By Ajit Kumar Singh
On December 2, a surrendered Naxalite [Left Wing Extremist, LWE], identified as Kummari Satyam (35), was shot dead by a group of 20 Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres at his residence at Pamala village in the Karimnagar District. The Maoists also abducted his relative Kummari Tirupathi. Earlier in the night of December 1, the Maoists abducted and subsequently shot dead a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) mandal (administrative division) secretary, Shaik Majid, at Laxmipuram village of Eturunagaram mandal in Warangal District, after taking him to a nearby forest area. Though his body was recovered in the morning of December 2, the whereabouts of two other villagers, P. Chiranjeevi and K. Samaiah, who were also abducted by the Maoists, are yet to be ascertained. Earlier, a group of five Maoists set ablaze a State Transport Bus at Tupakulagudem village in Warangal District in the night of December 1.
The incidents have been engineered essentially as part of the PLGA [People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army] Week. The CPI-Maoist celebrates the anniversary of its PLGA, military wing, from December 2 to 8 every year. This time around, however, the Maoists have decided to ‘organise resistance’ for a full month, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the PLGA. [The PLGA was formed on December 2, 2000, on the first death anniversary of three People’s War Group (PWG) top leaders – Nalla Adi Reddy, Seelam Naresh and Y. Santosh Reddy, who were killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) at Koyyuru in Visakhapatnam District.]
After three years of continuous and dramatic decline, the Maoists in Andhra appear to be rallying once more in their heartland Telangana belt. Maoist-related incidents of violence more than doubled, from 39 in 2009, to 88 in 2010 (all data till December 5, 2010). Civilian fatalities inflicted by the Maoists rose from eight in 2009, to 17 in 2010. These killings included just one major incident (with three or more fatalities) in 2010, as against two such incidents in 2009. On November 3, 2010, three persons traveling in a van were killed in a landmine blast triggered by the Maoists near Choppalanka village between Rallagedda and Balapam in Chintapalli mandal of Visakhapatnam District. The Maoists are currently spreading their campaigns of intimidation wide, in an effort to terrorise the larger population and to stifle flows of intelligence to the Police. Total fatalities in 2010 have risen only marginally, to 28, as against 26 in 2009, principally as a result of a drop in Maoist deaths, which came down from 18 to 11.
*Data 2008- Andhra Pradesh (AP) Police
** Data 2009- SATP
*** Data 2010- SATP (till December 5, 2009)
Significantly, of the 11 Maoists killed, five were top leaders, indicating a narrowly targeted, intelligence led campaign by the AP Police. The most prominent among those killed was Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad, a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo as well as the Party’s spokesperson. He was killed by the SFs near Jogapur in the Adilabad District on July 2. The SFs also arrested 72 Maoists, including 14 commander rank cadres through the year. The most prominent arrest was that of Chandrasekhar Gorebale alias Sudhakara alias Tippanna alias Nantappa, a member of the Maoist Military Commission and the Central Action Team in charge of North Karnataka Districts, at Aija village in Mahabubnagar District on June 13. Moreover, the AP Police, backed by its strong intelligence network, also spearheaded operations in several other States in collaboration with their respective Forces and eliminated/ arrested a number of prominent Maoists. The mounting pressure within AP resulted in surrender of at least 61 Maoists, including 11 ‘commander’ rank cadres. According to MHA data released on December 1, while 89 cadres surrendered in 2009, the number rose to 129 in 2010.
Crucially, not a single trooper was killed in 2010, as was also the case in 2009, indicating that the Maoists are still not in a position to engage frontally with the SFs in the State. Indeed, CPI-Maoist ‘general secretary’ Muppala Laxman Rao alias Ganapathi, on February 12, 2010, conceded that the group had suffered a setback in AP. Ganapathi, “By waging guerrilla war, in Andhra, we had a setback but we have not completely abandoned (sic). Godavari valley to Maharashtra, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand till Bengal border, we have to intensify and expand guerrilla war. We have to retaliate, but it must be according to our advantage based on the situation.”
