SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Pradesh: From Tactical Retreat to Disordered Flight
In a rarity of its own kind, there is unanimity of opinion among pro-State elements and ardent supporters of Left Wing extremist (LWE) mobilisation in the south-eastern State of Andhra Pradesh, on the fact that the radical movement has suffered a serious setback.
Andhra Pradesh, which the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) had threatened to engulf in its entirety not long ago, now stands tall as an example for replication in other Indian States that are fighting to keep the extremists at bay. To the credit of the State Police, since 2006, when the results of a State campaign against the LWEs started showing results, the possibilities of a Maoist revival remain remote. The year 2008 saw further Police consolidation and a continuation of the Maoist debacle in Andhra Pradesh.LWE related fatalities: 2004-2009
Available data indicates a nine per cent decline in overall LWE related fatalities in 2008, compared to the previous year, while related incidents decreased by nearly 32 per cent. Even though civilian fatalities increased marginally, the State continues to be one of the safest places for the Security Forces (SFs) in the Maoist belt. A lone Police trooper was killed in a Maoist ambush on May 29, 2008, in the Gudem Kotha Veedhi mandal (administrative division) in the Visakhapatnam District on the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa inter-State border. Incidentally, a 20 per cent dip in extremist fatalities contributed significantly to the low level of violence in the State. In the first two months of the current year, six fatalities, including five extremists and a lone civilian, have been reported.
Eight of Andhra Pradesh’s 25 Districts witnessed Maoist violence in 2008. The bulk of incidents were reported from five [Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Khammam, Karimnagar and Warangal] of these eight Districts, which are located in the northern and north-eastern part of the State, sharing their borders with either Orissa or Chhattisgarh. The remaining three [Nalgonda, Guntur and Mahbubnagar] collectively accounted for barely ten per cent of the total Maoist incidents in the State, and are contiguously located in the central part of the State. According to the Institute for Conflict Management database, there were only three major incidents (reporting three or more deaths) of Maoist violence in 2008.
May 30: At least four CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter with the Police near Gunupurai village in the Visakhapatnam District.
May 5: Three Maoists including two senior functionaries of the outfit, were killed during an encounter with a Police party in Rollapadu Forest under the Tekulapalli Police Station limits in the Khammam District.
January 26: CPI-Maoist cadres shot dead three persons, accusing them of being Police informers, at Borlagunda village in the Karimnagar District.
There were also two ‘swarming attacks’ involving large numbers of the people’s militia, one of the most effective instruments of the Maoist offensive. Both the swarming attacks, curiously, underlined the dearth of armed power in the possession of the Maoist:
November 16: A distillery was raided by 300 Maoists and their sympathizers, at Jaganadhapuram in the Srikakulam District. Maoists destroyed brewery machinery and also set ablaze a jeep and a motorcycle. Some workers were manhandled and were threatened not to continue with the brewing activities.
August 19: A 90-strong Maoist militia looted a provisions store and beat up the guards of a coffee plantation run by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Development Corporation (APFDC) in Teemulabanda village in the Visakhapatnam District. Police sources said that the Maoists looted rice and essential commodities from the provisions store owned by a non-tribal and also decamped with his TV set, some cash and other articles from his house. Later, they entered the Teemulabanda and Marripakala Coffee Plantation and beat up the guards for not having heeded their warning that non-tribals should not enter the plantation.
The Maoist moment of ‘glory’ against Andhra’s SFs in 2008, however, came outside the State’s territory. Andhra’s elite Greyhounds personnel, the vanguard of anti-Maoist operations in the State, suffered their heaviest casualties in a single incident in the 19 years of their existence in neighbouring Orissa on June 29, 2008, when a boat carrying the Greyhounds personnel came under fire from the Maoists in the Chitrakonda Reservoir of Malkangiri District. 38 Greyhounds troopers were killed, mostly by drowning, as the boat sank after capsizing. The Greyhounds personnel were returning from a search operation in the Malkangiri District after being tipped off about a Maoist gathering in that area. The Maoists claimed responsibility for the incident, promising similar surprise attacks in the proximate future. None, however, had since taken place, either in Andhra Pradesh or outside, till the writing of this report.
