SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Andhra Pradesh: The State Advances, the
Mao's dictum, ironically, as the example of the counter-insurgency (CI) response in Andhra Pradesh (AP) demonstrates, can apply equally to both 'revolutionary' and state Forces.
AP has been a dominant locus of Left Wing Extremism (LWE, Naxalism or Maoism), for decades, well before the original ‘Naxalite’ movement was sparked in 1967 at Naxalbari in West Bengal. It has, furthermore, been the principal source of the resurgence of the movement since the late 1970s, particularly after the formation of the Peoples War Group (PWG) in 1980, and the wellspring of ideological, strategic and tactical leadership of the movement since then, so much so that the Telengana region, the Naxalite ‘heartland’ in northern Andhra, had become near-synonymous with the influence of the rebels. In the late 1990s, the PWG had ranged out of its North Telengana heartland to execute an ambitious strategy of expansion across the entire State – and across State borders, into the neighbouring States of Orissa and (then) Madhya Pradesh. Every one of AP’s 23 Districts is afflicted by Maoist activities, with 12 Districts falling into the ‘highly affected’ category, seven ‘moderately affected’ and the remaining 4 ‘marginally affected’. The State, with occasional politically engineered variations – as in the disastrous ‘peace talks’ of 2004 – has long accounted for a bulk of all LWE-related fatalities (civilian, security forces and LWE cadres). As recently as 2006, the State accounted for 147 of a total of 463 (31.75 per cent) LWE-related fatalities in the country; in 2005, this number was 320 of 717 (44.63 per cent). The numbers were often much worse in earlier years, with 508 fatalities in the State in 1998, and 483 in 1992, the worst years on record for LWE violence in AP. These numbers dropped to just 41 out of 463 in year 2007 (8.86 per cent, till September 13).
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On their own admission, the Maoists have been forced into a phase of ‘tactical retreat’ in AP, and Communist Party of India – Maoist (CPI-Maoist) Central Committee documents recovered in July-August 2007 note:
The period after the breakdown of talks has been devastating for the Maoists in AP. Police sources indicate that the talks had created the opportunity for a radical expansion of the Maoist armed cadres in the State, from an estimated 650 before the unilateral ceasefire declared by the State Government, rising to over 1100 by the time the talks collapsed. A little over two years later, these numbers have shriveled to under 400. Maoist fatalities over the 2005-2007 period have totaled 316 (2005: 167; 2006: 122; 2007: 27, till September 13), but it is the arrests and, crucially, the surrenders, that have been infinitely more devastating to insurgent morale. Partial data for year 2007 alone indicates as many as 428 Maoists arrested and 138 surrendered. Further, as a matter of deliberate policy, Police action has been focused on the rebel leadership and on active cadres, and not on the wider support base, or those who may be coerced into cooperation with the Maoists. Among those killed in 2007 , for instance, is Sendhe Rajamouli aka Prasad/Krishna/Murali, a member of the CPI-Maoist Central Military Commission and State Secretary for Karnataka, who was killed on June 22, 2007, in Anantpur District. Rajamouli ranked second in the Maoist hierarchy, just below Party General Secretary, Muppala Lakshmana Rao aka Ganapathi. Similarly, Settiraju Papaiah aka Venkataramana/Somanna, a member of the North Telengana Special Zonal Committeee, was killed in the Medaram Forest of Warangal District on July 1, 2007. These killings came in the wake of a slew of Police successes in 2006, which claimed Madhav aka Gurra Chenniah, AP State Committee Secretary; Chandramouli, member of the Central Committee; Telugu Pochaiah aka Venu, the Nallamala Area Committee member; Madhu, the Karimnagar (East Division) Committee Secretary and Cherukuri Rattaiah, a Committee member; among a large number of other dalam and local commanders.
