Latehar storm after Maoist lull

National

The PLGA had been formed in 2000. The last two years have shown a drop in incidents involving Maoists —from 2,213 in 2010 to 1,760 in 2011 and 1,365 in 2012 — after the preceding few years had shown a successive increase — from 1,565 in 2007 to 1,591 in 2008 and 2,258 in 2009.

The regrouping phase saw Maoists devising new strategies, the planting of IEDs inside corpses being the latest. They have cited the Latehar attack as their response to the Saranda Development Plan, launched by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh after advancing CRPF troops had cleared these forests in West Singhbhum district. Maoists describe the Sananda project as a plan to hand over mining resources to private companies. "The central government is trying to gain control over natural resources through such tactics. Our killings are in response to their designs," Toofan, spokesperson for the Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhattisgarh special area unit of the CPI (Maoist), said in an audio statement sent to The Indian Express.

He said the explosives they had stitched in was their response to similar tactics by the CRPF in the area. "The CRPF laid booby traps in the form of rocket launchers and grenades across Latehar and Palamu districts. They are also using children and villagers as human shields. We regret the deaths of innocent villagers in the incident."

The CRPF refused to comment on "such madness". "Only saner comments and actions can be responded to," said Jharkhand IG CRPF MV Pradhan. And Pankaj Kumar Singh, CRPF IG (Ops), said, "They are acting in desperation, trying to salvage whatever they can. We should continue with greater force."

Maoist losses

An estimated 70 died during 2012, one reason for the relative lull. Some key deaths:

Harak alias Srikanth, 48: Died of illness on February 26. A Dandakaranya special zonal committee member, he worked among Chhattisgarh activists and youths and was active culturally — he was an editorial board member in Prabhat, the outfit's mouthpiece in the zone. Joined Dandankaranya's Gadchiroli division in 1998, was elected into the special zonal committee in 2005.

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