15 December, 2010

Maoists Eye the Cities

by Uddipan Mukherjee

published in the Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies, 14 December 2010


In the first week of December 2010, the Special Task Force (STF) of Kolkata Police arrested Kanchan alias Sudip Chongdar, the West Bengal state secretary of the banned outfit CPI-Maoist. Along with him, four other top leaders of the group were also taken into custody. Kanchan is considered to be next in hierarchy to the media-friendly Maoist leader Kishenji alias Koteshwar Rao. This high-profile arrest comes months after the state committee leader Telugu Deepak was nabbed in March 2010 from the same city. Moreover, in February 2008, Kanchan’s predecessor Soumen alias Himadri Sen Roy had already been put behind bars.

Kanchan’s role in the radical outfit could be evaluated by the following facts. When Maoists announced their involvement in the landmine blast that targeted West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2, 2008, the statement was issued in the name of Kanchan. Later Kanchan issued the statement claiming responsibility for the Lalgarh movement in 2009.

Some startling revelations have been extracted by the STF from Kanchan and his comrades. These, inter alia, indicate toward a number of important things.

First, it points to the fact that the Maoists are trying to build up an urban network in the eastern zone with Kolkata as the focal point. This means that in the foreseeable future, they want to coordinate their activities from Kolkata. Apart from aiding the ongoing guerrilla warfare in the hinterland by supplying logistics from the city, the Maoists seem to have chosen Kolkata for two more additional reasons.

One, they want to penetrate the student organisations and workers in the unorganised sector. This would help them to bolster their frontal mass movement. Furthermore, the students can serve as a potent recruitment pool for the guerrilla movement as well as provide fillip to the technological prowess of the ultras. And secondly, the rebels, by all probability intend to wreck the electoral process of the impending Legislative elections in West Bengal in the middle of 2011. To ensure that, presence in the city is a must.

Second, information has been obtained that the insurgents want to extend their network beyond the so-called Red Corridor and target the tea plantation labourers in the North-East. In that venture, they are in the process of forging alliances with terror outfits based in that region. Incidentally, the capture of these Maoist leaders appears to be linked to the nabbing of Anthony Shimray, the chief arms buyer of the NSCN (IM) and Rajkumar Meghen, the chairman of UNLF.

Shimray was located from Kathmandu on October 2 soon after he had bought a fresh consignment of rifles, rocket launchers, pistols and communication devices worth 4.5 crore. There is a distinct possibility that the huge cache of arms and voice-controlled explosives seized from Kanchan and his team was in some way connected to the separatists of North-East.

Kanchan has disclosed that the Maoists have already struck a deal to get arms and training from the Manipur-based insurgent group, the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak). He further told the STF that the deal with Prepak was struck around eight months ago after the leadership of both outfits agreed to help each other.

Hence, this is an additional rationale for the Maoists to develop a base in Kolkata since that would facilitate the communications with North-East. Moreover, close contacts with the Bangladesh-based Shailen Sarkar’s Communist Party can also turn out to be a reality.

Third, the investigations also point to the interesting fact that Kanchan and his associates feel alienated from the party activities. According to them, Kishenji has been bypassing the state committee since the beginning of 2009 and has been operating with his coterie. Kanchan has claimed that he was almost kept in the dark regarding the party's activities in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore. However, this could well be a ruse in order to avoid divulging any operational information to the authorities.

Fourth, following these arrests, Maoists appear to suffer from a leadership crisis. A day after the arrest, Asim Mondal alias Akash, a senior member of the state committee, told the Times of India: “The arrest is unfortunate and no doubt it is a jolt to our organisation.”

In fact, Maoist sources have confirmed that they had an 11-member state committee and now seven of them are either behind the bars or dead.

However, these arrests are not without a parallel. A 42-year-old Maoist operative Loknath Panth, hailing from Gulmi district in Nepal, has been arrested from New Delhi on December 03 with a huge cache of explosives. This clearly indicates that the Left-wing ultras are ominously targeting the cities. It is to be remembered that their top ideologue and politburo member Kobad Ghandy was also arrested from New Delhi.

In sum, it may be inferred that the Maoists are venturing into the cities like Kolkata and Delhi with obvious intentions of solidifying and extending their networks. And in addition to that, they are in the process of colluding with other terrorist outfits based in North-East, Bangladesh and Nepal which have grave security implications for the Indian state.

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