By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On August 16, 2017, orchestrating the first violent incident of the current year (2017) in the State, suspected Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists (LWEs)] of the Red Flag faction of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist-New Democracy (CPI-ML-New Democracy-Red Flag), killed a farmer, identified as Rayala Bhaskar (55), of Narsampet, a hamlet under Pandurangapuram Gram Panchayat (village level local-self government institution) and a supporter of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), at Narsampet village in Palwancha mandal (administrative sub-division) in Khammam District. According to reports, around 15 Naxalites owing allegiance to CPI-ML (New Democracy) Ravi Dalam (armed squad) allegedly barged into Bhaskar’s house of and dragged him out before battering him to death in full public view. The Naxalites were said to have nursed a grudge against the deceased for reportedly seeking the help of the members of Chandranna faction of the CPI-ML (New Democracy), to resolve an internal issue in the village. CPI-ML (New Democracy) had split into two in 2013 – CPI-ML (New Democracy) led by Chandranna and (CPI-ML-New Democracy-Red Flag) led by Rayala Subhash Chandra Bose aka Ravi.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), this is the only incident of LWE-linked violence in the State in 2017, thus far (data till August 20). During the corresponding period of 2016 as well, one fatality (a Maoist) was reported, and that was the only LWE-linked fatality in the State through 2016. On August 8, 2016, Naxal renegade Mohammed Nayeemuddin aka Nayeem aka Balanna, was killed in an exchange of fire with the Police in Shadnagar Town of Mahbubnagar District. Nayeemuddin was wanted in over 100 criminal cases including the killing of Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, Kota Srinivas Vyas and his associate at Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad, then in Andhra Pradesh (now in Telangana) on January 27, 1993.
Source: SATP, **Data till August 20, 2017
* Telangana formed on June 2, 2014.
An overview of the fatalities, suggests that LWE-related violence in Telangana has been declining since the State came into being on June 2, 2014. According to the SATP database, Telangana recorded six Maoist-linked fatalities, including four civilians, one SF trooper and one Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadre in 2014; four, including two civilians and two Maoists in 2015; and one fatality each in 2016 (Maoist) and 2017 (civilian, all data till August 20). Since its creation, the State has recorded 12 fatalities, including seven civilians, one SF trooper and four Maoists.
The Sakler incident, in which at least eight members of the CPI-Maoist Venkatapuram ‘area committee’, which operates in the Bhadrachalam area of Khammam District in Telangana, were killed in an encounter with Security Forces (SFs), along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border in the Sakler area of Sukma District in Chhattisgarh State on March 1, 2016, had weakened the Maoists’ revival plan in Telangana. Meanwhile, media reports on March 22, 2017, revealed that, while taking stock of losses suffered in recent encounters in Chhattisgarh due to lack of a strong courier system, CPI-Maoist was seeking to extend its activities and to establish a faithful courier system in Telangana. Accordingly, the CPI-Maoist leadership planned to recruit new cadres and couriers, offering huge amounts, and started recruitment near the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border. The Maoists were focusing particularly on Guttikoyas (a scheduled tribal community hailing from Chhattisgarh, who had escaped from the conflict zone of Chhattisgarh and settled in the border villages of the Khammam and Warangal Districts in Telangana), as well as unemployed tribals, by luring them with their propaganda.
Meanwhile, a July 31, 2017, report revealed that the CPI-Maoist Telangana State Committee (TSC), with the Adilabad District Committee, Khammam District Committee and Khammam-Karimnagar-Warangal Divisional Committee, the Special Guerrilla Squad and 92 cadres, had been tasked to intensify activities in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) region. The Maoists are also in the process of forming village level teams to strengthen their strongholds in the AOB region, where the CPI-Maoist suffered a major setback in two successive encounters, with around 30 Maoists killed on October 24 and 27, 2016.
Further, an August 16, 2017, media report cited intelligence agencies to claim a revival of the CPI-Maoist project to build rocket launchers, a potential game changer in their pattern of warfare. Agencies believe that the Maoists were working on improving rocket launchers, since earlier attempts to put them to full use against SFs had failed. A top Telangana State intelligence official reportedly disclosed, “They have a central technical committee that is focusing on improvising rocket launchers. Their factory is now located in Dandakaranya.”
