By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On January 8, 2019, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres surrendered before the Police in East Godavari District. They were identified as Diridi Jogayya aka Peramaiah aka Mukesh, a ‘militia commander’, and Madakam Jogaiah aka Raghu, a ‘militia member’, both native of Pungutta village in Chintur Mandal (administrative sub-division) of East Godavari.
On January 5, 2019, two CPI-Maoist leaders, including Chiranjeevi Lakshmi Narayana Reddy aka Narasimhulu, a ‘Divisional Committee Member (DCM)’; and S. Durga Devi (39), an ‘Area Committee Member (ACM)’, surrendered before the Police in Visakhapatnam District. Narasimhulu had joined the Maoist party in 1994 and worked in various capacities at various places. During an exchange of fire in 1997 at Rayavaram in Kadapa District, Narasimhulu was severely injured and the Police had arrested him. After getting released on bail, he again joined the Maoist party and worked as ‘deputy commander’ in the Talakona Dalam (armed squad) of Chittoor District. There were several cases registered against him, including murder. Durga had joined the Maoists in 2003 and used to provide information about the Police to the Maoists.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least four Naxalites [Left-Wing Extremists] have surrendered in 2019 (data till February 24) in Andhra Pradesh. During the corresponding period of 2018, at least 14 Naxalites had surrendered. The total number of such surrenders through 2018 stood at 49. In 2017, 60 Naxalites had surrendered in the State; another 32 in 2016; 114 in 2015; and 129 in 2014.
Though no Naxalite has been arrested in the current year (data till February 24, 2019), during the corresponding period of 2018, one Naxalite had been arrested. A total of at least 24 such arrests had been recorded through 2018, in addition to eight such arrests in 2017, according to the SATP database. The number of arrests was 18 in 2016, 42 in 2015, and 60 in 2014.
Compared to the killing of three Maoists in 2017, the State did not record any Maoists killed in 2018. The last fatality among Maoists was recorded on February 27, 2017, when a CPI-Maoist cadre, identified as Kotesu, died on the spot and a ‘Sabari Committee militia commander’, Kaaki Kannayya, suffered injuries while planting a pressure bomb near National Highway 30in East Godavari District. The last incident of Maoists killed in an encounter with the Security Forces (SFs) took place on February 24, 2017, when a Greyhounds team killed two Maoists in Visakhapatnam District.
Since, the formation of CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, the State has recorded at least 429 Naxalite deaths. The highest number of 167 fatalities among Naxalites were registered way back in 2005. A former CPI-Maoist leader Ponnoju Parameswara Rao aka Viswanadh aka Papanna aka Nandu, died on June 21, 2018, while undergoing treatment in Visakhapatnam District. Joining the movement in 1984, Viswanadh rose to the ‘divisional committee member (DCM)’, in the Korukonda Dalam in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) division, and was member of the squad that abducted seven Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers, including the then principal secretary of Andhra Pradesh, S.R. Sankaran, on December 27, 1987, at Gurtedu in East Godavari. The IAS officers were released after 12 days in Naxalite custody, when the then N.T. Rama Rao Government yielded to the Naxalite demand to release top People’s War Group (PWG) leaders from the Rajahmundry Central Jail, including Wadkapur Chandramouli. Civil Liberties activist K.G. Kannabiran negotiated with the Naxalites in this crisis. In 2011, Ponnoju Parameswara Rao and his wife surrendered and were given cultivable land at Devarapalle by the State Government. During his stay in Maoist ranks, he was very close to senior leaders and ‘Central Committee (CC) members’ such as Patel Sudhakar Reddy and Mallojula Koteswara Rao aka Kishenji.
Significantly, SFs did not suffer any loss through 2018, though one trooper had died in 2017. On May 5, 2017, a Home Guard, identified as Sheikh Valli, was killed in a landmine blast triggered by CPI-Maoist cadres on the Lothugedda junction-Balapam stretch in Visakhapatnam District. Since the formation of CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, at least 37 SF fatalities have been recorded in Andhra Pradesh. There has been no SF fatality, thus far, in the current year (data till February 24, 2019).
