By Indrajit Sharma*
On August 29, 2020, Police arrested a Sarpanch head of the Panchayat, village level local self-Government institution), identified as Karam Kanna Rao (30), from Cherla Mandal (administrative sub-division) in Bhadradri Kothagudem District of Telangana, for working as a sympathiser-cum-courier for the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). He was mobilising villagers for Naxal [Left Wing Extremist, LWE] meetings. He was also supplying medicines and essential commodities to the Naxals.
On August 21, 2020, 12 CPI-Maoist sympathiser-cum-couriers were arrested from two villages in Bhadradri Kothagudem District. Police recovered gelatin sticks, detonators, electric wire and batteries supplied by the Maoists for making Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), from their possession. These people had been supplying Maoists essential items, including rations and vegetables, whenever they visited Manuguru Mandal in the District, over the preceding three years.
On August 2, 2020, Police arrested three CPI-Maoist sympathisers and recovered a dump of 414 live rounds of different weapons from a village under Dubbagudem Gram Panchayat (village level local self-Government institution) limits in Gangaram Mandal in Mahabubabad District. The trio had been working for the Maoists by providing logistic support, and letting them stay at their respective villages.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 43 CPI-Maoist sympathisers have been arrested in the current year, thus far (data till September 6, 2020). During the corresponding period in 2019, one sympathiser was arrested, while in the remaining period of 2019, another 23 sympathisers were arrested. The total number of sympathizers arrested since the formation of the State on June 2, 2014, stands at 119 (data till September 6, 2020). A total of 302 Maoist cadres/leaders have been arrested in the State during this period.
On September 3, 2020, Security Forces (SFs) killed a Maoist cadre, identified as Dudi Devalu aka Shankar (26) in an exchange of fire at Devallagudem Forest area in the Gundala Mandal of Bhadradri Kothagudem District. The last killing of a Maoist prior to this incident was reported on August 21, 2019, in an exchange of fire with SFs near Pidugula village forest area under Manuguru Mandal in Bhadradri Kothagudem District. Two Maoists were killed through 2019.
Meanwhile, on August 28, 2020, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), mainly tasked with investigation of terrorism cases, filed a charge-sheet against four persons linked to the CPI-Maoist for their alleged involvement in recruiting youth and raising funds through their front organisations – the Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV) and Telangana Praja Front (TPF). The accused named in the case are identified as Maddiletti (31), state president of TVV; Menchu Sandeep (26), state general secretary of TVV; Nalamasa Krishna (38), state vice president of TPF and Yapa Narayana (52), secretary, Telangana State Committee.
The case was first registered on October 8, 2019, after a search at Maddiletti’s house in Hyderabad District led to the seizure of many incriminating letters, documents, and digital devices, establishing his close association with senior CPI-Maoist leaders and top leaders of their front organisations. The NIA officials investigating the case stated,
The members of the frontal organisations – TVV and TPF, in association with underground leaders of the CPI-Maoist, were engaged in furthering its activities in the garb of welfare activities such as taking up issues concerning students and society, and raising funds through educational institutions and also luring, radicalising and recruiting youth into the CPI-Maoist for engaging in anti-national activities against the democratically-elected governments.
The NIA charge-sheet as well as the continuing arrests of Maoist sympathisers and couriers in recent times indicate the residual influence of the Maoists among the people of the tribal areas of the State. It also suggests that the Maoists are desperate to make a comeback in their erstwhile stronghold areas. Media reports indicate that the rebels have increased their movements in the State and are engaged in recruiting fresh cadres and strengthening their base in several pockets.
Significantly, on July 17, 2020, to win support and instigate locals, CPI-Maoist Telangana ‘state committee’ spokesperson Jagan issued a statement, accusing the Telangana Police of attempting to wipe out the party by targeting innocent adivasis and arresting sympathisers. The Maoist spokesperson alleged,
While our party has been observing self-restraint by not indulging in assaults in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, the security forces of the state and central government have been unleashing a reign of terror in the tribal areas.
