Red Affairs

Surrender of Gudsa Usendi: Ominous beginning for the Naxals?

19 Jan, 2014    ·   4264

Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray comments on the recent surrender of a naxal leader

Bibhu Prasad Routray
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Visiting Fellow

Beginning of 2014 could not have been any worse for the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). The outfit lost one of its trusted lieutenants. On 13 January, spokesperson of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, GVK Prasad alias Gudsa Usendi, who not only was in charge of issuing press statements on behalf of the outfit, but was also responsible for some of the its military successes in Chhattisgarh, surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police. He complained of ill health and disillusionment with the outfit's excessive reliance on violence. He would receive the Rupees 20 lakh which was the bounty on his head. Usendi's surrender was followed by few other surrenders of low and middle ranking cadres in Chhattisgarh.

The CPI-Maoist came out with an audio statement trivializing the impact of Usendi's surrender. Calling him a 'traitor', a 'morally flawed' individual; criticising his ways with the women cadres and the fact that Usendi chose to abandon his wife and surrender with another woman cadre, the statement noted that such surrenders, which is 'not a new phenomenon for the revolutionary movement' would have no impact on the revolution that the Maoists are waging.  

At one level, the statement appears to be a natural reaction of the outfit, which has suffered from a series of splits and surrenders, and has also lost a number of senior leaders to arrests and killings in the past years. While deaths and arrests are unavoidable parts of its military campaign, the outfit is most perturbed by the possible impact of the public denouncement of its ideology by its erstwhile lieutenants. By criticising the surrendering cadres and idolising the ones who got killed in encounters with the security forces, the Maoists want to keep their flock together.

Recent history of left-wing extremism in India bears testimony to the damaging impact of neutralisation of key leaders on the outfit's overall activity. Kishenji's killing in November 2011 led to the marginalisation of the Maoists in West Bengal. Sabyasachi Panda's in August 2012 rebellion in Odisha was a serious setback for the outfit's plan of expansion in that state. The September 2009 arrest of  Kobad Ghandy and the July 2010 killing of Cherikuri Rajkumar alias Azad constituted blows to the outfit's policy making apparatus as well as to its expansion strategy in southern India. Usendi's sudden departure from the scene would certainly affect the outfit. That the outfit would find a leader to replace him and would eventually overcome his loss is, however, a different debate.

At the other level, the satisfaction expressed in the official circles, post Usendi's surrender that the CPI-Moist would eventually crumble because of its excessive reliance on violence and disenchantment of its cadres from the party's ideology, may be misplaced. That Usendi's surrender and fair treatment accorded to him by the state would lead to a stream of surrenders of top cadres is far fetched. That Maoist violence would die a natural death without any substantial effort from the state is an unreal expectation.

Ground reality in the Maoist conflict theatres may be different. While the level of violence orchestrated in 2010, so far the worst year of Maoist violence, resulting in the deaths of over 900 civilians and security forces would possibly remain unmatched, an upswing in violence, albeit marginal, was recorded in 2013 over the previous year. 270 civilians and security forces were killed in 2013 in various states compared to 250 deaths in 2012. In spite of the killing of 151 Maoist cadres in 2013, the outfit's level of violence did not show much signs of abatement. States like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha remained affected by significant amount of extremist mobilisation as well as violence.

Although deployment of about 150 companies of security forces minimised violence during the state assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, there was little to suggest that the state is in the process of developing its wherewithal to replicate the Andhra Pradesh success on its soil. Bihar's unique approach towards the problem has merely translated into its diminishing ability to neutralise the Maoists, where as the extremists continue to kill, abduct and snatch weapons. While Maoist inroads into the northeast remains mostly an exaggerated claim by the Assam government, the CPI-Maoist appears to have made concerted efforts for expansion into the southern states.

In 2013, small victories were scored by the security forces against the Maoists. But the year also witnessed setbacks in the form of the Darbha attack in Chhattisgarh in which 27 people including some senior politicians were killed and the killing of an Superintendent of Police in Jharkhand. Moreover, the security forces in Chhattsgarh were also involved in at least two encounters in which civilians rather than extremists were killed, highlighting the persistence of intelligence collection problems. It is the continuing ability to inflict damages on the state, which would keep the CPI-Maoist relevant in the eyes of its sympathisers.

Usendi's surrender is an ominous beginning for the CPI-Maoist, but certainly not the end game.