This lone morale booster notwithstanding, the Maoists continued to face heavy reversals in Andhra Pradesh. As many as 621 LWE cadres were neutralised in 2008. Among the 36 extremists killed were seven CPI-Maoist ‘State Committee’ members and seven dalam (squad) commanders. The 392 arrested included a ‘State Committee’ member and five dalam commanders. One central committee member, Lanka Papi Reddy Ranganna, was among the 193 extremists who surrendered in 2008. In addition, on April 12, the lone woman member of the CPI-Maoist ‘Central Committee’, 54-year old Anuradha Ghandy alias Narmada @ Rama, died of cerebral malaria. Anuradha had joined the LWE movement in the early 1970s and was a founding member of the Communist Party of India – Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML, the original ‘Naxalite’ party) in Maharashtra. The continuing process of methodical neutralisation by the security apparatus in Andhra Pradesh ensured more than a 50 per cent reduction in the estimated CPI-Maoist cadre strength in the State in one year, from 850 to approximately 400. According to another official estimate, since the failed peace talks of 2004 and till the end of 2008, over 9,000 CPI-Maoist cadres have been neutralised in Andhra Pradesh. This includes 337 cadres killed in separate encounters, 6,759 arrested and over 2,000 who have chosen to surrender. The decimation of the Maoists, especially at the level of the senior leadership, in the State where they had launched their fiercest guerrilla campaigns, appears near-complete.
Police pressure and the low morale among the Maoist cadres continued into 2009, resulting in the surrender of key Maoist leaders. The battered extremist movement suffered a major setback on February 15, 2009, with the surrender of 41-year old Konapuri Ilaiah alias Sambasivudu, the ‘secretary’ of the CPI-Maoist ‘Andhra Pradesh State Committee’, who came over ground along with his wife, citing poor health and family problems. Ilaiah, hailing from the central Nalgonda District, was involved in the killing of the Congress party Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), C. Narsi Reddy, at Narayanpet in Mahabubnagar District on August 15, 2005. Carrying a bounty of INR One million on his head, he had also planned the attack on Greyhounds personnel at Balimela in Orissa in June 2008. Known to have been the architect behind modernising the Maoist arsenal with landmines and rocket launchers, Ilaiah is also said to have plotted the October 2003 claymore mine attack on former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.
The bulk of remaining Maoist top brass and cadres has, moreover, left Andhra Pradesh and are presently located across several States where extremist activities are on the rise. Incidentally, the post-2005 dip in violence and the flight of the Maoists from Andhra Pradesh to the neighbouring States, had been termed a tactical retreat by the rebels’ leadership as well as by many analysts. Such an interpretation was principally based on the Maoist claim that the shift had been effected to strengthen the Andhra Orissa Border (AOB), Dandakaranya and NTSZ (North Telangana Special Zonal) Committees and the party’s clout in Gadchiroli (in Maharashtra). It has, however, now been conclusively established that the retreat was forced by SF action and was, at best, a flight for survival. In a media interview in the beginning of 2009, Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao accepted that the losses were most pronounced in the Nallamala Forest of southern Andhra Pradesh, as the region "isn’t contiguous with Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra." He, however, cautioned that the Naxal leadership of Telangana in northern Andhra Pradesh was seeking to revive the movement from Orissa into Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh Maoist leadership, in fact, is in charge of the outfit’s operations in Orissa.
Persistent Police action has, nevertheless, ensured that the feeble attempts by the Maoists to regain a toe-hold within Andhra Pradesh have been repulsed. For example, the January 2008 effort to redeploy Maoist cadres from Chhattisgarh to step up the party’s presence in its strategically important strongholds in the Khammam District had to be abandoned after the SFs carried out several combing operations in the area.
Are the days of Maoists over in Andhra Pradesh? None including the most vociferous enthusiasts of the SF operations in Andhra Pradesh are, however, making such claims.
In its campaigns against the extremists, Andhra Pradesh has been able to decisively tilt the balance away from the Maoists and in favour of the SFs. However, wiping out the remnants of the extremist movement, especially active in the Districts sharing borders with States like Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, remains a difficult task in the face of gross deficits of capacities in these States to prevent extremist inroads into their territories. Geographical proximity with such poorly policed regions creates abiding residual risks for Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists have simply crossed the inter-State borders into the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, the Malkangiri District of Orissa and even the eastern Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, to beat the heat of anti-Maoist operations in Andhra Pradesh. In the north-western District of Nizamabad, for example, the rapid movements of the LWE cadres between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh continue to upset Police plans to regain decisive control.
