Pakistan's ISI logo

ISI hand in the Maoist insurgency to subvert India

Now that the crony-Islamic regime of the UPA has been defeated electorally and booted out of power lock stock and barrel, it’s time to decode certain murky political developments during last 10 years.

Tracing a deadly nexus to wage war against the Indian state

The first important task is to dig deep into the reasons for the studied silence of the UPA government in wantonly ignoring the enormous evidence of linkages between the Maoist-Naxal insurgents and the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Despite the rising tide of Maoist-Naxal attacks against India’s security forces, the worst of which was the infamous Dantewala massacre of 75 CRPF jawans on April 6, 2010, the Indian government has not shared either with the public, or with the ranks of Security forces, the untold story of the growing nexus between the ISI and the Maoists.

Despite several instances confirming the mounting support of the ISI to the Maoists operating from the jungles and valleys of Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand, the UPA government appeared reluctant to admit that the two sworn enemies of Indian democracy were acting hand in glove for raising the crescendo of the strategic offensive unleashed by the ISI and Dawood Ibrahim against the Indian nation.

The well known strategic think tank, Stratfor, had forewarned as early as 2009-2010 that the ISI of Pakistan was trying to forge an alliance with the Maoists in a bid to destabilize the Indian State from within. Ben West, a globally acknowledged tactical analyst of Stratfor had written in a widely circulated article in 2010 that the “Indian Maoists, known as Naxalites, have been meeting with the outlawed Pakistan’s militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), according to the Director General of Police for India’s Chhatisgarh state”. (1)   It was further reported that at least two LeT operatives had attended a meeting of Naxalites sometime in April or May, 2010, at a secret location in the Red Corridor.(2)

The earliest proof of the dalliance of the ISI with Maoists can be traced to January, 2005, when during a fierce encounter with Chhatisgarh Police, the Station Officer of Ramchandrapur (Balrampur district) was killed along with two constables on January 8, 2005 by a detachment of heavily armed Maoists. The empties of nearly three hundred bullets fired by the Maoists were found at the site of encounter. Many empties had the markings of a Pakistani Ordnance factory, while some others had markings of production in the United Kingdom (3).

But the most significant was the fact that several empties of the bullets fired by the Maoists were found to match with the empties recovered in New Delhi on December 13, 2001, after the notorious ISI-sponsored attack on the Indian Parliament. Unfortunately this news fit for banner headlines was published as a small item in the Asian Age, New Delhi, on January 11, 2005.

ISI-SIMI-Maoist axis strengthens

Even before the disclosure of the ISI- Maoist liaison by Stratfor and its elaborate revelation by Wikileaks in 2012, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had apprised the Home Ministry in October 2009, of the growing links between the Maoists and the ISI. (4)

Their strategic intention was to establish a joint base in south India. A confidential report prepared by the Intelligence Bureau in October, 2009 had pointed out that in the previous year, nearly 500 Maoists had undergone “training under the SIMI in the Vagamon hills” in Kerala on the Idduki-Kottayam border.(5)

Earlier, when the central government renewed the ban on SIMI in August 2008, the spokesperson of the central committee of the Maoists, late Raj Kumar alias Azad had pronounced that “this reiterates the government’s policy to continue its brutal war on Muslims”. (6)

That open statement was a vital clue to the ISI’s plans to make use of the radicalized Muslim groups to subvert the Indian nation.
It may be recalled that in October, 2010, two Muslim militants from Kerala were killed by security forces in Lolab mountains (Kashmir). They were believed to be part of a group of Islamic militants from Mallapuram in Kerala. It was further reported that a Kerala-based organizer of SIMI had visited Sopore in Kashmir valley to help the jihadi group in crossing over the border for training with Lashkar leaders.(7)

Gross Indifference of Intelligence agencies towards vital clues

To many professional security experts and retired police officers, it has remained a million-dollar mystery as to why these important clues and the narrative of some well known militant groups of Kerala were not followed to their logical conclusion by our intelligence agencies. Nor did the documented information about the plans of the ISI-Naxalite cabal receive the much needed attention of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Frankly, another dangerous development which needs to be intensively analysed and exposed is the alleged boast of having implanted a superspy, codenamed “Honeybee” and several “chuhes” (rats) in India by one Major Iqbal of the ISI before Adrian Levy and Scott Clark. The two authors of the celebrated tome, The Siege, published more than a year ago, had revealed in their narrative the vital role played by the Pakistani superspy Honeybee, cleverly embedded in India in a key position. More importantly, according to Major Iqbal, their best bet Honeybee has a number of chuhes working under him or her on behalf of the ISI.