Among those arrested in 2007, there are at least three State Committee members and two District Committee Secretaries. Most alarming for the Maoists has been the surrender of a number of top leaders, including Naganna and Thota Kumaraswamy aka ‘Tech Madhu’, long-term and committed cadres whose contribution to the movement was well recognized.
The fiercest contest in the 2005-07 period occurred in the Nallamalla Forest area, spanning approximately 13,000 square kilometres across parts of five Districts in Central AP – Kurnool, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Guntur, and Prakasam. Under sustained pressure in their Telengana heartland at the turn of the millennium, the then PWG leadership had begun to shift attention to this dense forest region as a safe haven and command centre, and by 2003, had secured a significant concentration in the area. The ‘peace talks’ period, commencing May 2004, came as a boon for the Maoists across the State, and an intensive effort of recruitment and political mobilisation ensued.
The opportunities of this phase, however, also created extraordinary vulnerabilities, and the latter were assiduously exploited by the Police and State intelligence apparatus. As many of the top Maoist leaders and cadres began to move overground, to mobilize support and to recruit cadres, anonymity was lost, and discipline and established constraints were eroded, augmenting opportunities for intelligence penetration. Significantly, the Police and intelligence apparatus remained highly active throughout the ceasefire period, trained continuously, consolidated the strengths and capacities of District Forces, and passed on the operational lessons of successful campaigns in the Telengana region to Forces operating in Nallamalla. The result was that, when the talks collapsed, the state’s response capacities were excellent, and information flows were high – though familiarity with the ground within the forest areas was poor and theoretical. Consequently, there were some initial setbacks, when it was found that available information and maps did not reflect ground situations in sufficient details, resulting in difficulties for the small units that were deployed to seek contact and engage with the Maoists. Within a year, however, every pocket within the Nallamalla Forest area had been covered, including some in the most difficult terrain, creating a comprehensive knowledge base for operations. More significantly, Police outreach programmes reinforced public disenchantment with the Maoists – who had successfully projected a ‘Robin Hood’ image in early stages, but had progressively lost popular support – and information flows from the people enabled focused operations against hardcore targets. At the same time, a conscious decision was taken not to act against those who were on the periphery of the movement, providing food, safe haven or other services, which did not directly threaten public security or lives, often under threat from the Maoists. The result was a series of military successes, including large numbers of arrests and surrenders which yielded additional and crucial information flows, and encouraged further public cooperation as the general confidence in Police capabilities improved. The result was that the Nallamalla Forest, which accounted for well over a third of the total Maoist armed strength of 1,100 in AP in early 2005, now has no more than 60-70 armed cadres dispersed across the area, with the entire top leadership of the Party relocating outside the State, particularly in the Andhra-Orissa Border (AOB) and Dandakaranya (DK) Special Zones, especially the Bastar Region, including the Abujhmadh Forest, of neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
The gains in AP are the consequence of sustained and focused Police responses – which contrast dramatically with the floundering incompetence encountered in other Maoist afflicted States – and of institutional capacities that have evolved systematically over the past decades, to crystallize into a model of decisive engagement with what is India’s most strategically and tactically innovative anti-state movement. They have, moreover, been secured despite significant manpower constraints, and within exactly the same national policy environment on police management, modernization and upgradation, and the national policy vacuum on counter-insurgency (CI) and counter-terrorism (CT), that the other States operate under.
It is useful to note that the Andhra Pradesh Police-population ratio, like that of other Maoist-affected States, was well below the national average, at just 99 per 100,000 in 2004, slipping to 98 per 100,000 in 2005, as against a national average of 123 and 122, respectively, in these years. According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development data, significant recruitment has pushed this ratio up to 114 per 100,000, as against a national average of 143 per 100,000 in 2006 – and while this is quite healthy in comparison to some of the other main Maoist-affected States [Bihar: 79; Orissa: 100] it lags well behind some of the worst responders [Chhattisgarh: 134; Jharkhand: 164 in 2006], and is also well below international norms, such as the UN recommended minimum ratio at 1:850 or 222 per 100,000 population.
