By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On September 23, 2021, at least 14 jan militia (people’s militia) members of the Cherla [Bhadradri Kothagudem] ‘area committee’ of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) surrendered before the Security Forces (SFs) in the Bhadradri Kothagudem District. According to the Police, the 14 jan militia members, who were forced to join the outfit, decided to quit they were unable to bear the harassment by leaders, who forced them do things against their will. Recently, they were forced to attend a training programme in the Pesarlapadu, Puttapadu and Chanda areas in Chhattisgarh.
On September 17, 2021, CPI-Maoist leader Jajjeri Samakka aka Sharada aka Sharadakka surrendered before the Telangana Director General of Police (DGP) Mudireddy Mahendar Reddy in Hyderabad District. Sharadakka, a native of Gangaram in Mahabubnagar District, had been working as a ‘divisional committee’ (DVC) member of the Bhadradri Kothagudem-East Godavari ‘Divisional Committee’. She had reportedly been suffering from health issues for some time. She is the wife of Maoist leader Yapa Narayana aka Haribhushan aka Lakma (59), CPI-Maoist ‘central committee’ (CC) member and Telangana ‘state committee secretary’, who succumbed to COVID-19 on June 21, 2021.
On September 9, 2021, 52 persons working as jan militia members, village committee members, and CPI-Maoist sympathisers, surrendered before the Police in Bhadradri Kothagudem District. They included five women and some minors. Bhadradri Kothagudem District Superintendent of Police (SP), Sunil Dutt disclosed, “Recently, these people were forcibly taken by the CPI Maoist party to attend their trainings in Chhattisgarh.” They left the outfit due to regular harassment. The Telangana Police claimed that several senior Maoist leaders of the State had contracted COVID-19, including Kunkati Venkataiah aka Vikas, South Bastar ‘DVC’ ‘secretary’; Sharada aka Sharadakka, ‘DVC’ member; Sonu, ‘Company-2’ ‘commander’; Vinod Hemla aka Hunga aka Vinodanna and Moola Devender Reddy aka Masa Dada, both Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) members; Kankanala Raji Reddy aka Dharmanna aka Venkatesh, Telangana ‘state committee’ (SC) member; and Bade Chokka Rao aka Damodar, Telangana ‘SC’ member, among others,.
On June 28, 2021, DGP Reddy urged the Maoists to lay down arms and join the mainstream in order to avail medical treatment. He noted, “Many extremists, including top leaders, were struggling to handle COVID-19 and some of them have succumbed to the virus.” Reddy assured the Maoists that the Police Department would extend all help to the CPI-Maoist cadres who quit the outfit, and that rehabilitation packages would be provided to them once they surrender.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 82 Maoists and people working for them have surrendered since the appeal made by the DGP on June 28, 2021. Prominent among these are:
August 27, 2021: ‘Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee’ (AOBSZC) member, Ekkanti Seetharam Reddy aka Naganna (65), surrendered before Police Commissioner, Vishnu S. Warrier, in Khammam District.
July 14, 2021: A ‘Platoon Party Committee’ (PPC) member of the CPI-Maoist, identified as Ravula Ranjit aka Srikanth (23), son of deceased Ravula Srinivasa aka Ramanna aka Katta Ramachandra Reddy aka Rajudada, a ‘CC’ member and ‘DKSZC’ ‘secretary’, surrendered before the Police in Hyderabad District.
The total number of surrenders in the current year stands at 109 (all data till October 3, 2021). Since the formation of Telangana, on June 2, 2014, at least 238 Maoists and people working for them have surrendered.
Most of the surrenderers have alleged harassment by the leadership as the main reason. Reports indicate that the Maoists are perturbed by the rising number of surrenders. According to an August 8, 2021, report, the Maoist leadership is trying to capture or eliminate a female Maoist cadre, identified as Madakam Chukki, of Battigudem village in Cherla Mandal (administrative sub-division), who worked in the Cherla Local Organisation Squad (LOS), and left the CPI-Maoist party due to alleged harassment and torture by the leaders. The Maoist leadership feared that several other cadres in the party might follow in her footsteps and is consequently trying to capture or eliminate her.
Meanwhile, the number of arrests has increased from 20 in 2020 to 51 in the current year. A total of 368 arrests have been recorded in the State since June 2, 2014.
One Maoist has also been killed in the State in the current year. A total of 31 Maoists have been killed since June 2, 2014. On August 1, 2021, a CPI-Maoist cadre, identified as Madvi Ungal aka Chotu (23), was killed in an exchange of fire between the Maoists and Police at Bodanelli forest area in Cherla Mandal. Chotu, a native of Puvarthi village in Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh, is said to be the brother of Madvi Hidma aka Hidmaanna, ‘commander’ of the ‘1st Battalion’ of the CPI-Maoist’s People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) operating in the Dandakaranya region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
On the other hand, the Maoists have failed to carry out any fatal attack since October 25, 2020, when CPI-Maoist cadres killed a villager, suspecting him to be a ‘police informer’, at Gorukonda village in Cherla Mandal.
Combing operations have led to the recovery of arms on 16 occasions in the current year, in addition to another 21 occasions of arms recovery in 2020. The total number of such recoveries since June 2, 2014, stood at 99, including the recoveries in 2021.
Not surprisingly, on July 14, 2021, DGP Reddy claimed that there was no Maoist activity in Telangana. He added that a decision had also been taken to intensify operations on the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border to thwart any future threat.
Meanwhile, the Maoists are not willing to give up the fight. An August 3, 2021, report, revealed that the SFs had received a tip-off that the extremists were gearing up to unleash violence in the State to avenge the killing of their comrade in the August 1, 2021, encounter.
Indeed, on September 6, 2021, a youth, identified as Brahma Naidu, was critically injured when a pressure bomb allegedly planted by CPI-Maoist cadres went off at Lenin Nagar on the outskirts of Cherla Mandal. Naidu suffered the injury when he stepped on the pressure bomb after stopping his motorcycle near a tree on the roadside to read a wall poster put up by the Maoists. The handwritten poster, bearing the name of CPI-Maoist Cherla-Sabari ‘area committee’, read: “Release all the political prisoners unconditionally, punish those responsible for the death of tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy, and repeal the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).” The Maoists also urged people to observe ‘Political Prisoners Rights Day’ on September 13. Father Stan Swamy, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, died on July 5, 2021, at Holy Family Hospital in suburban Bandra in Mumbai city of Maharashtra.
Sustained and focused SF action in the Maoist affected areas, particularly in the contiguous border regions that Telangana shares with other Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected States, is required to prevent any possibilities of future resurgence.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management