S. Binodkumar Singh Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
Articulating new hopes of prosperity, coexistence and reconciliation, President Maithripala Sirisena, in his New Year message on January 1, 2017, declared, "The year 2017 dawns with new hopes of prosperity, coexistence and reconciliation in our hearts. It is imperative that we overcome the challenges ahead of us. The progress of the human race was pioneered by people who faced challenges with confidence, utmost courage and determination amidst obstacles. Our goals could be achieved if we manage our work efficiently and productively, and do the right thing at the right time with unwavering commitment to serve the greater good." Similarly, the Leader of the Opposition and of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) R. Sampanthan, in his message of greetings for the New Year, noted, "2017 will be a crucial year in the history of our country. Our expectation is that we should find a permanent and lasting solution to the national question. The new Constitution in the New Year should bring about this achievement."
Though the insurgency has ended in Nepal, political violence continued through 2016. However, not a single insurgency-related fatality was recorded in 2016, and this has been the case since 2013, with not a single insurgency-related fatality on record. At the peak of insurgency, Nepal had seen 4,896 fatalities in 2002 alone, including 3,992 Maoists, 666 Security Force (SF) personnel and 238 civilians.
Koraput: Lingering Threat
On December 22, 2016, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres shot dead one person, identified as G. Appa Rao, at Munuguluwalsa village under the Pottangi Police limits in the Koraput District of Odisha. Appa Rao was the husband of the Naib Sarpanch (deputy head of the Panchayat, the village level local-self government institution) of Talagoluru. The Maoists also set ablaze two tractors and one van belonging to Apparao before leaving the spot.
Latehar: Cyclical Harm
On November 23, 2016, six Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed in an encounter with Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jharkhand Police, at a remote location inside the Karmadih-Naurnagu Forests under the Chhipadohar Police Station of Latehar District. CRPF, Director General (DG), K. Durga Prasad disclosed, "Two out of the six slain rebels have been identified as 'sub-zonal commander' Deepak Kharwar alias Shailesh Kharwar, who carried a cash reward of Rs, Five Lakh [INR 500,000] on his head, and 'area commander' Nagendra Yadav," and added, further, that the duo was mainly active in Latehar and Lohardaga and used to operate under the directives of Maoist 'zonal commander' Nakul Yadav. The identities of the remaining four Maoists are yet to be ascertained. Giving details on items recovered, Superintendent of Police (SP) Anup Birtharey stated that the Forces recovered one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifle, two Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), three .303 rifles, 600 bullets of various calibres and one dozen explosive devices. One carbine was also recovered from the riverbed. He further disclosed that four out of the seven recovered weapons had been looted from the Police on earlier occasions.
Assam: Troubles in Tinsukia
Three Army personnel were killed and another four were injured when militants ambushed an Army convoy at Pengaree near Digboi in Tinsukia District on November 19, 2016. According to Defence Public Relations Officer (PRO) Lieutenant Colonel Suneet Newton, "They (the militants) had planted an improvised explosive device (IED) on the road. When the IED exploded, the convoy stopped. Then the militants fired indiscriminately." On November 20, the Independent faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I) claimed that this was a "joint operation" carried out by the outfit and four members of the Manipur-based Coordination Committee (CorCom) - Revolutionary People's Front (RPF, the political wing of the People's Liberation Army, PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), and progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-Pro). The other two members of the CorCom, a conglomerate of six Manipur Valley-based militant outfits are the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
Jharkhand: Lingering Maoist Shadow
On October 31, 2016, Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres killed a farmer at Punjo Sona Toli under the Ghaghra Police Station area in Gumla District. Police recovered a pamphlet near the body, which was found half a kilometre away from the farmer's residence. The pamphlet alleged he was an informer of the Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a CPI-Maoist splinter group.
The Shadow of Daesh
At least 52 persons were killed and more than hundred were injured when a teenage suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in the midst of devotees at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Noorani in the Khuzdar District of Balochistan in the evening of November 12, 2016. The explosion took place at the spot where the dhamaal (Sufi ritual of devotional dance) was being performed, within the premises of the shrine. "The bomber appeared to be 14 to 16 years old," said Muhammad Hashim Ghalzai, the Commissioner of Kalat Division, of which Khuzdar is a District. Nawaz Ali, the shrine's custodian, added, "Every day, around sunset, there is a dhamaal here, and there are large numbers of people who come for this." According to Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Jafar Khan, at the time of the blast, around 1,000 devotees were present in the shrine to view the performance. The Daesh (Islamic State, IS, previously Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack via Amaq, its affiliated news agency.
Maoists: Shock in a 'Safe Haven'
In the most successful operation ever conducted by the Security Forces (SFs) against the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), since the formation of the outfit in September 2004, SFs killed at least 24 CPI-Maoist cadres in two successive encounters in the Bejingi forest area, between Ramgarh and Panasput, in the Malkangiri District of Odisha on October 24, 2016. One Greyhound [the elite anti-Maoist force of the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Police] commando, Mohammed Abu Bakar, was also killed during the operation, while another commando was injured. A large quantity of arms and ammunition, including four AK-47 rifles, 10.303 rifles, three Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), two INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles, and four SBBL (Smooth Bore Breech Loading) guns were recovered from the encounter site. Police also recovered about 50 kit bags, one laptop, INR 216,000 in cash and a large quantity of Maoist literature. Another four Maoists were killed during the subsequent combing operation in the same area on October 25. Two Maoists were also killed in the same area on October 27, yielding a total of 30 Maoists killed in a quick succession of SF operations in the region.