chairperson] Sonia [Gandhi] - [Prime Minister] Manmohan [Singh] - [Home Minister P] Chidambaram combine will be far more brutal, deadly and savage than under any other regime hitherto witnessed," the politburo circular, a copy of which is with rediff.com, said.

Warning that the fight this time will be 'more long-drawn and more bitter', the politburo asked its cadre to be better prepared and not get complacent.

The Maoists suspect that the Chhattisgarh government will very soon launch a major offensive in the massive Abujmaad forests, which is widely known as their military headquarters. The 4000 square-kilometre forest area is a virtual dark spot into which no security or government agency has ventured till now.

But the Maoists are convinced that the Centre has mapped the terrain and is prepared for an all-out offensive to flush out the rebels. "Scanning of the entire area by satellites is almost on the verge of completion and the satellite images and the concrete topographical map of entire Maad will be ready in another month. Based on this map complete with all hamlets, forest tracks, water points, etc the police and central forces will carry out their operations. They are also claiming that preparations are also on to check the retreat of Maoist guerrillas into neighbouring areas in Jharkhand and Orissa," the circular said.

The Centre is planning to reduce the number of Central Reserve Police Force troopers in Jammu and Kashmir and many security experts feel that this might be to deploy more CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh.

The government of Chhattisgarh, which already has 17 battalions of CRPF, has requested the Centre for 30 more battalions of paramilitary troops to combat the Maoists.

State intelligence sources, while asserting that the state police is definitely not adequately equipped for the proposed exercise, said they are expecting at least 10 battalions to be shifted to Chhattisgarh. "I can't comment on the planned offensive or whether we will get troops that have been stationed in Jammu and Kashmir. But Chhattisgarh may soon get 10 battalions that have been trained in jungle warfare," a senior state intelligence officer told rediff.com.

Chhattisgarh has a jungle warfare school in Kanker, where the state police and CRPF troops undergo six intense weeks of jungle warfare training.

Security experts are also of the opinion that the hitherto unexplored forests can be won over from the Maoists by concerted efforts. "It requires a concentrated and strong offensive action. As such, the Chhattisgarh police is not adequately trained," said P V Ramana, a research fellow with the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Call to intensify violence:

The politburo circular also has enough indications that the Maoist strategy to counter the proposed government offensive is to step up violence in their strongholds through what the Maoists call a Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign.

"We have to further aggravate the situation and create more difficulties to the enemy forces by expanding our guerrilla war to new areas on the one hand and intensifying the mass resistance in the existing areas so as to disperse the enemy forces over a sufficiently wider area;

"Hence the foremost task in every state is to intensify the war in their respective states while in areas of intense enemy repression there is need to expand the area of struggle by proper planning by the concerned committees; tactical counter-offensives should be stepped up and also taken up in new areas so as to divert a section of the enemy forces from attacking our guerrilla bases and organs of political power," the politburo said.

Simply put, this means the Maoist-affected states will see increased violence in the coming days. The rebels have already proved their superiority with strikes during the recent general elections and other high-profile attacks in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

"A direct call to intensify TCOC will also mean that they might look to hit high-profile soft targets," Ramana said.

The Maoists have in the past week issued death threats to Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambram, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The rebels have already killed 112 policemen in the period between April 6 and June 12, the day the PB released the circular.

Activists worried:

While Maoist sympathisers and their overground organizations are already crying hoarse about how the Centre will storm the Maad forests in September, even human rights activists and neutral observers are worried about the collateral damage -- the tribal people in the forests of Maad -- should the Centre indeed launch the offensive.

Writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who is just back from a visit to the troubled Dantewada region, says there are all telltale signs of an imminent massive military operation in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.

"As soon as the monsoon is over, the government is prepared to storm the forests. When I was there, I saw huge, newly-constructed roads running through the forests. Who are these roads for? Definitely not for the tribal people to walk on. It is for the troops to be moved and once the operation is over, for the steel to be moved to Paradip (in Orissa, the nearest port), from where they will be shipped to China," she said.

She added that at least 25,000 troops have been trained at the Jungle Warfare School in Kanker and are ready to storm the forests.

"The two people who are behind this are P Chidambaram and National Security Advisor M K Narayanan. We should remember that Chidambaram was the lawyer for Enron. He was on the board of Vedanta, one of the biggest mining companies in the world," she pointed out.

"Among the first things he said, soon after taking charge as the finance minister during the UPA's earlier term, was that his vision was for 85 per cent of the country's population to live in cities. This is how they are chasing the tribals out of the forests for the benefit of the corporates," she said.

Doctor and activist Binayak Sen, who was recently released on bail after being jailed for two years under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, said the economy of the Madia Gonds, who inhabit the Maad forests, has already been affected due to the preparations for the Centre's offensive.

"Their economy has been paralysed. The government must first ensure that the small forest economy, which is the bread and butter for these tribal people, is not crushed. If there is an all-out offensive on the Maoists in the forests, the tribals will be the ones who will be affected the most. The damage will be far worse than what is being caused by the Salwa Judum," he said.

Roy also said that the tribal people will be hit the hardest if a battle breaks out between the Maoists and the central forces in the Maad forests. "They will be the collateral damage and it will be huge," she said.

Krishnakumar P