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Weakening Maoist guerrilla army

It’s been 17 years since the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) was founded, on December 2, 2000. Originally formed as People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA), it was re-named PLGA following the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) and the People’s War (PW), popularly known as the PWG, on September 21, 2004. The PGA (as it was then known) was founded on the first death anniversary of Yerram Reddy Santosh Reddy alias Mahesh, Nalla Adi Reddy alias Shyam and Seelam Naresh alias Murali, in a police encounter.

The PLGA is formidable. Its strength is an estimated 6,000 armed, underground cadre. It is guided by the Central Military Commission (CMC) and is believed to be headed by Nambala Kesava Rao alias Basava Raju. At the time of its founding, he said it was meant to “smash the rule of imperialism, feudalism, comprador bureaucrat capitalism, and to seize political power by setting up a new democratic state as a first step in the path to socialism�.

Operational Strategy

In fact, the operational strategy of the PLGA was summed up by Cherukuri Raj Kumar alias Azad, then spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist), in a press release on November 14, 2005: “…well-equipped, well-trained, and numerically superior [security] forces can be dealt heavy blows by a numerically weaker but determined, fearless and politically motivated armed force of the people through concrete survey of the weak points of the enemy force, meticulous planning and effective execution based on the principle of taking on the enemy through surprise and lightning speed.�

Besides, at its founding, general secretary of the CPI (Maoist) Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy said: “The PGA must mingle with the masses and become a part of their lives and their aspirations. In this way, the PGA will grow and equip itself to take on the multi-pronged attack by the government…�

In fact, this is in consonance with what Mao Tse Tung once said: “… all the practical problems in the masses’ everyday life should claim our attention. If we attend to these problems, solve them and satisfy the needs of the masses, we shall really become organisers of the well-being of the masses, and they will truly rally round us and give us their warm support …� Eventually, as the mass base of the PLGA expands to include various sections of society, the Maoists hope to transform the PLGA into the PLA. The Maoists are daydreaming!

Three Forces

The PLGA consists of three types of forces –– Primary Force (platoons), Secondary Force (guerrilla squads) and Base Force (people’s militia). Of these, the Base Force is the largest.
The people’s militia had its successes when it participated in synchronised, large-scale attacks in different parts of the country. These included:
• February 6, 2004: Koraput raid, Orissa. Armoury containing 528 weapons emptied
• June 23, 2005: Madhuban raid, Bihar
• November 11, 2005: Giridih Home Guards training centre, Jharkhand. 280 weapons looted
• November 13, 2005: Jehanabad Jail break, Bihar. Over 900 prisoners, including Maoist cadres and leaders, escaped to freedom
• March 26, 2006: R Udayagiri raid, Orissa. Police station overrun and 17 SLRs looted
• March 31, 2007: Raid in Riga block, Sitamarhi district, Bihar
• February 15, 2008: Nayagarh Armoury raid, Orissa. 1,100 weapons –– including pistols, SLRs, AK series rifles, INSAS rifles and LMGs –– and 200,000 rounds of ammunition looted
There have been no such large-scale attacks, thereafter. The security forces are far more alert and prepared now, while the Maoists have beaten a tactical retreat under intense and sustained pressure from the security forces. In fact, for the first time in 2015, Maoist fatalities outnumbered that of the security forces. And the trend continues. (see infographic)

Versatility and Lethality

Of course, the Maoists have come a long way. They have graduated. From fielding sickles, axes and country-made weapons, they now wield LMGs (light machine guns), SLRS and INSAS (Indian New Small Arms System) rifles –– all looted from the security forces. They are believed to be developing rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and launchers that could hit stationary targets, sometimes with accuracy. If they acquire mastery over these, the consequences can be disastrous. They had first tested an RPG in 2004 with limited success.

The rebels then began to improve upon it. Thus, the Maoist military machine has acquired a certain versatility and lethality. The security forces would, therefore, need to continue to possess and display immense capacities to fight the guerrillas militarily. The Maoist challenge can certainly be defeated.

Besides weakening the Maoists’ lethal capacities and reducing violence, it is also essential to ensure that governance is improved; development schemes and programmes are implemented effectively; and their implementation is monitored rigorously, so that those prone to sympathising with, or supporting, the Maoists would, in the long run, realise the needlessness and futility of doing so.

(The author is Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)

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