15 November 2018


Deepak Kumar Nayak


On November 11, 2018, a Border Security Force (BSF) Sub-Inspector was killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) triggered by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres near the Koliyabeda area in Kanker District. Another BSF trooper was injured in the explosion. Police disclosed that the Maoists triggered another five IED blasts at separate locations in the areas between Kattakal and Gome villages in the District, though there were no casualties. These incidents took place a day ahead of the scheduled polling in the region.

The first phase of the two-phase State Assembly Elections is being held on November 12 [at the time of writing] while the second phase is scheduled to be held on November 20, 2018. Polling in 18 constituencies in eight Districts–Bastar, Kanker, Sukma, Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Rajnandgaon–is being held in the first phase [these are the eight districts in Chhattisgarh which have been listed among the 30 worst Naxal(Left Wing extremism, LWE)-affected Districts across the country.] The remaining 72 constituencies will go to the polls on November 20. Counting of votes will be held on December 11.

On November 8, 2018, at least four civilians and a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Head Constablewere killed when cadres of the CPI-Maoist triggered an IED targeting a bus carrying CISF personnel in a hilly area in Bacheli in Dantewada District.The dead civilians included the bus driver, two helpers, and a truck driver who had taken lift in the bus. Two CISF troopers were also injured in the incident. The explosion took place when the CISF personnel were returning to their camp in Akashnagar after purchasing groceries from a nearby market. The CISF unit was deployed in the area for the first phase of the polls in the State.

On November 7, 2018, the husband of asarpanch (head of the Panchayat, village level local self-government institution) was killed by CPI-Maoist cadres in Sukma District. KalmuDhruva was brutally beaten to death with sticks. Sukma, Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhishek Meena disclosed that Dhruva, the victim, was a worker of the Communist Party of India (CPI), while his wife is thesarpanch of Bodko village.

On October 30, 2018, four persons, including a Doordarshan(national Television)camera man andthreeCentral Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel,were killed whenCPI-Maoist cadres attacked the crew members of Doordarshannear Nilawaya village under Aranapur Police Station limitsin Dantewada District. According to reports, aDoordarshanteam gone to Dantewada for coverage of election related developments.

In a separate incident on the same day, a 65-year-old villager was killed when a pressure bomb, suspected to have been planted by the Maoists, went off near Nawadih village under Samri Police Station limits in BalrampurDistrict.Road construction work is reportedly under way in Samri.

On October 28, 2018, a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was critically injured after he was attacked by half a dozen suspected CPI-Maoist cadres with sharp edged weapons in Dantewada District. Nandlal Mudami is a Zilla Parishad (District Council) member. Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallav stated, “Mudami played a major role in bringing people in Palnar to the mainstream. This angered the Naxals [Left Wing extremism, LWE]. We used to keep getting the info that they are planning to strike back.” BJP is the ruling party in the State.

On October 27, 2018, four personnel of the CRPF were killed and another two injured in an attack carried out by CPI-Maoist cadres just a kilometre away from the CRPF’s Murdana camp under Awapalli Police Station in Bijapur District. Troops of the 168thBattalion were out on an ‘area domination' exercise and a road-opening operation between Murdana and Timapur when they were attacked around 4.10pm. TheMaoists first blew up a Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) and then fired upon the injured troopers with automatic weapons, killing four personnel on the spot.

On October 25, 2018, a CRPF trooper was injured in an IED blast triggered by CPI-Maoist cadres in Sukma District. The incident took place when a team of CRPF's 223rdBattalion was out on an anti-Naxal operation in a forested area under Jagargunda Police Station limits.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least seven civilians and nine Security Force (SF) personnel have been killed in 15 incidents of LWE-linked violence (data till November 11, 2018) recorded in 37 days, since the State Assembly Polls wereannounced on October 6, 2018.

In the interim, on October 8, 2018, intelligence units operating in Chhattisgarh warned of heightened Maoist activity in the State, especially in Bijapur, Dantewada, Narayanpur and Sukma, in the run-up to the State Assembly elections. At least nine incidents of LWE-linked violence havealready been recorded.