Nevertheless, a residual threat persists in the State, and there are indications of continuous efforts to revive the movement. An August 17, 2010, report indicated that contractors on the strategic Khammam-Chhattisgarh border, fearing Maoist reprisals, were unwilling to take up road projects that are vital for anti-Maoist operations. Earlier, on February 9, 2010, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah had asked the Centre to provide 16 additional companies of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to strengthen Police Station security and provide protection to various developmental projects, in view of intense Maoist activity across State borders. On January 6, 2010, five Districts — Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Kurnool and Chittoor – were added to the list of those affected by extremist activity for the purpose of seeking Central funds for development of roads. A similar request for Central funds to improve roads, citing LWE activities, had earlier been made in respect of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari Districts.
On October 24, 2010, Director General of Police K. Aravinda Rao disclosed that “Naxals were staying for a longer time in Khammam District and staying for two to three days in Warangal District frequently. They are trying to activate their old cadres and form new groups again.” They were focusing on Andhra Pradesh, particularly Telangana Districts, and were also trying to take advantage of the separate Telangana stir, he cautioned. On January 5, 2010, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, referring to the Telangana agitation, and without identifying the Maoists by name, stated, “We should not give any room for these forces to gain strength or credence.”
There is significant evidence of Maoist complicity in the Telangana movement. According to a November 22, 2010, report, a letter recovered by the AP Police from the Delhi home of slain journalist and Maoist activist Hemchandra Pandey (who was shot dead by AP Police on July 1 along with Azad) written by ‘Comrade Ajith’ (believed to be the code name of ‘secretary general’ Ganapathi) to ‘Sitapathi’ (thought to be Azad), among the subjects touched upon were issues such as Telangana as well as river- water sharing in Andhra Pradesh. In the letter, ‘Ajith’ advocated the making of the river-waters issue a fundamental demand for a separate Telangana State. He also stressed that the capital of the new State should be Hyderabad. The timing of the letter – written on December 22, 2009, is also significant, as this was the time when the Telangana agitation reached its peak. Earlier, in an article published on Breaking News on December 27, 2009, the Naxalites had call for ‘armed struggle’ to press for a separate Telangana State. [Telangana is a region comprising 10 Andhra Pradesh Districts – Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar, Medak, Nizamabad, Hyderabad and Rangareddy.]
Meanwhile, on September 20, 2010, the State Cabinet extended the ban on the CPI-Maoist and its six front organisations for a further period of one year under the Andhra Pradesh Public Security Act. The earlier ban lapsed on August 16, 2010. Further, the Union MHA released INR 1.15 Billion for the Modernization of Police Forces (MPF) in the State for the period 2009-10. In 2008-09 the MHA had released INR 838.3 million for AP under this head. According to a September 1 MHA release, Andhra Pradesh was sanctioned 1,500 additional Special Police Officers (SPOs) out of the 12,000 sanctioned for all LWE affected States. However, the State has a Police-population ratio of only 99 per 100,000, as compared to the national average of 128, according to National Crime Record Bureau data (data till December 31, 2008). Even the number of Policemen per 100 square kilometers of area stands at 29.5 for the State, well below the national average of 46.5. There is also a chronic shortage of Indian Police Service (IPS) officers to deal with the security challenges. As on January 1, 2010, against the total sanctioned Strength of 226 officers, there were only 185 in position, a deficit of 18.14 percent. Despite this, AP has registered the most dramatic successes in the country against the Maoists, and has established an exceptional intelligence and operations network.
The upturn in Maoist activities, however marginal, nevertheless underlines the dangers of any complacence or neglect. The Maoists have proved themselves a tenacious enemy, with capacities for continuous renewal and strategic and tactical reinvention. A severely undermanned and numerically under-led AP Police has established dominance through exemplary leadership, extraordinary sacrifice, and a near-exclusive focus on the Maoists. Recent events, however, indicate the emergence of a variety of other threats, including the incipient dangers of a Pakistan-backed Islamist extremist mobilisation. A dramatic augmentation in capacities is necessary if the combined security threats in the State are to be effectively contained and neutralized.
Ajit Kumar Singh, Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management