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Forces gear up to kill Maoist leaders

CRPF officers ride motorcycles along a track close to the spot where Maoist leader Kishenji was shot, in Burisole, West Bengal last month. AFP

ncouraged by Kishenji's death, security forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations are focusing on eliminating the top leadership of the ultras. The killing of Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishenji, in West Bengal has considerably weakened the morale of the cadre in Maoist affected-states and the security forces do not want them to regroup. The Ministry of Home Affairs has prepared a list of 100 top Maoist leaders as targets and is intensifying Operation Green Hunt in the affected states.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has instructed the state police to erase Maoist violence from the state altogether. He wants the ultra's ideological base uprooted.

A senior Chhattisgarh police officer said, "Operation Green Hunt, which was aimed at crippling the Maoist cadre in rural areas, will be intensified, with the Centre sending more helicopters and 3,000 BSF jawans to the state. The aim is to eliminate Maoist leaders."

A police officer of the rank of inspector general, who is leading anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh said that as part of its changing strategy, the MHA has issued directives that the forces should go after the top leaders rather than the cadre as replacing a leader is difficult.

n neighbouring Jharkhand, Chief Minister Arjun Munda met top police and Home Department officials at his residence to chalk out a new strategy after Kishenji's death. He asked the police to demolish the Maoist leaders' hideouts. The meeting was attended by five MHA officers. Munda reportedly told the officers that Maoists from Andhra Pradesh, who were operating from Jharkhand, should be told to return to their home state or face the consequences.

Jharkhand DGP G.S. Rath said that post Kishenji's death, the state police was working on a list given to them by the MHA containing the names of 10 top Maoist leaders operating in the state. The Jharkhand police is currently pursuing the dreaded Kundan Pahan, who is the South Chhotanagpur Zonal committee commander. His name features on the MHA list.

"Our mission is not to catch them, but to kill them," said a deputy superintendent of police who is part of anti-Maoist operations in Jharkhand. "The last couple of years have been bad for the Maoists as they lost five-six politburo members to the security forces. They are now facing a leadership crisis," he added.Image 2nd

Officials say that there was nothing random about the killing of Kishenji. It was part of a well-chalked out strategy of liquidating the top leaders, rather than going after the foot soldiers, as was the practice earlier.

Vishwaranjan, who was till recently Chhattisgarh's director general of police (DGP), said that Kishenji's death has been a big jolt for Maoists operating from different states. Kishenji, till three months ago, was camping in Chhattisgarh and his brother, Sonuji, is the politburo in-charge of the organisation in the state. "Even though Kishenji was focusing more on West Bengal, his death will cripple Maoists all over the country," said Vishwaranjan.

G.S. Rath's immediate predecessor, Vishnu Dayal Ram, told this newspaper that incidents of holding kangaroo courts and killing civilians would come down after Kishenji's death. He admitted that the forces were concentrating on eliminating top Maoist leaders.

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