The Maoists had called upon voters to boycott the Assembly polls in the State.Among others, Maoist banners written in Hindi were recovered from forests in the Bastar regiononOctober 30, 2018, declaring,

Farzi Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha ka Chunao ka Bahiskar karo. Janatana Sarkar ko majboot karenge unka vistaar karenge. Janyudhya ko tej karke, daman yojna-samadhan ko harayenge. [Boycott fake Chhattisgarh Vidhan Sabha (Assembly) election. Strengthen and expand people's government. Speed up people’s war to defeat oppressive regime]

Inspector Salim of Katekalyan Police Stationin Dantewada Districtstatedon October 31, 2018, that election preparations were going according to schedule, despite threats and the boycott call by the Naxals. He elaborated,

We are trying to ensure that polling takes place here. Forces from other areashave also come to assist us. It is true that Naxals exist inthis area and they have been campaigning and advocating against participationin elections; sometimes even scaring the locals in such a way that they desistfrom casting votes. However, we are prepared to face all challenges…It’s challenging but we are ready. Villagers are connecting with us.

According to a report dated October 31, 2018, the State Government has built up a polling booth in the Telam village of the Katekalyan region in Dantewada District.The villagers in the area will be getting an opportunity to cast their vote for the first time since independence and are reportedly excited about the construction of the polling booth in their village.

Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister (CM)Raman Singhstated on October 31, 2018, “We have prepared a roadmap on how better security can be provided to media and locals… We have adequate security for polls.”

Indeed, in view of the threat perception,in 18 constituencies falling in the Bastar region, which go to the polls in the first phase on November 12, about 65,000 additional troops from various Central and State Police Forces have been deployed, as disclosed by officials on October 31, 2018:“About 650 companies of central and State [from other States]Police Forces will be deployed for the first phase of polls in the State. The (personnel of) Chhattisgarh Police is in addition to this.”Chhattisgarh has a Police population ratio of 228.60 per 100,000 (as on January 1, 2017), substantially higher than the national average of 150.75, but significantly below the required strength, in view of the scale of the ongoing Maoist insurgency.There is no informationat present regarding additional deployment for the 72 constituenciesfor the second Phase of polls to be held on November 20. Around 50 battalions of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) remain posted in Chhattisgarh throughout the year.

In the 37 days since the notification of the Elections on October 6, 2018, SFs have neutralised seven Maoists in five separate incidents and arrested at least another 16. Continuing SF pressure has led to the surrender of at least 104 LWE elements in the state (data till November 11, 2018). Notably, over the past 10 months and 11 days, SFs have neutralised 104 Maoists in 46 separate incidents and arrested at least another 315 in the State. SF pressure has led to the surrender of at least 273 LWE elements in Chhattisgarh (data till November 11, 2018).

Assembly Elections in 2013 had been quite peaceful. On October 4, 2013, the Election Commission had announced two-phased electionsin Chhattisgarh on November 11 and 19, 2013.According to the SATP database, four SF personnel and one civilian were killed in 12 incidents of LWE-linked violence between October 4, 2013, and November 19, 2013.There were at least five Maoist fatalities during this period of 46 days. Moreover, the voter turnout stood at over 77 per cent across the State. One constituency (Kurud) saw an astonishing 88 per cent vote.

A high voter turnout is once again expected in the current Assembly elections, despite the relative spike in LWE-violence since the publication of the electionnotification. In an unrelated by significant development, according media reports on November 5, 2018, Muppala Lakshmana Rao aka Ganapathy, the 71-year-old ‘general secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist, had been replaced by his ‘second-in-command’ Nambala Keshava Rao akaBasavaraj (63). It is to be noted that Basavaraj was heading the CPI-Maoist's ‘military-wing’, PLGA (People's Liberation Guerrilla Army), since its inception. He is also suspected to be behind almost all major Maoist attacks that have taken place in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Odisha in the recent past. Basavaraj is an expert in explosives and military techniques and has a good network with arms traders. He also has a reputation for greater proclivities to violence than Ganapathy. While this transition has not been confirmed by Maoist sources, if corroborated, it would suggest the possibility of heightened Maoist violence, despite the rising pressure of the SFs over the past years.


Fueling Uncertainty 
S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In a surprising political development, a coalition partner of the Sri Lankan Government, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), announced its decision to leave the National Unity Government (NUG) on October 26, 2018. NUG was formed on August 20, 2015, with a coalition between UPFA and the United National Party (UNP). Soon after the announcement, the Presidential Secretariat published two Extraordinary Gazettes to remove Ranil Wickremesinghe from the Prime Minister’s post, and to appoint former President and Kurunegala District Member of Parliament (MP) Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Justifying his sudden political maneuver while addressing the nation on October 28, 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena categorically stated “There was a policy conflict between Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe and me, during the last three and half years. Apart from policy differences, I noted that there were also differences of culture between Mr Wickremesinghe and me. I believe that all those differences in policy, culture, personality and conduct aggravated this political and economic crisis.”