Meanwhile, citing intelligence inputs on possible Maoist attacks on three irrigation projects in Telangana, the Union Home Ministry (UHM) deployed three companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for their protection; one at the Kaleswaram Lift Irrigation Project at Medigadda in Karimnagar District; a second at the Tupakulagudem Barrage; and the third either in the Adilabad or Khammam District, depending on emerging requirements. A senior official of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) disclosed, on May 18, 2017, “The Home Ministry is sending three companies of CRPF, each comprising 135 personnel, to these sites in a week. The Force’s Central Region Director General Sudeep Lakhtakia has already issued an order. In all, 405 CRPF personnel will be deployed at the three project sites.”
Further, the Centre has allocated CRPF’s 39th Battalion to take up anti-Naxal operations along the Telangana-Chhattisgarh borders and the AOB region. CRPF Commandant V.V.N. Prasanna Kumar on August 10, 2017, stated, “We launched operations from Chinavutapalli village recently, and our priority is to provide security to Velagapudi. The forces will also take up anti-Maoist activities on AOB and in Kothagudem-Bhadradri District in Telangana”. The battalion was also meant to provide security for the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Secretariat, as well as the Chief Minister’s residence and Camp Office located in the Capital Region.
Meanwhile, at least 109 Maoists have been arrested since the formation of the Telangana State on June 2, 2014, of whom at least 45 Maoists were arrested in the current year (data till August 20, 2017). Some of the prominent cadres arrested in 2017 included, ‘area committee member’, Madivi Chukka aka Diwakar (28), from Unjupalli forest area under Charla Police Station in Khammam District on August 7, 2017; Madhu, a ‘regional Committee Secretary’ of the CPI-ML (New Democracy), in Mahabubabad District on July 25, 2017; Revolutionary People’s Committee (RPC) ‘militia commander’ Kalma Lakma aka Mahesh (22) and Chetna Natya Manch (CNM – a Maoist cultural outfit) ‘militia commander’ Podium Idamaiah (25), near Taliperu dam in Charla mandal of Bhadrachalam Division in Bhadradri Kothagudem District on June 23, 2017; and ‘militia commander’ Madivi Idama, from Jayashankar Bhupalapally District on April 19, 2017.
Similarly, at least 48 others have surrendered before SFs, including at least 13 in the current year (data till August 20, 2017). Some of the notable surrenders include Manuguru Local Operating Squad (LOS) ‘commander’ Sodi Devaiah aka Mallesh (22), who surrendered at Bhadrachalam in the Bhadradri-Kothagudem District on August 12, 2017; and Mallam Jogaiah, a militia ‘commander’, who was wanted in 16 cases of Maoist violence including two murders, and who also surrendered at Bhadrachalam on July 5, 2017.
Meanwhile, in the run up to the 50th anniversary of the ‘Naxalbari armed uprising’, the CPI-Maoist Sabari-Charla Area Committee (SCAC), urged people to fight against “sand and mining mafia” to protect the interests of Adivasis in the Agency areas, in Bhadradri Kothagudem District, through posters that appeared on May 19, 2017. Further, on May 23, 2017, suspected Maoists erected a banner and put up handwritten posters near the Taliperu Medium Irrigation project site in the Charla mandal in Khammam District, calling upon people to spearhead the “new democratic revolution”.
On July 20, 2017, CPI-Maoist distributed pamphlets commemorating their ‘martyrs’ memorial week’, celebrated annually between July 28 and August 3. The pamphlets were distributed on NH 153 at the Tadwai mandal headquarters in the name of the CPI-Maoist TSC. Hundreds of pamphlets were also found in the Tadwai and Pasra Forest areas in Kamareddy District, through which the party called upon the public to observe the ‘martyrs’ memorial week’ and pay homage Maoist martyrs. The Maoists accused the State and Central Governments of resorting to anti-people policies while protecting the interests of corporate and multi-national forces as part of their globalisation policy, and alleged that the Governments were spending huge amounts on strengthening the Police wing to suppress revolutionary forces that were questioning their misdeeds.
Clearly, the inherent danger from the Maoists persists in Telangana. January 4, 2017, media reportage indicated that Maoist recruitment had slowly intensified and recruits were being trained in what is considered their ‘safe bastion’, Chhattisgarh. The Maoists are anxious to engineer a revival in their erstwhile areas of dominance, prominently including Telangana which was long one of the worst afflicted regions of the country. Their effective neutralization across much of this fledgling State goes to the great credit to the enforcement agencies of undivided Andhra Pradesh, and the continued efforts of the successor State Police of Telangana. There is, nevertheless, little scope for complacency, as the Maoists are far from giving up arms, and a significant section of their ideologically committed top leadership remains actively at large.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
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