A spurt in Maoist attacks

Print edition : April 28, 2001

Maoists carry out daring attacks in Nepal and Bihar and Jharkhand, indicating growing coordination between the extremist groups.

TWO naxalite attacks occurring within a week of each other, one in Nepal and the other in Jharkhand State, have once again evoked suspicions of a coordinated movement by Maoist rebels in areas along the international border in the Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and in Nepal. A group of militants belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaac-Muivah) is also reported to be maintaining close ties with the Maoists of Nepal.

On April 7, armed members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) struck in a central mid-western Nepali district of Dailekh, killing 47 people, including 29 policemen. The rebels attacked a police post at Naummle village in the district. They overwhelmed the 72-man force after a three-hour gun battle. The police gave up the fight after the guerillas bombed the post. The force commander, Inspector Dhruva Prasad Dahal, and 28 policemen were killed in the encounter, in which 19 others also lost their lives.

Family members try to identify the bodies of policemen massacred by Maoist rebels at Naummle village in Dailekh district of Nepal.-CHANDRA SHERKHAR KARKI/AP

The Dailekh incident is yet another instance of increased Maoist attacks on police posts. On April 2, Maoist extremists struck in the mid-western Rukum district and the north-central Dolakha district, killing 36 policemen. The extremists have been setting off explosions at select targets, which included residences of ruling Nepali Congress leaders and former police officers.

The underground Maoists launched an armed "people's war" in Nepal six years ago for the establishment of a republic as opposed to the constitutional monarchy in a multi-party parliamentary democracy. Since then, 1,658 people, including 344 police officers, have been killed in encounters. Initially the Maoists were active in some remote villages but soon their operations spread to more than 30 districts. The Maoists, considered to be ideologically close to Peru's Shining Path guerillas, started an armed rebellion in February 1996 to set up a one-party Communist republic. They started their low-intensity, but sustained, campaign from the villages located in the Himalayan foothills. Pushpakamal Dahal and his close associate Baburam Bhattarai, who lead the movement, are reported to be in contact with their Indian counterparts in Bihar - the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War Group (PWG). The PWG is also active in Andhra Pradesh and in Bastar district of Chattisgarh. The PWG, which did not want Bastar to be included in the new State, is running a parallel administration in southern Bastar district.

Within a week of the Maoist attack in Nepal, the MCC's armed squad killed 14 members of the Gram Raksha Dal (village volunteer force) at Belthu village in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand, in retaliation for the killings of Sumar Bhuiyan, a self-styled MCC area commander, by the volunteers.

Never before in the history of Jharkhand and Bihar has a 2,000-strong MCC force taken part in such a daring attack. In the March 1999 operation at Senari village in Jehanabad district of Bihar, in which 34 upper-caste Bhumihars were killed, only 500-odd extremists were involved.

In their latest armed action, in Hazaribagh on April 14, the extremists laid siege to the village in the wee hours of the day. The victims were pulled out of their homes and hacked to death after their limbs were tied. Some houses were torched. A one-year-old girl was burnt alive. The assailants fired in the air, threw bombs and shouted pro-MCC slogans.

The April 14 massacre is the biggest one since the formation of Jharkhand in 2000 with 18 districts of south Bihar. The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jharkhand headed by Babulal Marandi launched a special drive on assuming office to flush out naxalites from Jharkhand. The Chief Minister announced at that time that "liberating Jharkhand from the grip of naxalites was the first priority of my government". The police demolished several MCC bunkers in the Balumath jungles and seized a cache of arms and ammunition.

The April 14 massacre has come in the face of a State government announcement of a "rehabilitation package" for misguided extremists who wished to surrender. The package comprises a cash reward, provision of land for the landless and homes for the homeless. Naxalites belonging to the Scheduled Tribe and the Scheduled Caste would also benefit from the government's employment generation and rural development schemes. Left-wing extremist outfits, such as the MCC and the PWG, have so far rejected all government appeals to join the mainstream.

That the Nepal Maoists have frequently been crossing over to Bihar and Jharkhand and that they have been collaborating with their counterparts in India is evident from a recent report submitted to the Home Ministry. Informed sources said that the Home Ministry had forwarded to the Bihar government Nepal's request to flush out from the State extremists who are conducting training camps for Nepali militants.

There is growing concern in Nepal over the Bihar links. The government of India verified Nepal's claims before forwarding the plea to Bihar, intelligence sources said. The Home Ministry was told that there had been a steady trickle of Nepali militants into Bihar's Kaimur and Aurangabad districts over the past two years. These districts provide an ideal setting for such camps as the terrain is hilly and densely forested. Kaimur, close to Uttar Pradesh on the Indian side of the border, provides an easy escape route for the extremists.

Alarmed at the spurt of Maoist attacks, Nepal contacted India at the diplomatic level, seeking help to bust the training camps. "Since there are naxalites in Bihar, they may have links with their Nepal counterparts," said a senior officer in Bihar, adding that the State government was doing its bit to meet the challenge.

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