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IDSA COMMENT

Maoist People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army

December 12, 2011

The People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) of Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) [CPI (Maoist) in short], marked its 11th anniversary concluding on December 5, 2011. The rebels indulged in a spree of violence blasting government office buildings, schools and railway tracks in various places. They also attacked two police stations –– Dhivra and Tandwa in Bihar, both of which were successfully repulsed.

This annual, week-long commemoration came in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Mallojula Koteswara Rao alias Kishanji in a gun battle with the security forces, on November 24, 2011, in the Burisole forest area of West Midnapore district, West Bengal. Also, the Maoists gave a call for a general shutdown, with limited success, in their strongholds in various States on December 4 and 5 to protest the killing of Kishanji.

The PLGA was founded on December 2, 2000, originally as the People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA), by the then Communist Party of India–Marxist-Leninist (People’s War), PW in short, and popularly known as the PWG. The founding day also marked the first anniversary of the killing in an encounter of three Central Committee members of the then PW, Nalla Adi Reddy, Yerramreddy Santosh Reddy and Seelam Naresh in the Koyyuru forest area of Karimnagar district. Following the merger of the PW and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI), on September 21, 2004, the PGA was renamed as the PLGA.

At the time of launching the PLGA, Nambala Keasava Rao alias Basava Raju, who is believed to be the de facto head of the Maoist military machine, said that it was founded to “smash the rule of imperialism, feudalism, comprador bureaucrat capitalism, and to seize political power by setting up a new democratic state as a first step in the path to socialism.” Its flag signifies a resolve to overthrow the state through the force of arms. It carries a hammer and sickle cut across by a gun.

Besides, at its founding, the general secretary of the CPI (Maoist), Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, who was also the general secretary of the then PW, said: “The PGA must mingle with the masses and become a part of their lives and their aspirations. In this way, the PGA will grow and equip itself to take on the multi-pronged attack by the government…” In fact, this is in consonance with what Mao Tse Tung once said: “… all the practical problems in the masses’ everyday life should claim our attention. If we attend to these problems, solve them and satisfy the needs of the masses, we shall really become organizers of the well-being of the masses, and they will truly rally round us and give us their warm support … ”1 Eventually, as the mass base of the PLGA expands to include various sections of society, the Maoists hope to transform the PLGA into the PLA.

The PLGA consists of three types of forces, viz. primary force (platoons), secondary force (guerrilla squads) and base force (people’s militia). The people’s militia comprises of people who otherwise have a vocation in life and are imparted rudimentary military training for barely a fortnight. Commenting upon the significance of the people’s militia in the Maoist scheme of things, a central committee member had this to say: “The people’s militia is at the very foundation of the PGA. The armed struggle can not be advanced unless the people’s militia was built in a big way and there was mass participation.”

In fact, the operational strategy of the PLGA was summed-up by Azad, the then spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist), in a press release issued on November 14, 2005, in the following words: “…well-equipped, well-trained, and numerically superior [security] forces can be dealt heavy blows by a numerically weaker but determined, fearless and politically motivated armed force of the people through concrete survey of the weak points of the enemy force, meticulous planning and effective execution based on the principle of taking on the enemy through surprise and lightening speed.” Thus, the people’s militia played an important role, and had participated in large numbers –– in their hundreds –– in all the synchronised attacks launched by the rebels since 2004. Such attacks included:

  • Koraput raid, Orissa, February 6, 2004, in which the armoury containing 528 weapons was emptied.
  • Madhuban raid, Bihar, June 23, 2005.
  • Giridih Home Guards training centre, Jharkhand, November 11, 2005, in which 280 weapons were looted.
  • Jehanabad Jail Break, Bihar, November 13, 2005, during which over 900 prisoners, including Maoist cadres and leaders, escaped to freedom.
  • R Udayagiri raid, Orissa, March 26, 2006, in which the police station was over-run and 17 SLRs were looted.
  • Raid in Riga block, Sitamarhi district, Bihar, March 31, 2007.
  • Nayagarh Armoury raid, Orissa, February 15, 2008, in which 1,100 weapons –– including pistols, SLRs, AK series rifles, INSAS rifles and LMGs –– and 200,000 rounds of ammunition were looted.

Moreover, as the then Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Jagdalpur, in the Bastar region in southern Chhattisgarh, told this author in an interview in 2007: “The people’s militia has acquired the expertise needed to plant and set-off landmines on their own without any guidance from, or supervision by, the armed underground squads.” According to one estimate, the strength of the people’s militia in Bastar region alone –– which comprises of five revenue/police districts –– is 30,000!

Thus, the Maoist military machine has acquired a certain versatility and lethality. The security forces would, therefore, have to possess and display immense capacities to fight the Maoists militarily.

  • 1. Mao Zedong’s concluding statement made at the Second National Congress of the Soviet Republic of China, Juichin Kiangsi Province, January 27, 1934, entitled “Be Concerned with the Well-being of the Masses, Pay Attention to Methods of Work”, Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, Vol. I, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1954, pp.147-152.