In the absence or haphazard operationalization of a framework for joint action between various Maoist-affected States, the extremists continue to hoodwink SFs by engaging in quick cross-border strikes, followed by rapid withdrawals into the neighbouring States. Unilateral and beyond-base operations by the Greyhounds have produced some results but, at the same time, have exposed these elite Forces to the extraordinary risk of operating in unfamiliar areas without adequate ground intelligence and effective local back up. The June 2008 attack in Orissa was the consequence of such operational vulnerabilities.
Towards the end of 2008, reports indicated a CPI-Maoist recruitment drive in the Visakhapatnam District, targeting 10 to 18 year olds. Villages such as Pappuluru, Kappatotti, Naguluru, Tarigetta, Chintagunnal, Kuntawada, Sanyasiguda, Nimmalapadu, Doraguda, Gassiguda and Allurukota under the G.K. Veedhi mandal were specifically targeted. While a large number of children did manage to flee before being conscripted by the Maoists, some did land up in the outfit’s Malkangiri Division in Orissa. The Maoists threatened villagers and asked them to send a minimum of 10 children from each panchayat (village-level local-self government institution) to join them.
Reports in early November 2008 also indicated Maoist movements and mobilisation in the northern Adilabad District. Maoist groups consisting of about 20 cadres visited some villages in the Chennur mandal on the Adilabad’s border with Karimnagar District and held meetings with villagers. Maoist movement was also reported subsequently from the Mangi Forest between Asifabad Sirpur and Vaipet Forest in Indervelli mandal in the Adilabad District.
The CPI-Maoist has, of late, desperately been trying to piggyback into prominence by pledging its support to the long-standing demand for Statehood for the Telangana region, comprising the north-western Districts of the State. On January 10, 2008, the CPI-Maoist called upon the people of Telangana to launch an agitation to thwart the day-to-day programmes of political leaders belonging to ‘anti-Telangana’ parties. The statement was followed by another, on January 22, in which the outfit said that political leaders from the Telangana region were now being forced to speak in favour of carving out a separate State in view of the growing aspirations among the people of the region. The 40-year old Statehood movement, however, faces stubborn resistance from mainstream as well as local political parties and, consequently, is in the doldrums. The sudden Maoist involvement has done nothing to infuse any new enthusiasm, or to add support to the Maoist cause. In a meeting held in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh in August 2008, the Maoists even decided to constitute special teams to assassinate political leaders of the Telangana Statehood movement, blaming them for their inertia. However, poor cadre strength in Andhra Pradesh and augmenting Police pressure successfully disrupted these plans of action.
The Police apparatus in Andhra Pradesh appears to have done rather well in mixing up hard counter-insurgency measures and area domination exercises with steps to wean away extremists from the outfit’s fold, and also to sensitise the tribal population, among whom the Maoists had largely recruited. Riding on a wave of a highly successful surrender-cum-rehabilitation scheme, the Khammam District administration, in 2008, launched the ‘Agyatham Nunchi Swescha’ (freedom from the underground) programme, aimed at bringing back LWE cadres into the mainstream. An unspecified number of extremists have availed of the scheme. To outscore the Maoist propaganda machinery, the Warangal District administration, in January 2008, distributed free Direct-to-Home (DTH) receiver systems and colour television sets in the remote areas of the District’s Eturunagaram, Tadvai, Govindaraopet, Venkatapur, Kothaguda and Gudur sub-divisions. In February 2008, the Visakhapatnam District administration, under its ‘Call for Peace’ programme, also distributed TV sets with DTH systems to "wean away tribals from the influence of Maoists and sensitise them on various development activities". Various other District authorities continue to organise medical camps and distribute sports kits among the tribal youth.
While these measures have been highly successful in terms of keeping the Maoists at bay, the State Police urgently needs to address anomalies that have adversely affected performance. While successes against the Maoists are undeniable, the overwhelming focus on LWE left another flank exposed, and this was demonstrated in a succession of Islamist terrorist attacks, followed by the discovery that the special intelligence cells that were intended to monitor Islamist subversive and terrorist activity had, indeed, been allowed to fall into terminal neglect. There have, of course, been strong subsequent movements to reorient the Force to bridge these gaps, but there are enduring capacity deficits in security apparatus of the State.
