Notwithstanding the reported divergence of views among its top leaders and frontal organisations over using kidnapping as a tactic to further their movement, the Maoists of late have started adopting it in Chhattisgarh after they began suffering an erosion of base and the State stepped up the offensive.
Their immediate objectives, however, are to scuttle attempts by the civil administration to solve people's problems — which they fear would further erode their base — and to force the security forces to drop their ongoing offensive of encircling their bastion Abuz Maad in Bastar district, intelligence agencies in Andhra Pradesh say.
The recent setbacks suffered by the Maoists with the arrest of several Central Committee members and elimination of their top guns at different places have made them jittery. The kidnapping of Sukma District Collector Alex P. Menon is perceived as part of the Maoists' Tactical Counter-Offensive Campaign (TCOC). Such abductions are aimed at giving them some advantages, albeit temporarily.
Firstly, it means a ‘victory' over the state by forcing it to comply with their demands, be it release of their activists or to thwart the police forces from going after them in the Chhattisgarh jungles.
The ‘victory' boosts the morale of the dwindling cadre, helps recruitment of new militants, regrouping of squads and acquisition of arms, and, more importantly, gives time to revive the revolutionary movement. By securing the release of the arrested militants, the Maoists feel they are succeeding in not only winning the confidence of their families but also roping in new members.
Officers of the Special Intelligence Branch, the anti-Maoist wing of Andhra Pradesh Police, say some Maoist leaders and their frontal organisation activists opposed repeated usage of kidnaps as a strategy but were obviously over-ruled.
They cite Andhra Pradesh's experience of how Maoists — then Naxalites mostly belonging to the then People's War — resorted to a spate of abductions of bureaucrats, public representatives and local leaders in the late 80s and 90s, only to be ‘neutralised' by the police eventually.
The police retaliated so strongly that several militants and even sympathisers were killed in exchange of fire but there was no public outcry even to the allegations of fake encounters.
Simultaneously, the police adopted a tit-for-tat strategy of abducting civil rights activists supporting Naxalites to counter the latter. The abductions eventually came to a halt following the violent retaliation of the police.