The most startling aspect of the story of the Honeybee and rats planted across India and controlled by the ISI is that during the last one year no worthwhile effort appears to have been made by our Intelligence Bureau to trace and identify this super spy.

Business relationships and stockpiling of arms

In November, 2010, Ben West had pointed out that the Maoist-Naxal insurgents had acquired a vast and diverse assortment of foreign weapons, including rifles of .315 bore to .30-06 calibre . It was pointed out in a 2009 India Daily News article that an e-mail stated that one zonal commander of the Naxal-Maoist combine had spent within six months the following amounts:

* More than $70,214 constituting three quarters of the Unit’s budget on procuring weapons and armaments

* About $20,604 was spent on supplies. (7)

It indicated that the Maoists were flush with funds remitted mostly from abroad through hawala channels.

In his widely circulated article, Ben West had categorically stated that the Pakistani intelligence wing had established business relationships with Naxalites to sell them arms and ammunition and the ISI wanted to use the Naxal /Maoist bases for anti-India activities. He reiterated that there was evidence that the ISI was providing weapons to Naxalites in exchange for money or other services.

It was learnt that mostly the anti-Indian outfits like ULFA and one shadowy operator, Shailen Sarkar (a member of the Bangladesh Communist Party), were being used by the ISI as conduits for smuggling of weapons and transfer of money to Maoists.

According to reliable sources the sizeable arsenal of Maoist insurgents consists of weapons manufactured in Pakistan, China, Russia, the USA, besides lots of weapons of Indian make. A large number of these weapons were imported, while many had been collected by the Maoists through surprise attacks on India’s para-military forces, including the CRPF whose braveheart Jawans have laid down their lives in a bid to quell the onslaught of these Maoists.

In terms of logistics, the ties between the ISI and Naxals could become a booming business for the flourishing arms trade of Dawood Ibrahim’s outfit, the notorious ‘D’ company and the ISI which has the additional potential of extending the former’s criminal network in Asia. The huge arsenal of Naxals was further supplemented by the production of hundreds of weapons in factories operating in the interior of the Maoist-controlled territory of India.

According to the Global Intelligence files accessed and released by Wikileaks in March, 2012, a source of Stratfor working in India (name withheld due to security reasons) had informed Stratfor by an e-mail that the Pakistan-based jihadi terrorists and their foot-soldiers in India were desperately trying to set up more sleeper-cells in the hinterland with the help of Naxalites. Among other things, the ISI moles embedded across India further claimed that the areas dominated by Naxals “have enough Muslim population which would serve both the parties as a recruiting ground…..” (8)

A careful study of the disclosures made by Ben West shows the emerging contours of a jointly launched war being waged by the ISI and the Maoist-Naxal combine to dismember India and ultimately convert the entire sub-continent into a Dar-ul-Islam. Frankly, it looks like a subtle joint campaign of the ISI to Islamicise the sub-continent by using Maoists and Naxals as convenient tools.

Deadly revelations beget radio silence from the UPA

This strategic information of critical importance to the security of the Indian nation has now been available for nearly 2 years in the Global Intelligence Files of Wikileaks. Surprisingly no worthwhile steps were taken to expose and decimate the unholy alliance between the ISI and the Maoits. Nobody can pretend that the Indian Intelligence Bureau is not aware of the all out efforts of the ISI to radicalize Indian Muslims by using the vast manpower resources of the deeply entrenched Maoist-Naxal outfits.