The difference has been imaginative leadership, a succession of Police commanders who have not allowed the experiences of past campaigns to be forgotten, or past gains to be dissipated, continuously building strategic and tactical capabilities against a coherent assessment of the Maoist threat and a detailed understanding of Maoist ideologies, strategies and tactics – once again, contrasting significantly with the patterns of denial, incomprehension, indeed, stupidity, that characterize the orientation, not only of other affected States, but substantially of the Centre as well.
It is not possible, here, to document in detail the various dimensions of state response that have contributed to the striking successes in AP, but the operationalisation of the largest possible component of available Forces, a high measure of efficiency in deployment and use, force modernization and the continuous upgradation of technical, technological and operational capabilities lie at the core of the process of sustained adaptation to the evolving Maoist challenge. The raising of the Greyhounds in 1989, and the subsequent performance of this elite counter-insurgent and jungle warfare Force has been widely noticed and rightly appreciated. What is less known is the enveloping environment of Policing within AP, within which the Greyhounds operate. The Greyhounds do not exist in a vacuum, or in the context of the kind of degraded Policing systems that prevail in other States, but in a system where capacities of response have been reinforced at every level – down to each Police Station and Police Post in the Districts. In addition to the Greyhounds operating in response to specific information across the State, each District Superintendent of Police maintains several Special Teams – ordinarily seven or eight, but up to twenty in some cases – for CI operations within the District Police command structure. No Police Station or Post has been left vulnerable to attack, and it is noticeable that not a single such target has come under the pattern of ‘swarming attacks’ by combinations of Maoist armed cadres and militia that are occurring with increasing frequency in other States since 2004 The creation of widely dispersed, decentralized capacities of response in the Districts has not only yielded significant operational successes within the Districts, it has created a general environment in which the movement of Maoist armed cadre has become increasingly difficult, and large group attacks virtually impossible, across the State. Indeed, at one time, every major Police success would meet immediate retaliatory operations by the Maoists. Continuous studies of the sources of such retaliation, as well as the general augmentation of Police capacities, have so completely eroded Maoist cadres and command structures that such retaliation has become rare and at least occasionally, counterproductive, as in the case of the killing of the mother of a Sub-Inspector of Police, which provoked mass public revulsion. Crucially, there has been tremendous cooperation between the District Police, the State Intelligence Bureau, the Greyhounds, and the senior-most levels of the State Police command, which has cut response time to a minimum, and maximized response impact.
Despite these several gains, however, the threat of the Maoists in Andhra Pradesh is far from over. The rebels retain significant operational capacities in four districts of the State the AOB region, and these are reinforced by the soft State borders and safe havens they enjoy in the neighbouring States. The AOB region occurs at the trijunction of three States – AP, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, within a wide swathe of hilly jungles. Active cooperation with the Orissa Police, and some joint operations across the Andhra-Orissa Border, have made the operating environment difficult for the Maoists. However, there is a measure of impunity along the Chhattisgarh border, as the State is yet to deploy an effective Force or strategy to engage with the Maoists, and offers little assistance to AP Forces against Naxalite operations across the State border. The AOB areas, moreover, have a harsh terrain and topography, with steep hills and dense forests, a very sparse population (many of the widely dispersed habitations consist of no more than four or five hutments), poor Police presence, and, currently, a very poor information and intelligence base. This is also malaria country, and illness fells more men – both among the Maoists and the State Forces – than actual conflict. Senior Police commanders, however, insist that, within a focused strategic context, these factors will work more to the state’s advantage than to that of the Maoists. As one officer noted, "Life is very difficult for both the Maoists and our Forces. But the Forces have the entire machinery and infrastructure of the state at their disposal, and we can overcome the difficulties. It is just a matter of time before we establish dominance. Already, the Maoists in the AOB region are able to execute no more than random and stray attacks. No concentrated design or calculation is visible in their operations."
