Formation of PLGA a turning point in the Maoist movement

December 05, 2010 12:11 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:52 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Young Naxalite cadres practise at a training camp in an unidentified village of the Dantewada forests of Chhattisgarh. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

Young Naxalite cadres practise at a training camp in an unidentified village of the Dantewada forests of Chhattisgarh. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

When Naxalites announced the formation of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) a decade ago, security agencies dismissed it as an attempt by the rebels to regroup their cadres and propaganda to boost their perceived military strength.

Buoyed as they were by the phenomenal success in killing three Central Committee members on December 2, 1999, in an encounter in Koyyuru, the security agencies misjudged the consequences of what was sought to be projected as a “mere nomenclature change.”

Now, the security forces are bracing themselves for intensified attacks in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal as the Maoists have announced month-long celebrations coinciding with the 10th anniversary of PLGA formation. All these years, the celebrations were only week-long. “This means bigger strikes can be expected in Maoist-affected States,” authorities concede.

In retrospect, it becomes clear that the formation of the PLGA — on December 2, 2000, first death anniversary of the “Koyyur martyrs” — helped the underground organisation improve its military capabilities spectacularly and register an impressive spatial spread of revolutionary movement in newer areas. So much so that the Centre now deploys 62 battalions of the Central Para Military Forces (CPMF) for anti-extremist operations in different States.

The PLGA consists of three layers: main, secondary, and base forces. The main force consists of platoons, companies and battalions, while the secondary force comprises local guerrilla squads (LGS) and special guerrilla squads (SGS). The base force consists of people's militia which could form themselves into grama rakshaka dalams (GRDs) or self-defence squads (SDS).

Intelligence agencies estimate that while the main and secondary forces constitute around 3,000 fighters, the number of people's militia constituting the base force could be nearly 30,000.

Structural change

The formation of the PLGA, in essence, ushered in a major structural change in the Maoist organisation. Party cadres earlier had responsibilities of military tasks as well as organisational work. With the PLGA formation, the military and organisational work was separated.

Since its inception, the PLGA has waged a relentless war against the security forces, and in the last decade, the rebels killed 2,000 security personnel, injured as many, and snatched nearly 2,500 weapons and one lakh rounds of ammunition, a Maoist document says.

A clear hierarchy has helped the Maoist military wing improve its strike capabilities. A decade ago, its capabilities were limited to hit-and-run attacks against two-or three-member police teams. Today, the PLGA is able to encircle its security forces and engage them in close quarter battles while moving in large formations. It took them just 10 years to improve from hit-and-run tactics to encirclement.

On the organisational level, the PLGA has developed from a force of one or two platoons to having companies and a battalion now. Police officers confirm that the newly formed 10{+t}{+h} company of the PLGA was moving in the Mahasamund area of Chhattisgarh, barely 70 km from the capital, Raipur.

Another achievement of the PLGA has been transfer of technology. The technology for making and planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) has been successfully imparted to the large 30,000 base force. “The making and use of IEDs has now taken a mass form,” another Maoist document discloses.

Maoist ideologues take the example of the Mukuram ambush, in Chhattisgarh, on April 6, 2010, in which 75 CRPF men were killed, saying that such attacks on the principles of mobile warfare had blunted the initiative of Operation Green Hunt.

By forcing the security forces to curtail their movements, the Maoists could form Janatana Sarkars (self-government units) in as many as 300 panchayat areas in Bastar (constituting 20 guerrilla bases). Nearly 2,000 villages are being administered by these Janatana Sarkars, the Maoists claim. More than one lakh families occupied three lakh acres of land in nearly 5,000 villages or hamlets in Bastar, all due to the PLGA's intervention.

Imbalance, drawbacks

However, there was an imbalance as well. Before the PLGA came into existence, the Maoist party focussed more on organisational activity and less on militarisation. But now, the party faces the criticism that it gives more importance to military aspects than organisational work. This imbalance has led to a situation where the rebel movement is unable to strike roots in urban and plain areas.

The other drawback, Maoist leaders concede, was the party's inability to win over the non-tribal sections and non-farmer sections among the tribals, even in their struggle areas.

Despite the PLGA's manifold increase in military strength, the security forces managed to hit them severely by killing or arresting top cadre leaders — including directors of military intelligence Patel Sudhakar Reddy and Sakhamuri Appa Rao — in recent times. As many as 17 other top leaders were either killed or arrested over the last two years.

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