The Wikileaks files also reveal that the Naxals wanted to learn some new tactics of unleashing terror against the Indian state from their new found ally, the ISI. In August 2010, Stratfor’s India-based sleuth wrote to Ben West that Dawood Ibrahim’s men (who were a part of the Karachi Project conspiracy) were trying to regroup. He further informed Ben West in his mail that “Maoists/Naxals are no saints at all, but a bunch of criminal opportunists (they are no Chechen militants).” (9)

According to Wikileaks, the Stratfor sleuth in India wrote back to Ben West that some reports on the possible Islamist-Naxal linkages indicated that in future both of them intended to “act hand in hand.” (10)

Far more revealing, however, was what the late Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, a well known Maoist leader, had told correspondent Snigdhendu Bhattacharya of an Indian newspaper published in English language. Perhaps Snigdhendu Bhattacharya was a correspondent of the Hindustan Times at that time and the interview was given by Kishenji nearly five years ago in June, 2009.

Kishenji claimed in his interview that Maoists had developed a strong base in eight or nine States of India. Interestingly Kishenji had reportedly emphasized that he did not support the manner in which during the 26 /11 Mumbai massacre, the Lashkar commandos had attacked the Victoria Station ( i.e., Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST) of Mumbai where “most of the victims were Muslims”.(11) At the same time, Kishenji openly declared as early as June, 2009, that the Islamic upsurge in India should not be opposed as it is basically anti-U.S. and anti-imperialist in nature.

Among other things, Kishenji had forecast that in the coming years that “Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa will be the new storm centres in Indian politics”.(12) He further claimed that “our strongest base” was in Chhatisgarh. The Maoist militia in the State was more than one lakh strong, he boasted. He had further elaborated that the Maoist-Naxal combine has the “wherewithal to put up teams of 400 – 500 fighters, encircle hundreds of police and para-military troops and wipe them out.”(13)

No one knows why the Home Ministry slept over this crucial warning given four years ago by Kishenji threatening to step up their offensive in three sensitive States across India’s heartland. And that inexcusable negligence by someone somewhere was responsible for the Dantewala massacre of 75 CRPF Jawans in April, 2010, in a gory ambush.

Giving an overview of their future plans, Kishenji disclosed that the Maoists proposed to concentrate their efforts especially in the heartland state of Uttar Pradesh because they needed the support of the large Muslim population in the State and wanted to concentrate on the trade union sector as well. According to him, Punjab was already a fertile ground for a Maoist revolution.(14)

Details of shocking and sinister designs

Let us not forget that the arrest of a notorious Lashkar-e-Tayeba’s Nepal-based chief, Mohammed Omar Madani by the Delhi police in 2009 further reconfirmed the support of the ISI to the Maoist-Naxal insurgency. The Global Intelligence Files of Wikileaks copiously refer to the following instances of growing ties between the Maoists and the Lashkar operatives working in India:

i ) Madani had been instrumental in recruiting Indian youth for jihadi training in Pakistan. It was he who got Kamal Ahmed Ansari, an accused in the 2006 serial train bombings, to Pakistan.

ii ) The puzzle about the superb sophistication of the improvised devices used by the Maoists was solved as a result of the seizure of literature pertaining to the technical knowledge of IEDs being manufactured and used by Pakistani Jihadis.

iii ) A sum of Rs. four lakhs (about $8,500) had been transferred to Maoists as financial aid. The intention was to use the Maoists for carrying out terrorist attacks.

iv) Two ISI moles, Altaf from Dakshina Kannada district and Vinay Kumar from Hassan district of Karnataka were being used for strengthening the links between the ISI and Maoists-Naxal insurgents.

In August, 2010, the arrest of six members of the Dawood gang by the Bangalore police further revealed that after dominating the Mumbai underworld for several decades, the ‘D’ company was making new inroads into the southern States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. They had been in touch with at least two top Naxal leaders Vinay and Deviah of Bangalore, and this was done at the behest of Dubai-based Chhota Shakeel’s aide, Altaf.

Around the same time, the Hyderabad police also recovered tickets to Dubai and passports for travel of ISI moles which were allegedly arranged by the Dawood gang by transferring 20 Lakh Rupees. This was a follow up by the arrests made in Bangalore by the Karnataka police.

