Tuesday's massacre of 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada is yet another instance of the military supremacy of Maoist rebels over the security forces engaged in field operations.

However, the rebels, who built this aura of invincibility, do have their Achilles' heel.

While the fighting units of Maoists apparently have mastered the art of attacks and improved capabilities to strike with higher levels of tactical precision, as displayed in the recent strikes at Midnapore in West Bengal (24 policemen were killed in February) and Koraput in Orissa (11 killed in April) this year, the state too dealt some stunning blows to the Maoist party.

However, these losses have been inflicted mainly due to intelligence operations (int-ops) and not as a result of field operations in struggle areas of different States. In the last 12 months, four members of the central committee (CC) of Maoists have been arrested, while another, Patel Sudhakar Reddy, heading the intelligence unit of the party, was ‘neutralised' in an alleged exchange of fire in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh (May 24, 2009).

The arrested are Amit Bagchi (Jharkhand; August 24, 2009), Kobad Ghandy (Delhi; September 20, 2009), Balraj and Chintan Da (Uttar Pradesh; February 7, 2010).

These are in addition to the arrests or killings of at least a dozen State committee members in Karnataka, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. In fact, the intelligence-based operations were so meticulous that the police in one-go took into custody the entire State unit of Maoists in Uttar Pradesh in the first week of February.

It is indeed a contradiction in India's counter-revolutionary warfare that the security forces are unable to strike a balance between field operations and int-ops. Interestingly, whatever the successes against the Maoists came only as a result of intelligence operations.

Party chief's caution

Maoist leaders including party chief Ganapathi are worried over the success of ‘int-ops'. In a letter sent senior colleagues on December 22, 2009, he expressed serious concern at the unfailing regularity with which the party was losing its senior cadres. Worried over the reach of the intelligence agencies, he cautioned the senior leaders not to come into contact with anyone and suggested that they meet their ‘couriers' just once in a month.

The devastating effect of the series of arrests was evident when the Maoist Central Committee postponed its polit bureau meeting, as mentioned by Ganapathi. “I strongly feel that remaining CCMs did not learn any small lesson from our losses suffered at top (sic),” he says.

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