Significantly, President Sirisena's UPFA and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's UNP formed the NUG on a platform of good governance following the Parliamentary Elections held on August 17, 2015. There has, however, been growing tension between the coalition partners on several policy matters and the President has been critical of the Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and his policies, especially on economy.

Deepening the crisis further, on October 27, 2018, President Sirisena suspended Parliament until November 16, 2018, as Prime Minister Wickremesinghe refused to accept his unconstitutional removal and called for an immediate parliamentary session to prove that he retains the majority in Parliament. Further, on October 29, 2018, a new Cabinet of Ministers under Prime Minister Rajapaksa was sworn in before President Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.

Reacting sharply to his sacking at a nationally televised press conference in the night of October 26, 2018, Wickremesinghe asserted "I am addressing you as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. I remain as Prime Minister and I will function as the Prime Minister. Only I have the majority. The only way that can be changed is through a no confidence motion or if I resign.”

According to the Article 42 (4) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka the President shall appoint as Prime Minister the Member of Parliament, who, in the President's opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of Parliament. Article 46 (2) states that the Prime Minister shall continue to hold office throughout the period during which the Cabinet of Ministers continues to function under the provisions of the Constitution unless he – (a) resigns his office by a writing under his hand addressed to the President; or (b) ceases to be a Member of Parliament. In the 225-member House, the Rajapaksa-Sirisena combine had only 95 seats and was short of a simple majority. Wickremesinghe’s UNP had 106 seats on its own, and was just seven short of the majority. Earlier, on April 4, 2018, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe successfully defeated a No-Confidence Motion engineered by Sirisena and backed by Rajapaksa. Of the 225 MPs, 122 MPs – 104 of the UNP, 16 of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), and one each of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) – voted against the No-Confidence Motion. 

Meanwhile, UNP senior Ministers and MPs at media briefings held in Temple Trees, Colombo, on October 28, 2018, said they would take to the streets and protest against the unconstitutional power transfer and the proroguing of Parliament. Angry protests rocked Sri Lanka’s capital as thousands of demonstrators gathered on October 30, 2018, for a mass rally organized by UNP against what it said was a “coup” by President Sirisena. Police sources estimated about 25,000 people thronged the rally.

Separately, to ensure that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe's privileges are protected until the Parliament makes a decision on a Prime Minister due to the crisis situation prevailing in the country, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, in a letter to the President, on October 28, 2018, stated, “I consider it my foremost duty to protect the rights and privileges of all Members of Parliament, especially in the context of the serious political-constitutional crisis which has arisen in the country. I have received a request to protect the rights and privileges of Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe until any other person emerges from within Parliament as having secured the confidence of Parliament.” On October 30, 2018, in a letter to the President, the Speaker reiterated, "Once again, in the name of democracy, I kindly urge you to summon Parliament forthwith for the wellbeing of public and to ensure justice without allowing the country to be dragged into a crisis.”

Supporting Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which has 16 MPs in the House, in a statement issued on November 3, 2018, decided to support the no-confidence motion brought by the UNP against new Prime Minister Rajapaksa. Similarly, the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP, People's Liberation Front) which has six legislators, also announced on November 7, 2018, that the party would support any motion brought to defeat the political conspiracy hatched by President Sirisena and former President Rajapaksa.

Condemning the President's unconstitutional power transfer, a group of civil society representatives met Speaker Jayasuriya on October 31, 2018, and handed over a petition containing approximately 16,000 signatures obtained through the Internet, urging that Parliament be reconvened immediately to re-establish democracy in the country. Separately, on November 6, 2018, the Maha Sangh, a large group of Buddhist monks, gathered near the Buddha statue at Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo and walked to the New Town Hall demanding the restoration of Parliament and honor of democratic principles and processes. Prior to the convention at the Town Hall, the Maha Sangha came to Temple Trees and blessed UNP leader Wickremesinghe. The Maha Sangha chanted Seth Pirith [Most Powerful Protection incantation] and invoked blessings on Wickremesinghe.

