Relentless counter-insurgency operations taken up in all left-wing extremism-affected States seemed to have had the desired impact, as Maoist violence registered a record low in 2012.

The downward trend in violence in the last six-year period, could indicate the success of the security forces in pushing the Maoist revolution into a strategic equilibrium stage. Another possibility could be an unannounced tactical retreat from some areas by Maoists themselves to protect their cadre.

The peace secured puts tremendous responsibility on the civil administration to speed up developmental works, though security experts caution that the forces must not slip into complacency.

The success or failure of counter-insurgency operations is gauged by the rise or fall in the number of incidents perpetrated by Maoists. In 2012, there were 1,365 incidents involving Maoists in nine States. Maoist guerrillas killed 409 persons (296 civilians and 113 security personnel). This is a record low in the last seven years with the death toll standing at 611 (2011), 1,005 (2010), 908 (2009), 721 (2008) and 696 (2007), according to statistics of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Interestingly, Jharkhand has overtaken Chhattisgarh in Maoist killings in 2012. Out of 409 killings last year, Jharkhand accounted for 160 deaths, followed by Chhattisgarh (107), Odisha (45), Bihar (43), Maharashtra (41) and Andhra Pradesh (13).

A possible reason for this surge in violence in Jharkhand could be the decision of the Maoist leadership to strengthen base, while maintaining a low profile in Chhattisgarh, where security forces are making inroads in the otherwise impregnable Bastar forests.

“This could mean Maoists are heightening the violence in various other States in a sustained and determined bid to spread security forces thin,” said P.V. Ramana, senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

Intelligence inputs culled from different sources indicate that there is an element of despondency among Maoist strategists with their State units unable to recruit youth into the revolutionary movement. The inputs also speak of the Maoist urban network being disrupted. The current scenario reflects a situation where the security forces are establishing their stronghold in plain areas, while making gradual inroads in the Maoist bastions in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, says a senior intelligence official.

This is the right time for the civil administration to move in and take up developmental works. “Any laxity on this count would be exploited by Maoists, who would change their strategies and tactics to regain control over the areas where security forces are gaining a foothold,” feels another officer.