India: Security Forces Gun Down 12 Rebels in Jharkhand

By Altaf Ahmad

2015-06-09
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150609-IN-suv-620 Indian police look at a vehicle damaged during an encounter with Maoist rebels in Palamu, Jharkhand state, June 9, 2015.
AFP

Government security forces on Tuesday killed a dozen suspected Maoist rebels during a firefight in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, dealing a major blow to the communist guerrillas.

"Proudly, it is the first time in many years that double-digit casualties were inflicted on the Maoist side …. There were no casualties on the security forces’ side,” S.N. Pradhan, the additional director-general of Police Operations (ADGO) in Jharkhand, told BenarNews by telephone.

The shootout, the first big face-off this year between security forces and Maoist rebels in Jharkhand, took place in the early morning hours in Palamu district – located 186 km (115 miles) from Ranchi, the state capital.

The police scored another coup by retrieving the bodies of all 12 suspected rebels, which had never been done before, according to Pradhan.

Security personnel afterwards combed the area around the site of the gun-battle in Bakoria village to track down other rebels who had escaped, Pradhan said.

“The rebels are concentrated in five to six areas, including Palamu district, but we are gradually, yet surely, making inroads in such areas to track them down,” the ADGO added.

Acting on intelligence reports, a joint team of Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) personnel and state police intercepted the rebels around midnight on Monday, Pradhan said.

On being challenged the insurgents, who were reportedly travelling in two vehicles, began shooting, triggering an encounter that lasted two hours, according to The Hindustan Times.

Security personnel later recovered eight automatic rifles and around 200 rounds of ammunition, Pradhan said.

Three decades

The Maoists, who are also known as Naxalites, have been fighting India’s central government for three decades and are active in the eastern part of the country. Eleven years ago, different communist groups merged into the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).

The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers, local tribespeople and landless laborers.

In March and April, Maoist rebels killed 19 police officers in two attacks in Chhattisgarh, a state that borders Jharkhand to the southwest.

In April 2014, Maoists killed six officers in an ambush in Dumka district.

Vulnerable

The security forces may have scored a victory on Tuesday, but commentators were skeptical about whether the government could succeed over the long term in fighting the Maoist threat.

“It is a problem that has simmered across the state for over the past three decades, and it cannot be done away with only through such deadly operations,” Shakeel Ahmad, secretary of the All India Congress party in Jharkhand, told BenarNews.

“The government should create a conducive atmosphere and engage rebel groups in a meaningful dialogue to resolve the long-outstanding problem,” he added.

“Besides, there should be a focus on achieving all-round development in tribal areas to restore the faith of tribal people in government.”

It is important to reach out to tribespeople who believe that successive Indian governments have abandoned them and who are vulnerable to being recruited into the subversive Maoist cause, according to another observer.

“Tribal people living in remote areas in Jharkhand feel let down by the authorities due to a lack of basic facilities like good roads, power and health care,” Afrida Hussian, a writer and television anchor for NewsX, told BenarNews.

“Feeling alienated, these people have chosen to fight to press the authorities to address their demands like underdevelopment. The government should focus on overall development in tribal areas so they shun the wrong path,” Hussian said.

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