Chhattisgarh has 15,000 women Maoists: police chief (Interview)

December 31st, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Raipur, Dec 31 (IANS) About 15,000 armed women Maoists operate in Chhattisgarh and they form a significant chunk of the insurgents engaged in a bitter battle with the state machinery, says Director General of Police Vishawa Ranjan.”Some 30 percent of the total 50,000 armed rebels, or 15,000, are female insurgents, who actively participate in carrying out major strikes against civilians and police forces,” Ranjan told IANS in an interview.

Ranjan, who was additional director in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) before taking charge in July 2007 as police chief in the state, said: “Roughly 10,000 highly militarised insurgents are present in Chhattisgarh, backed by another at least armed 35,000-40,000 cadre who carry multiple weapons.”

The group of women rebels - Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangh - is a frontal unit of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) and plays a key role in all major strikes.

Police officials and experts say hundreds of thousands of minor girls have been forcibly recruited to Maoist ranks as combatants.

“Earlier, the militants were taking away one boy or girl from each family when they had total command in the interiors but now their recruitment efforts are facing resistance as people are not rallying behind them,” said Ranjan, a 1973-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer.

Though many Indian states face Maoist insurgency, Chhattisgarh is described as the nerve centre of the rebels. The insurgency is largely confined to the state’s southern forested hilly terrain of Bastar, spread out in about 40,000 sq km, where the rebels have killed over 1,100 people since 2004.

The insurgency has been largely fuelled by extreme poverty in areas which have remained untouched by development.

Bastar, now split into the districts of Kanker, Narayanpur, Bijapur, Dantewada and Bastar, used to be a single district when Ranjan served it as district superintendent during 1982-84.

“When I was police chief of Bastar, Maoists had just stepped in and were trying to win over local tribal population by taking up their issues and beating up forest guards but at that time, there were not many killings,” Ranjan recalled.

However, between 1985 and 1990, the rebels stretched their presence into new areas and seized control of interior areas during 1990-2004, he added.

“Police made serious attempts after 2004 to counter Maoists and have now pushed them on the backfoot,” Ranjan claimed. He said the battle is now in the hinterland where police are striking on the advance camps of the rebels and the latter are “losing out”.

However, the rebels carried out their biggest ever attack on police in the state last year, killing 55 policemen in an overnight assault on a police outpost at Rani Bodli village in Bijapur district March 2007.

“It will take time to wipe out Maoists, but it’s sure that they will be finished off,” said Ranjan.

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