During the interrogation of Muhammed Omar Madani, several diaries were seized by the police. A study of the diaries kept by Madani gave a clear idea of the plans being made by the ISI to dismember India by making use of Maoist insurgents. Interestingly, Muhammad Omar Madani had carried out an extensive research into the organizational structure and functioning of the Naxals for exploiting them further for the ISI’s nefarious designs.(15)

Furthermore, the police were said to be investigating certain financial transactions of Madani through a well known money-transfer agency. It was further discovered that Madani had also been receiving huge consignments of fake currency to fund terror activities in India. It is learnt that intelligence agencies have many more details about the collaboration of the ISI with the Maoists, but somehow the Home Ministry has been reluctant to make the truth public. Blame it on the UPA’s vote-bank “strategy,” or on the likely adverse effect on the bogey called Indo-Pak détente, the UPA wanted this alarming news to be kept out of serious public discourse.

Inexplicable diffidence of Intelligence Agencies to expose ISI-Naxal links

The frequent references in the exchanged e-mails to the plans of the Maoist-ISI cabal for concentrating on using the Muslim population in sensitive areas for targeting the Indian state could also be a reason for the reluctance of central intelligence agencies to share the information with the Indian public. Not following up the documented information about ISI’s plans when the security forces were involved in a do or die struggle with Maoist-Naxal insurgents was a major lapse.

It is time to understand from the public display of the formidable firepower and substantial trained manpower accumulated during last eight years by the Naxal-Maoist insurgents that due to the solid support of the ISI in the coming years, they will not desist from incessant killings and destruction of infrastructure. The repetitive plain speaking of the late Kishenji to the Maoist-Naxal campaign for radicalizing the Indian Muslims is a loud warning which must not be ignored.

It is crystal clear that the expanding fire of the Maoist-Naxal movement engulfing nine States of India is now fully supported by the ISI similar to how it propped up the pro-Khalistan movement in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s. For all practical purposes, the Maoist-Naxal insurgency has emerged as yet another war of a thousand cuts about which the Pakistani dictators have been warning us so often and brazenly.

According to a reliable source, the Indian intelligence agencies have many more details of the collaboration of the ISI and some India-based Islamist outfits with the Maoists, but somehow the UPA government was reluctant to make the truth public. According to a reliable source in an intelligence agency, in view of the 2014 elections, the UPA government remained focused solely on the dangers of the “saffron terror” story.


Course for the current Government

Now that the votebank politics of UPA is passe, the central government must come clean about the truth of the ISI-Maoist collaboration and take the bull by its horns. Otherwise, the Maoist-Naxal mayhem will continue to savage India for many more years.

The situation in Maoist-controlled belt has become more or less similar to what the ISI have been doing in the Kashmir valley for decades. Approximately, eighty thousand policemen and security forces have been unsuccessfully fighting the well trained and heavily armed Maoist cadres across the Red Corridor. The massive attack on May 25, 2013, on the Parivartan Yatra organized by the Congress Party which resulted in 28 deaths should have opened the eyes of the myopic UPA government to the wide sweep of the Maoist menace. It is time to understand that the growing insurgency and reckless killings by Maoists can never be effectively curbed by mere recourse to idle talk about economic development and infrastructure by self-anointed intellectuals. The vast area controlled by the Maoist-Naxal cadres cannot be reclaimed without aggressively choking the supplies of arms and money being pumped in by the ISI to support the insurgents. The challenge posed by the ISI-supported Maoists must be met head on.

The previous government’s politics of blaming the State governments for the failure to prevent the depredations of the Maoists backed by the ISI was a silly, short-sighted pastime which did no good for our country. The Naxal-infested States have to be fortified and extensively supported by the central government to defeat the civil strife unleashed by the Naxalites which has all the trappings of one more war of a thousand cuts being waged by Pakistan against India.
References :
1. Ben West, ‘Pakistan and the Naxalite Movement in India’
Security Weekly, Stratfor Global Intelligence,
2. Ibid.
3. A news item, ‘Remnants of Pakistani and British arms found at Naxal attack’ The Asian Age, New Delhi, p. 5.
4. Maoist-SIMI tie-up to create base in South India: IB [Source:]
5. Ibid,
6. Praveen Swami, ‘Terror trail links Kashmir with Kerala’, The Hindu, October, 2008
7. Ben West, ‘Pakistan and the Naxalite Movement in India’, Security Weekly, Stratfor Global Intelligence, and_naxalite- movement_india.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.

Ram Ohri is a former IPS officer and writes regularly on security issues, demographics, and occasionally, on policy.