Andhra Pradesh has a 10.76 per cent vacancy in its Police force. The vacancy is almost 18 per cent in the ‘Armed’ category while the ‘Civil’ Police have a shortfall of about nine per cent. While the overall position with regard to vacancies is far better, as compared to States like Bihar (33 per cent), Chhattisgarh (25.68 per cent) and Jharkhand (20.81 per cent), Andhra Pradesh’s Police population ratio (Policemen per 100,000 population) of 96 and Police density (Policemen per 100 square kilometre area) of 28.6 remain far below the national average of 125 and 45. The Police-population ratio in Andhra Pradesh is also well below some of the other Maoist afflicted States (Jharkhand 136; Chhattisgarh 128; Orissa 97). Urgent augmentation of the Force is, consequently, imperative. Moreover, the unit cost incurred on Policemen per annum by Andhra Pradesh at INR 141,948, is not just below the national average of INR 159,396, but also less than the corresponding figures for States like Bihar (INR 160,680) and Jharkhand (INR 178,313). While the Andhra Pradesh Police have secured extraordinary successes, despite these shortfalls, it is irrational for the system to expect that such performance can be maintained unless working conditions improve and the imperatives of sustaining long-term morale and minimum satisfaction levels among the Force are met.
Pradesh is going to the polls to elect a new set of
21 Members of Parliament (MPs) as well as a 294-member
State Legislative Assembly on April 16 and 23, 2009.
The CPI-Maoist has already called for a boycott of the
elections, alleging that both the ruling Indian National
Congress party and the opposition Telugu Desam Party
have deceived the people with false promises. The Maoists
are reportedly putting all resources at their disposal
to carry out large-scale acts of violence targeting
individual candidates and their supporters. This certainly
creates some risk that the radicals may be able to carry
out sporadic attacks in some of the Districts where
they have some residual presence. Andhra Pradesh, on
the whole, can expect to go through the polling process
without much difficulty.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
March 9-15, 2009
Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh involved in BDR mutiny, says Minister: On March 12, 2009, the Commerce Minister Lt Col (retired) Faruk Khan, who has been coordinating the investigations into the February 25 and 26 killing of 74 people, including 52 Army officers, at the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) Pilkhana headquarters, linked the killings to the militant outfit, the Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). He said some of the BDR personnel arrested for their involvement in the mutiny have connections with the JMB. "We have gathered that a number of BDR jawans arrested in the mutiny case were involved in JMB somehow or other. I won't give more details as that might alert others having links to the mass killings," he told reporters. Daily Star, March 13, 2009.
42 militants killed in FATA during the week: A suspected US missile strike destroyed a Taliban training camp in Kurram Agency, killing at least 24 Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, as well as injuring another 50, security officials said on March 12, 2009. No high-value targets were believed to have died, an unnamed official said. Another security official said most of the dead were Afghan Taliban militants. "The training centre was run by local Taliban commander Fazal Saeed and training was underway at the time of the strike," the official added. The Taliban sealed off the area and retrieved bodies from the rubble of the building after the strike late on March 12.
Security Forces backed by helicopter gunships on the same day killed 18 Taliban militants and injured three others in the Gurgurai, Supri and Mulla Ghani Baba areas of Yakka Ghund sub-division in the Mohmand Agency. In addition, jet aircraft also bombed Shamsha, Bhaidmunai and Spin Ki Tangi areas in the Baizai and Khwaizai sub-divisions, without causing any casualties, the sources said. Daily Times, March 13, 2009.
Troops kill 35 Taliban militants in NWFP: Security Forces (SFs) backed by helicopter gunships killed at least 35 Taliban militants during a two-day operation in Darra Adamkhel in the NWFP, Inter-Services Public Relations sources said on March 10, 2009. The SFs targeted the militants in Buland, Mirali and Torchena areas. Three SF personnel were reportedly wounded in the operation, the sources said, adding that several Taliban hideouts had been destroyed, APP reported. Daily Times, March 11, 2009.
