Andhra Pradesh Assessment 2010
For decades, Andhra Pradesh (AP) was one of the States worst affected by Maoist violence, and even today provides the largest number and most prominent among the Naxalite (Left Wing Extremist, LWE) leadership. In 2009, not a single Security Force (SF) personnel was killed in the State, and total fatalities were down to just 26, including eight civilians, in a national total of 951 for the year, counting 299 SFs and 366 civilians among them. Unsurprisingly, Mupalla Laxman Rao aka Ganapathi, the ‘general secretary’ and ‘supreme commander’ of the Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist), in a media interview, conceded that the Maoists had suffered "a serious setback" in Andhra Pradesh.
LWE related fatalities: 2004-2009
Source: 2004-2007- Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
*Data 2008- Andhra Pradesh Police
** Data 2009- South Asia Terrorism Portal (Till December 13, 2009)
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, the sharply declining trend in Maoist violence continued through 2009, with overall LWE fatalities declining by 70 per cent from the previous year, while incidents related to Maoist activity decreased by nearly 62 percent. Civilian fatalities dropped 82 per cent. Significantly, in an index of the near total dominance of the SFs, Maoist fatalities also dropped nearly 50 per cent, indicating that the rebels were no longer engaging with the Police and Paramilitary Forces. This trend has been steadily consolidated since 2006, when the Andhra Pradesh Police began intensive campaigns against what was then a rampaging movement in the State. According to the SATP database, there have been just two major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) in Maoist-related violence in 2009, both relating to casualties suffered by Maoists. These were:
December 2: Three cadres of the CPI-Maoist were killed in an encounter with a special party of Policemen in the forest near Kallegaon-Pittaguda under Kerameri Police Station limits of Adilabad District. Two of those killed were identified as Mylarapu Adellu alias Bhaskar alias Narsanna, the CPI-Maoist Adilabad ‘District Committee Secretary’ (DCS) and Chippakurthi Ravi alias Sudershan, a District Committee member. Some 10 others managed to escape.
January 20: Three cadres of the CPI-Maoist, including a woman, were killed in an encounter which lasted for about half-an-hour, during combing operations launched by the Police in the Aberupadu forests area of Visakhapatnam District.
Though Maoist activities were reported from 10 of the 25 Districts in AP, the bulk of incidents were reported from Khammam, Visakhapatnam, Warangal and Adilabad. Significantly, not a single ‘swarming attack’, involving large numbers of ‘people’s militia’, was even attempted in the State in 2009.
The State Police inflicted further and serious damage on the crumbling Maoist leadership structures in AP. Two senior Maoist leaders, identified as Patel Sudhakar Reddy aka Suryam aka Srikanth and Kanugula Venkataiah, were killed during an encounter at the Gaurappa Hillocks near Lavvala village in the thick Tadvai forest area in Warangal District on May 24, 2009. While Reddy was a Central Committee member, Venkataiah was a member of the State Committee for AP and also a member of its ‘technical wing’. Further, the Warangal District’s ‘action team commander' Manthani Raju aka Daya, with a reward of INR 500,000 for his capture or neutralization, was killed in an encounter with the Police in the Kodavatancha village on October 31. Separately, the ‘State secretary’ of the Praja Pratighatana faction of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML-Praja Pratighatana), Sudhakar aka Ashok, was killed in an encounter with the Police in the Eturunagaram Forests near Bhupathipur village in Warangal District on July 1, 2009.
Some Maoist leaders were also arrested during the period. Nagella Chandra Kala aka Swarnakka, the ‘commander’ of the Maoist ‘action team’ in Mahabubnagar, and Nallakasula Alivelumanga aka Sudha, the Bhopal-based central technical committee member, were arrested on February 1. A Maoist ‘commander’ identified as Bisetti Maheswara Rao aka Venu aka Raghava, was arrested from the Vizianagaram District on February 24, and Rachakonda area committee ‘commander’ T. Yadaiah aka Kranthi, was arrested along with eight cadres from Nalgonda District on March 24. On October 9, seven cadres of the CPI-Maoist, including a 'deputy commander', one armed militia 'commander' and a 'platoon member', were arrested by Khammam District Police.
Arrests were compounded by a number of surrenders, with at least 44 Maoists laying down arms before the Police during the year. The surrendered cadres included at least one State Committee member, one Special Zonal Committee member, one north Telengana Zonal Committee member, four area committee members, two commanders, two deputy commanders, and several dalam (armed squad) members among others.
The Andhra Pradesh Home Minister K. Jana Reddy, on May 4, claimed that not more than 150-160 CPI-Maoist cadres could be present in the State. However, some media reports, citing unidentified Police sources, suggested that the surviving strength of extremists in the State could include as many as 460 cadres.