The Maoists also retain significant residual capacities to inflict dramatic attacks on critical targets across AP – and the failed attack on former Chief Minister, Janardhan Reddy, on September 7, 2007, is proof of these capabilities. The seizure of vast quantities of explosives, missiles, communications equipment and other instruments of war from Maoist cadres and dumps is evidence of the vast arsenal at the disposal of the Naxalites. Moreover, the Party’s continuing efforts to recruit and train armed cadres and mobilize political support are still in evidence across the State, though these have been tremendously hampered by improved Police and intelligence penetration and dominance.
Rattled by the attack on Janardhan Reddy, as well as by the succession of Islamist terrorist bombings in the State Capital, Hyderabad, senior Police sources indicate that the State Government has approved the immediate recruitment of an additional 13,000 personnel into the Police – with a provision for further augmentation to 20,000, if the need is felt – principally to expand the Armed Reserves and the Intelligence capacities of the Police. At nearly 15 per cent of the existing Force of 91,000 (in 2006), and complemented by a range of administrative, technical and technological force multipliers, this will constitute a tremendous surge in response capabilities.
Nevertheless, it is useful to recall that the AP Police has won many victories in the past, and has repeatedly cleared major areas of the State, only to see the movement revive after a while, under the shadow of political and administrative neglect, or of active political mischief, particularly when elections are around the corner. Moreover, the fundamental grievances and difficulties that afflict the poorer segments of the population – and that are exploited by the Maoist in their recruitment campaigns – persist, and the many developmental programmes that the State Government and the Centre have announced over the years, including ambitious plans under the present regime, have had a very poor record of implementation on the ground.
The Maoists have demonstrated their resilience, their capacities for resurgence after successive defeats, and a tremendous aptitude for adaptation and survival. The institutional transformations within the AP Police and Intelligence establishment, and enormous augmentation of state capacities of response will certainly act as powerful obstacles to any easy and overwhelming revival of LWE in the State, but cannot be absolute proof against the consequences of persistent state neglect, administrative decline, and political mischief.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 10-16, 2007
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Poll rules amended for Musharraf’s re-election: Pakistan’s Election Commission amended rules that bar Government servants from contesting Presidential polls, a move that paved the way for President General Pervez Musharraf’s re-election to the top post, drawing sharp reaction from opposition parties which vowed to block it. Secretary to the Election Commission, Kunwar Irshad, said on September 16, that the poll panel has amended Presidential election rules, so that Article 63 of the Constitution, which has a clause to bar Government servants from participating in elections unless they have been retired for at least two years, no longer applies to the President. Irshad said the rule of Article 63 (K) stating that "if he (the candidate) has been in the service of Pakistan or of any statutory body or any body which is owned or controlled by the Government or in which the Government has a controlling share or interest, unless a period of two years has elapsed since he ceased to be in such service" has been amended to exempt Musharraf who continued as Chief of Army. Irshad said the EC will announce the schedule of Presidential election within next two to three days.
The All Party Democratic Movement (APDM), headed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), said it would en masse resign from the Assemblies if Musharraf went ahead with the re-election plans. Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People's Party (PPP) issued a statement "rejecting" the amendment as "unconstitutional and illegal" and saying that it amounted to "rigging" the polls. APDM alliance leaders, including chairman of PML-N Raja Zafarul Haq, and President of the Islamist Muthahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said they would resign from Assemblies the day Musharraf files his nomination. Daily Times, September 17, 2007.
95 militants killed in North Waziristan: At least 95 militants are reported to have died during clashes with the security forces (SFs) in North Waziristan. Taliban militants attacked a military base near the Afghan border on September 13, 2007, leading to an encounter with the SFs in which at least 50 militants and two soldiers were killed. Military spokesperson Major General Waheed Arshad said that the SFs repelled repeated militant attacks. Army helicopters and ground fire destroyed four militant positions, he added. A day earlier, 40 militants were killed in an attack by Army helicopter gunships in the Shawal area of North Waziristan. Major General Arshad confirmed that Pakistan Army helicopter gunships and artillery were used in the operation against militants, who had established their hideouts in the Shawal area and were involved in attacks on military convoys. Dawn, September 14, 2007; The News, September 13, 2007.
