The crackdown by the Maharashtra police on what is termed as ‘Urban Moists’ in the Bhima-Koregaon case has highlighted the penetration of leftwing extremism in the cities even as the government claims that the Naxal violence has come down significantly in recent months. Apart from the sensational discovery about a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi by leftwing extremists, the investigations into the Bhima-Koregaon violence have bared the deep-rooted fault lines among the communities.
The union home ministry’s detailed analysis of leftwing extremism shows that the number of deaths this year in naxal violence is showing a downward trend. At the national level, 97 people died in LWE (Left Wing Extremism) violence till May 15 this year compared to 141 in the same duration last year. Overall, the death toll in naxal violence last year was 263.
If one sees the pattern of deaths in the leftwing extremist violence since 2009, one finds that the number of deaths started falling steadily from 2014 onwards when 310 people died. The number was 230 in 2015 and 278 in 2016.
But during the UPA regime, the casualties were high. The bloodiest year was 2010 when a record 1,005 people died. In 2011, the number came down to 611 and 415 in 2012 before falling to 397 in 2013.
In terms of the area of leftwing extremist influence, one can clearly see that Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are the worst-affected regions. Of the 97 deaths this year, 69 have taken place in Chhattisgarh alone and 10 in Jharkhand. The two states account for the highest number of casualties. Orissa and Maharashtra are the two other regions of concern.
States like West Bengal, where the movement originated in the 1980s, has not witnessed a single death since 2012 which shows the effectiveness of the state machinery in dealing with the problem.
There has been a reduction in the overall number of incidents of violence which stood at 354 till May 15 this year compared to 363 last year. There has been a reduction in the civilian casualties with the numbers reducing from 79 to 66 this year.
The number of security forces killed in skirmishes with leftwing extremist groups has also come down by half. The security forces lost 31 soldiers this year compared to 62 last year in the same duration. The security forces saw the lowest casualties in 2015 when 59 soldiers were killed.
The trend shows that the casualties among security forces have also been on a steady decline. In 2009, the highest 317 soldiers were killed. In 2010, the number was still extremely high at 285. The number came substantially down to 114 in 2012 and since 2014 it has remained below 100 with 2015 being the best year in terms of the number of casualties to the security forces at 59.
At the same time, the number of encounters has gone up. This year has already seen 104 encounters. Despite an overall improvement, the injuries to security forces in landmine explosions continue to remain a big challenge. The number of injured in leftwing extremist attacks has gone up from 73 last year to 79 this year.
Around 280 extremists have surrendered this year compared to 366 last year. Another indicator of improvement of the tactics employed by the security forces is that the snatching of arms from the soldiers has come down drastically. The extremists were well-trained to snatch the arms from the soldiers but this year such incidents have come down to only nine compared to 34 last year.
The numbers tell a story of improvement in the leftwing extremist situation but other measures would be required to ensure that the dividend earned after years of meticulous planning is not frittered away.