Jagan further warned of severe ‘punishment’ in the people’s court (Kangaroo court held by Maoists) to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders if the Police did not stop attacks on the Adivasis and Maoist party activists.
A July 19, 2020, report revealed that the CPI-Maoist had formed as many as 12 ‘area committees’ and reconstituted the ‘state committee’ entrusted with the task of recruiting more youth and tribals into the Maoist cadre which is facing a shortage in Telangana. According to the report, Yapa Narayana aka Haribhushan aka Jagan has been appointed as the CPI-Maoist’s ‘secretary’ in the State. Reportedly, Jagan and his wife Sammakka were injured in an exchange of fire with the Police on March 2, 2018, in Thondapal Forest area in the Cherla Mandal of Bhadradri Kothagudem District. While they had escaped, the Police thought that Jagan might have died as there was no subsequent intelligence on his whereabouts. However, after conducting combing operations in forested areas, the Police concluded that Jagan had survived and that he has been involved in Maoist activities in the State, and has implemented the decision of the CPI-Maoist’s ‘central committee (CC)’ by forming 12 ‘area committees’ in the State.
The 12 ‘area committees’ and their leadership include: Pedapalli area committee headed by Kankanala Raji Reddy; Eturnagaram Mahadevpur area committee headed by Reena aka Saame; Venkatapuram-Vajedu area committee headed by Ungi; Yellandu-Narsampet area committee headed by Mangu; Mancherial-Kumaram Bheem area committee headed by Mailarapu Aadellu aka Bhaskar; Mangi area committee headed by Lingamma; Indravelli area committee headed by Vargesh; Chennur-Sirpur area committee headed by Narasimha Rao; Cherla Sabari area committee headed by Sammakka aka Sarada; Manuguru area committee headed by Sudheer aka Ravva Ramla aka Rasool aka Ramaal; Bhadradri-East Godavari divisional committee headed by Sambhaiah; and Telangana State action committee headed by Bade Chokkarao aka Damodar.
On August 29, 2020, in a bid to expose Maoist efforts and propaganda, the Adilabad District Police released a list of Maoist sympathisers. While urging the local Adivasis not to fall prey to Maoists, the Superintendent of Police (SP), Vishnu S. Warrier stated,
We are keeping a strict vigil on the sympathisers, who are planning to revive their operations with the help of the gullible Adivasis.
SP Warrier also alleged that certain tribals were implementing the agenda of the banned outfit by projecting themselves as leaders of the ethnic tribes. These tribal organisation leaders were provoking youngsters to join the CPI-Maoist and they were providing food and shelter to the armed extremists in exchange for huge sums of money.
Moreover, according to an August 8, 2020 report, the Maoists have been barred by the leadership from carrying out violent activities in Telangana lest they attract the attention of the Security Forces (SFs). Following the dictate, so far, they have restricted themselves to reviving links with old contacts and recruiting rural youth in areas where they retain influence.
As of now, all activities of the organization are concentrated in the forest areas in the eastern side of the State comprising the former undivided Districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam. These areas border the LWE-affected areas in what is popularly known as the Dandakaranya region, also including Gadchiroli District and parts of Chandrapur District of Maharashtra, as well as parts of Chhattisgarh. According to Police officials in the State, the Maoists are determined to demonstrate their relevance in this region.
Following these developments, the SFs have reportedly intensified their combing operations in these areas and have released wall posters across the border areas, with information about the Maoist leaders who have been actively leading the 12 ‘area committees’ in the State. Local people were requested to pass on information to the Police on the movements of the Maoists.
The Maoists have suffered body blows in Telangana – their erstwhile heartland for decades – but have not given up. They still possess the capacity to elicit tremors of sympathy among certain sections of the population. While the SFs have established clear dominance in the region, the challenge of the Maoist insurgency is still not over.
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management