In a setback to President Sirisena, Sri Lanka's Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya on October 31, 2018, refused to endorse the President's dismissal of the Prime Minister for a former strongman accused of rights abuses, the clearest sign yet that the move was unconstitutional. Jayasuriya's refusal bolstered Wickremesinghe's claim that the President acted outside the Constitution by dumping him in favour of Rajapaksa, a former President who ruled with an iron fist for a decade. In another blow to President Sirisena, Manusha Nanayakkara, a UPFA Deputy Minister resigned on November 6, 2018, and backed the ousted Wickremesinghe, declaring that in his opinion Wickremesinghe was still the legitimate Prime Minister as accepted by the Speaker.

Significantly, on November 2, 2018, a resolution signed by 118 MP’s against the appointment of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister was handed over to Speaker Jayasuriya. In the resolution, the MPs stated, “We also don’t accept any of the decisions and appointments made by the President that followed the appointment of Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister.” On the same day, UNP MP Palitha Range Bandara revealed that he was offered USD 2.8 million and a Ministerial portfolio to join the Rajapaksa Government.

The international community reacted adversely to the Wickremesinghe’s dismissal. Expressing great concern on November 1, 2018, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres urged President Sirisena to revert to Parliamentary procedures and allow the Parliament to vote as soon as possible. Similarly, on November 6, 2018, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland encouraged the political leaders and people of Sri Lanka to engage in constructive dialogue and uphold the rule of law in order to resolve the crisis. Likewise, on November 7, 2018, the United States urged President Sirisena to reconvene Parliament immediately. Meanwhile, a delegation of the European Union (EU) issuing a joint statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission as well as the Ambassadors of Norway and Switzerland resident in Colombo declared, on November 9, 2018,

We consider it essential that Parliament be allowed to demonstrate its confidence by voting immediately when reconvened in order to resolve the serious uncertainties currently facing the country. Any further delay could damage Sri Lanka's international reputation and deter investors. Respect by all stakeholders for the provisions of the constitution will be important to maintain the confidence of the Sri Lankan people in democratic governance and the rule of law.

In the face of growing calls to end the political impasse in the country, partially revoking his order that suspended the House till November 16, President Sirisena, by his order of November 1, 2018, recalled Parliament on November 5. Once again, on November 4, 2018, President Sirisena issued an Extraordinary Gazette notification summoning Parliament on November 14. According to the extraordinary gazette notification signed by Udaya R. Seneviratne, the Secretary to the President, Parliament would be reconvened on November 14 at 10:00 a.m.

However, deepening the political crisis further, on November 9, 2018, President Sirisena in an extraordinary Gazette notification announced the dissolution of the Parliament with effect from November 9, midnight, and scheduled general elections to be held on January 5, 2019. Observers say the dissolution was announced as Sirisena realized that his de facto Prime Minister Rajapaksa would not command a majority in Parliament. The UNP had a slight edge over the Sirisena-led UPFA as Rajapaksa, who ruled the country from 2005 to 2015 has been accused of grave human rights abuses and corruption, and is unlikely to gain the backing of the 16 parliamentarians of the TNA. The six JVP legislators had already announced that they would vote in favor of Wickremesinghe.

On the other hand, betraying Sirisena, barely two weeks after the President installed Rajapaksa in office, the latter, along with 44 former MPs, defected from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the party led by Sirisena, and joined the Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP), a political party formed in 2016 by Rajapaksa’s younger brother Basil Rajapaksa. A SLPP source said 65 out of 82 former SLFP MPs will eventually join the new party.

Meanwhile, on November 12, 2018, several political parties including UNP, JVP, the TNA, Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC), as well as the civil society organization, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), and Attorney Aruna Laksiri have filed petitions, naming President Sirisena, Prime Minister Rajapaksa, the Elections Commission and its members as respondents. The petitioners assert that the President has no power to dissolve Parliament under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and have requested the Apex Court to issue an order voiding the gazette notification issued by the President dissolving the Parliament, and to suspend the upcoming General Election until the verdict on the hearing is passed.

The political crisis started in the Island nation on October 26, 2018, by President Sirisena abruptly ousting Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and replacing him with Rajapaksa is expected to continue for quite some time, as the matter has now passed on to the Supreme Court.


Afghan peace discussed at Moscow Summit: The Moscow Summit on Afghanistan’s peace was held on November 9 where representatives of the Taliban and envoys from 11 countries, including the United States (US), had participated. “Our countries are facing with international insurgency and one of their targets is Afghanistan. Daesh is the vanguard of these groups and with support from foreigners it tries to make a place for itself in Afghanistan and from there expand to the Central Asia and further. The objective of all these countries is to support Afghans to eradicate this threat,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Taliban representatives meanwhile said the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is the only way for maintaining security. Tolo News, November 10, 2018.