20 soldiers killed in suspected suicide attack in a high-security military area near Islamabad: At least 20 persons were killed in a bomb blast in a high-security military area in Tarbela Ghazi near Islamabad on September 13, 2007. The bomb exploded in the mess of Karar Company of the Special Services Group. The communication and wireless system of security agencies was also affected by the explosion. Two unnamed intelligence officials told AP that it was a suicide attack, and that the bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into the canteen where dozens of commandos were having dinner. The Tarbela facility, about 100 kilometres south of Islamabad, is the headquarters of the Special Operation Task Force, a unit of the Pakistan Army’s elite Special Services Group, which had been set up with American aid to neutralise al Qaeda. Media reports stated that the Karar Company had participated in the Lal Masjid operation. The News; Daily Times, September 14, 2007.
19 persons killed in suicide attack in NWFP: 19 people were killed and 15 others wounded when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up near a thickly-populated area of Bannu Choongi in the Dera Ismail Khan district of North west Frontier Province (NWFP) on September 11, 2007. The incident occurred at around 3:10 pm (PST) when police directed a suspected passenger of a pickup on the way to Kech village to come out and submit to a body search. As the passenger came out of the vehicle, he blew himself up, killing 18 people on the spot, including two police personnel, who wanted to search the bomber. Another person succumbed to his injuries later, raising the death toll to 19. Deputy Inspector General Police, Habibur Rahman, disclosed that the bomber was 14 to 15 years of age. The News, September 12, 2007.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif deported to Saudi Arabia after brief arrival in Islamabad: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was, on September 10, 2007, arrested and deported to Saudi Arabia, four-and-a-half hours after he arrived in Islamabad from London to challenge President Pervez Musharraf’s rule. The PIA flight PK-786, carrying the former Prime Minister, his party workers and journalists, landed at 8:45am (PST) at Islamabad International Airport, but Nawaz Sharif refused to leave the aircraft for about 90 minutes. Surrounded by commandos and officials, he eventually stepped off the aircraft and was escorted to the Rawal Lounge, where he reportedly refused to hand over his passport to immigration officials. An unnamed official said Nawaz Sharif was shown arrest warrants for corruption and money laundering charges and a copy of his year 2000 exile agreement. "Government officials and some Saudi officials held talks with him for about two hours," a source said. Sharif later arrived in Jeddah, where the official SPA news agency reported: "Nawaz Sharif is a guest of Saudi Arabia, which welcomed his coming to live in the kingdom once again." Daily Times, September 11, 2007 .
45 LTTE cadres killed as Navy destroys three arms laden vehicles in Matara district: The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) on September 11, 2007, claimed that it had virtually wiped out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) ability to smuggle arms into the country after sinking three gun-running vessels – Mayoshi, Seishin, and Koshi, as indicated in the LTTE Naval registry – and killing up to 45 of the outfit’s cadres during the preceding 24-hours. SLN chief Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda said the LTTE was bringing three light aircraft, artillery and a bullet proof vehicle in the ships sunk some 600-kilomtres off the island's south-eastern coast in Matara District. "When we challenged these vessels, they didn't respond so we had to follow internationally accepted rules of engagement. They opened fire. We had no choice but to fire and destroy the vessels...," Karannagoda said, adding that the LTTE’s smuggling operations will be severely affected as they are left with just one ship. SLN has so far destroyed a total of nine LTTE ships, he disclosed. The SLN chief estimated the number of cadres killed at up to 45 and said the navy did not suffer any casualties or damage to their crafts, despite the LTTE retaliating with mortar bombs. PTI; Colombo Page, September 12, 2007.