The State Police has not, however, lapsed into complacence, despite the continuous string of successes, and has striven to keep the pressure on the Maoists. Indeed, nearly all intelligence leading up to the arrest of the top five Maoist functionaries – Ravi Sharma, B. Anuradha, Motillal Soren, Amit Bagchi and Kobad Ghandy – from different locations of the country, and the killing of Patel Sudhakar Reddy, was provided by the AP Police special Naxal tracking cell in the State’s Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau. "Their intelligence is at least 15 years ahead of ours. Even after driving the Maoists out from their State, they have kept it (their intelligence system) alive and kicking, which is helping us with some vital and timely inputs," a senior Chhattisgarh Police official conceded. The Union Government has reportedly asked States like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa to model their Intelligence cells on those in Andhra Pradesh.
Despite the Maoist admission of reverses due to ‘several mistakes’, it is clear that the rebels have not given up. Ganapathy clarified that, "in any protracted people’s war, there will be advances and retreats. If we look at the situation in Andhra Pradesh from this perspective, you will understand that what we did there is a kind of retreat. Confronted with a superior force, we chose to temporarily retreat our forces from some regions of Andhra Pradesh, extend and develop our bases in the surrounding regions and then hit back at the enemy."
Underlining the Maoist strategic and tactical perspectives was a surge in Maoists activities in AP towards the end of 2009. Two Congress activists were killed by the rebels in Warangal District in October 2009, and Director-General of Police (DGP) R. R. Girish Kumar, on October 19, admitted to "some spurt" in Maoists activities. He, however, insisted that the State Police were taking "adequate steps" to meet the threat. On November 5, moreover, Karimnagar Superintendent of Police N. Shiva Shankar Reddy, stated that the Police had secured credible information relating to intrusions by the Maoists into the Districts along the borders with Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, following massive combing operations in those States. Tushar Aditya Tripathi, the newly appointed Inspector General of Police (IGP) for the Andhra Region admitted on November 11 that the number of Maoist Grama Rakshaka Dalams [Village Defence Squad, GRDs) in the State had increased in the recent months. Asked about the east division, Tripathi said that there were five GRDs in Maredumilli. GRDs had also been formed in Sileru and other areas bordering Visakhapatnam District. He said the Maoists had divided the Andhra-Orissa Border (AoB) and adjacent areas into three jurisdictions – East Godavari-Visakhapatnam, Koraput and Srikakulam.
There were reports that nearly 70 ‘action team’ members had sneaked into the North Telangana Districts. Sources said CPI-Maoist cadres, in league with members of the CPI-ML-Janashakthi group, were trying to regroup and to take the movement forward in Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Warangal Districts. "The Maoists are visiting interior villages to meet sympathisers, while Janashakthi leaders are holding meetings with beedi (Indian cigar) workers and women’s group members," a source stated. A media report dated October 25, 2009, citing unnamed ‘highly placed sources’, claimed that the Maoists were planning to restore lost dominance in the North Telangana region by launching agitations against open-cast mines under Singareni Collieries, an issue that likely enjoys significant local support. To this end, the extremist party has reactivated its frontal organisation, the Singareni Karmika Samakya (Sikasa), which has a strong presence among the coal miners.
The Maoists also continue to attempt to harvest various issues to secure mobilisation among rural masses. Thus, in Yathnaram village of Mahamutharam mandal, the Maoists left three notes at the site of the killing of a former Prathigatana dalam ‘commander’, Ramlal, on October 11. In one letter, the Maoists stated that they had killed Ramlal because he was acting as a Police informer. In a second, they demanded that the Government declare the region drought affected and provide an assured 10-hour power supply to the farm sector. They also demanded that the Government distribute 50 kilograms of rice and a pension of INR 1,000 for each family in the wake of drought; a fee waiver for students and free distribution of books. In the third letter, the Maoists took up the cause of environmental protection and warned poachers of ‘serious action’ if they kill wild animals by laying live electric wire fencing in the forests and in fields abutting forests in the interior villages. The letters were jointly signed by the Maoists and various front organisations, including the Viplava Rythu Coolie Sangham (VRCS) and Viplava Mahila Sangham (VMS), which work among unorganised labourers and women. The Police sources believe that the Maoists have slowly strengthened their cadre in rural and urban areas through various ‘sub-committees’ tasked with mobilisation of target groups.
The Maoists are also believed to have infiltrated the agitation for a separate Telengana State. Inspector-General of Police A. R. Anuradha, the State Police spokesman, disclosed, "We have received Intelligence reports that the movement has gone out of the students’ hands and those Maoists and other professional agitators are moving in. Given such a situation, we do not wish to take any chance with law and order problem. The Maoists already are believed to be in Dandakaranya."
Mindful of the problem, the State DGP has declared that the State Police will not allow the Maoists to regain lost ground. On October 30, the DGP said that the Government had sanctioned about 45,000 Police personnel for the State during the last few years. The first batch of 15,000 Policemen were expected to be inducted into the force by November 2009.
Despite their fervent efforts to regroup, the Maoists retain a mere shadow of their pre-2006 presence in Andhra Pradesh. It remains to be seen whether lacunae in development and governance will give them the handle to pull their ‘revolution’ out of oblivion in the State again.