Shun path of hatred, urges PM Sheikh Hasina: Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina on November 4 urged Islamic scholars and religious leaders to play their role in maintaining peace in the society, assuring them that her Government would not allow anyone to spread any propaganda against Islam. The rally was organised by Al-Haiyatul Ulya Lil-Zami'atil Qawmiya Bangladesh, a combine of Qawmi education boards, to acknowledge the government's recognition of the highest degree offered by non-government Qawmi madrassa as equivalent to postgraduate degree. The combine is led by Hefajat-e Islam ‘chief’ Shah Ahmed Shafi. The Daily Star, November 6, 2018.


China aims to ‘enslave’ the Maldives, claims former President Nasheed: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on November 9 has stated that despite of the Maldives amassing USD 3 billion in ‘debt’ to China, the newly elect government in the Maldives would only pay back "the exact amount owed" to China. Nasheed also accused that China aiming to enslave the Maldives by providing loans to fund several major infrastructure projects, including a Maldives-China landmark bridge which connects the Male city to the Airport Island Hulhule. Avas.mv, November 11, 2018.

President-elect Solih seeks FBI’s help to trace ‘missing’ State funds, says report: The President-elect Ibrahim Solih is seeking the assistance from the United States’ (US) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to trace the missing State funds. As per the reports in the Los Angeles Times dated October 30, post victory in the 2018 Presidential election, Solih met with Chinese Ambassador [identity undisclosed] to the Maldives and discovered that the Maldives now owes China nearly USD 3 billion, double the previously estimated USD 1.5 billion. Maldives Times, November 10, 2018


Constitution will be at risk if federalism fails, says NC central member Shekhar Koirala: Nepali Congress (NC) central member Dr Shekhar Koirala on November 6 said that the country’s constitution will be at risk if the system of federalism fails. He said, “The present government should not fail. The federal government has to develop laws as early as possible and hand over the responsibility of police administration and employee’s adjustment to the provincial governments. Delay in this regard must be prevented as this may ignite protests. Cordiality must exist among political parties in order to take the country on the path of development and prosperity.” The Himalayan Times , November 8, 2018. 


War on terror left half a million dead in 17 years, says Brown University’s ‘Costs of War Project’ report: War-related violence has killed 65,000 people in Pakistan in the last 17 years, including 23,000 civilians, 9,000 security personnel and 90 American contractors, says a report released on November 9. The rest of the casualties were anti-government fighters. The report by the Brown University’s Costs of War Project notes that since 2001, when the United States launched its war on terror, about 507,000 people have been killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The report also warns that there has been a 22 per cent increase in war deaths in the past two years. Dawn, November 10, 2018.

2,714 persons killed in 409 drone strikes, terror attacks since 2004, says NACTA sources: A total of 409 drone attacks have been conducted in Pakistan since January 2004, in which 2,714 persons have been killed and 728 injured, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) sources said. The majority of the strikes were carried out during the Government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) between 2008 and 2012. Sources within the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) recently shared details, claiming that the period saw 336 aerial attacks, in which 2,282 people lost their lives and 658 received injuries. Dawn, November 9, 2018.

National Commission for Enforced Disappearances disposes off 3,633 cases in October: The National Commission for Enforced Disappearances has disposed of 3,633 cases by October due to personal efforts of its president Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal. According to a statement of the commission, a total number of cases were 5,507 and now only 1,874 are pending. The missing person commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances during the month of October 2018 disposed of 78 cases and now total balance numbers of cases are 1874 up to October 31, 2018.The missing person commission has conducted 537 hearings, 243 hearings in Islamabad, 66 in Lahore and 228 in Karachi during October 2018. The Nation, November 6, 2018.


President announces dissolution of Parliament and scheduled general elections on January 5, 2019: Deepening the political crisis he created two weeks ago, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena in an extraordinary Gazette notification announced the dissolution of the Parliament with effect from November 9 midnight and scheduled general elections to be held on January 5, 2019. Nominations will be called from November 19 till 12 noon of November 26 during which nomination papers shall be received by the Returning Officers of the respective districts. The new Parliament will meet on January 17, 2019. Colombo Page, November 10, 2018.

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