CRPF claims big breakthrough, clears Jharkhand Maoist hub

Stating that security forces have cleared Budhapahad, a forested area in the tri-junction of Latehar and Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Balrampur in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, of Left-Wing Extremism (LWE), CRPF director-general Kuldiep Singh on Wednesday said that Bihar and Jharkhand can now be said to be free of Maoists.

The Budhapahad area was dominated by Maoists for the last three decades. On Monday, the government sent forces with the help of an MI-17 helicopter and a permanent camp was set up for the forces there, Singh said.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah congratulated CRPF and the state security forces for this “success, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, and said the Ministry of Home Affairs will continue the zero-tolerance policy against LWE and terrorism, and this fight will be intensified.

Addressing the media here on Wednesday, Singh said multiple operations conducted in Jharkhand over the last many years in Budhapahad area had come a cropper, as Maoist operatives had planted improvised explosive device (IED), among others, making it nearly impossible for security forces to make a breakthrough. “We are conducting operations in Jharkhand since April this year. We managed to reach Budhapahad for the first time on September 5, and an Mi-17 (helicopter) successfully landed there two days ago…” he said.

Singh said CRPF has conducted three big operations in Jharkhand before establishing the camp. “Since April, we are running ‘Operation Octopus’. Before that, there were ‘Operation Double Bull’ and ‘Operation Thunderstorm’, which is still going on in tribal areas. We have also found that Maoists have built a factory in Chhattisgarh and are making an under-barrel grenade launcher to attack us,” he said.

Singh said, “After reclaiming Budhapahad, the Superintendent of Police for the area camped there for almost a week. The District Magistrate has also visited the area twice.”

According to MHA data up to June 30 this year, seven Maoist operatives have been killed and 436 arrested/surrendered in Chhattisgarh; four Maoists killed and 120 arrested/surrendered in Jharkhand; and 36 Maoists arrested/surrendered in Bihar. Three LWE operatives have been killed by security forces in Madhya Pradesh so far this year, data shows.

Besides Jharkhand, Singh said, CRPF also conducted operations in “extremely inaccessible areas of Chakrabandha and Bhimabandh of Bihar”. He said, “In May, we conducted operations in Bihar…. We can say now Bihar and Jharkhand are Naxal-free, They may have a presence in the form of extortion gangs, but there is no place in Bihar with Naxal domination. There is no place in Bihar and Jharkhand where forces cannot reach.”

Singh also said that incidents of LWE-related violence have come down significantly. In 2009, it was at an all-time high of 2,258, which came down to 509 in 2018, the MHA stated.

In a media release, the MHA stated, “The fight against Naxals has now reached its final stage and it can proven by the fact that in 2022, in comparison to 2018, there has been a 39 percent reduction in incidents of LWE-related violence, 26 percent reduction in the number of sacrifices made by security forces. Civilian casualties have reduced by 44 percent…”

On deaths due to LWE violence, the MHA stated that the death toll was at its highest — 1,005 — in 2010, which was down to 147 in 2021. “Their sphere of influence has (also) decreased significantly. Simultaneously, the area of influence of Maoists has also reduced significantly…from 96 districts in 2010 to only 39 districts in 2022,” it stated.

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