Next major terrorist attack on the US being planned in Pakistan, say US officials and lawmakers: The central nervous system for the next major terrorist attack on the US soil lies in Pakistan, said senior US officials and lawmakers. Two key US officials - Director of the National Intelligence and Director of the Military Intelligence - told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pakistan had allowed Taliban to operate freely from Quetta while the tribal areas had become a "central nervous system" for al Qaeda. US lawmakers and officials also said that the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) has the ideological commitment to replace al Qaeda as the next major terrorist group in the world. They said the Pakistani establishment and intelligence agencies had taken some measures against the LeT recently but were not co-operating fully with the United States in dealing with this threat. The committee was also told that LeT had supporters among the Pakistanis living in the United States who could abet its efforts to carry out a terrorist attack in North America. "The central nervous system for the planning (of an attack on the US soil) would emanate from Fata," said Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, during a hearing on current and future worldwide threats to the national security of the United States. Earlier, chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Senator Carl Levin, said that the Afghan Taliban forces under Mullah Omar operated with impunity from Balochistan, crossing unhampered into southern Afghanistan while al Qaeda was based in FATA from which attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan itself are launched. Lt-Gen Michael Maples, Director of US Defence Intelligence Agency, noted that while "strategic rivalry" with India drove Pakistan’s defence strategy, al Qaeda was using FATA to recruit and train operatives, plan and prepare regional and transnational attacks, disseminate propaganda and obtain equipment and supplies. General Maples warned that while Pakistan has taken important steps to safeguard its nuclear weapons, "vulnerabilities still exist". Dawn, March 11, 2009.
360 LTTE militants and 75 civilians among 435 persons killed in the North during the week: 360 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 75 civilians were among 435 persons killed during intensified fighting in the North during the week. Troops on March 8, 2009 foiled a few infiltration attempts by the LTTE militants who are currently restricted to a small area between Puthukkudiyiruppu and Chalai in Mullaitivu District. While the Army stated that nearly 100 militants have died and an unspecified number of them were wounded in the clashes, the Security Forces (SFs) subsequently recovered dead bodies of 50 militants, 111 T-56 weapons and some military hardware belonging to the LTTE. Further, troops, on extended search and clear operations in Puthukkudiyiruppu east, recovered dead bodies of 30 militants on March 9. At least 12 LTTE cadres were killed and 24 others injured in clashes with troops in the Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mulliyaweli, Kuppulankulam, Puthumatalan and areas near Mullaitivu town on March 11. According to another report, Subarathnam Selvatureiy alias Thamilendi, the LTTE’s chief of financial division, was confirmed killed in the weekend fighting in the northeast of Puthukkudiyiruppu where over 150 dead bodies of militants were recovered after the clashes. At least 16 LTTE militants were killed when troops captured a hospital at Puthukkudiyiruppu on March 12. Meanwhile, 13 top and middle-rung LTTE leaders were confirmed killed in the week-long clashes in Puthukkudiyiruppu. They included ‘lieutenant colonel’ Saleem, fourth in the LTTE hierarchy, ‘lieutenant colonel’ Ambalanan and ‘lieutenant colonel’ Eleel Chelvan, sent by the LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran himself for ground battles against troops, ‘lieutenant colonel’ Maran, ‘major’ Tamil Maran, ‘captain’ Kathier Nilavan, ‘major’ Malar Shamal, ‘captain’ Elavilan, ‘captain’ Kalai Kadiravan and ‘captain’ Kala Enivan. On the same day, clashes between the two sides resulted in the death of a number of militants in the east of Puthukkudiyiruppu. Troops later recovered dead bodies of 18 militants from the incident site. 69 civilians, including 19 children, were killed and several others wounded within the ‘safe zone’ in the Sri Lanka Army shelling and Sri Lanka Air Force bombardments in Mullaitivu on March 14, claimed pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net. Meanwhile, the SFs entered the outskirts of Iranapalai, the last operational centre of top rung LTTE leaders, including Intelligence Wing leader Pottu Amman, with the troops clearing the last section of the build-up area in Puthukkudiyiruppu East by March 14-evening. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, March 10- 16, 2009.
14 persons killed and minister among 46 others injured in suicide attack in Matara District: 14 people were killed and 46 others, including the Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mahinda Wijesekara, were wounded when a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) suicide bomber blew himself up on March 10, 2009, targeting a procession celebrating Eid-e-Milad (Prophet Mohammed's birthday) in the southern town of Akuressa in Matara District. This is the first suicide attack in Matara, the southernmost region and populated overwhelmingly by the majority Sinhala community. The Defence ministry said the suicide bomber "had arrived at the place on a push-bike and exploded himself among the Islamic devotees going to the mosque in a procession… Among the deceased and injured were several local government representatives." The Hindu, March 11, 2009.