SF dominance has resulted in an overall positive kill ratio of 1:11.59 against the Maoists, with 429 LWEs killed against 37 SF personnel, since the formation of CPI-Maoist in 2004. SFs have maintained a positive kill ratio since 2005. Significantly, in five years SFs have suffered no losses of their own while eliminating 18 LWEs in 2009, 16 in 2010, four in 2011, two in 2015, and five in 2016.
Though the overall security situation in the State in terms of Left Wing Extremism-linked violence has improved considerably over the past years, some concerns persist. There were three civilian fatalities in 2018 and five in 2017. Significantly, 2018 marked the lowest civilian fatalities (three) in such violence since September 21, 2004. The previous low of five civilian fatalities was recorded twice, in 2016 and 2017. The highest ever civilian fatalities, since the formation of CPI-Maoist in 2004, in LWE-linked violence in Andhra Pradesh was 132, in 2005. Significantly, no civilian fatality has been recorded, thus far, in the current year (data till February 24, 2019).
In an audacious attack, on September 23, 2018, CPI-Maoist cadres gunned down Kidari Sarveswara Rao, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Siveru Soma, a former MLA, also belonging to TDP, near Livitiput village in Dumbriguda Mandal in the Agency area of Visakhapatnam District. In addition, the CPI-Maoist ‘central committee’ released a letter and threatened to kill the TDP MLA from Paderu, Giddi Eswari, alleging that she was “harassing” tribals by promoting bauxite mining in the region. Accusing Eswari of accepting INR 200 million from TDP and changing her party, the group advised her to fight against bauxite excavation and to distribute the money to the people within two months. The letter warned that Eswari “will get the same punishment as the other two [Araku MLA Sarveswara Rao and former Araku MLA Siveri Soma], if she does not change her methods.”In the letter, the Maoists also sought to justify the killing of MLA Rao and former MLA Soma, arguing that they were ‘sentenced’ for tribal harassment, as they favoured bauxite excavation, which was affecting the livelihood of the tribals in the vicinity.
There were some other indicators suggesting some feeble efforts for a Naxalite revival in the State, which had been an erstwhile stronghold of the Maoists. According to SATP data, the Naxalites triggered at least four landmine blasts in 2018, in addition to the same number in 2017. One incident of arson was registered in 2018, and three in 2017. The Maoists issued bandh (total shut down) calls on two occasions in 2018, while they were no such calls through 2017.
Nevertheless, according to an August 9, 2018, report, the Maoists have decided to organise more village meetings to augment their cadre base, with a focus on the Galikonda area of the Ananthagiri Mandal in Visakhapatnam District, an area which they once dominated, but where they have weakened considerably. The same report also revealed that the Maoists’top leadership had entrusted this revival to Boda Anjayya aka Naveen, ‘chief’ of the ‘Korukonda Area Committee’, and a trusted lieutenant of Gajarla Ravi aka Uday, currently in-charge of the ‘Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC)’ region. Earlier, on June 16, 2018, West Godavari District Superintendent of Police (SP) M. Ravi Prakash disclosed that, in their effort to revive the organisation, the Maoists were using Polavaram, Velairpadu and Kukunuru Mandals in the West Godavari Agency areas as shelter zones.
Further, according to data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on March 27, 2018, at least eight Districts [Anantapur, East Godavari, Guntur, Kurnool, Prakasam, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram] of Andhra Pradesh were still afflicted by LWE-violence. One of these, Vishakhapatnam, was among the ‘30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts in the country, listed by UMHA.
On November 29, 2018, Visakhapatnam SP (Rural), Attada Babujee, disclosed, “The Maoists are now focusing on hitting back and regaining strength.”
Several measures initiated in the past have resulted in the sustained gains of the last several years. The Governments has also taken took up some significant new schemes. On February 12, 2019, the Union Government informed Parliament that, in April 2018, it had approved a proposal for setting up a state-of-the-art Greyhounds Training Centre in Andhra Pradesh at a cost of INR 2.1916 billion, and the estimated time for completion of the project was three years from the date of commencement.
There have also been several new programs to boost development in the Naxalite afflicted areas of the State. The Union Government on August 3, 2018, informed the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the India Parliament) that a Special Development Package for the seven backward Districts of the Andhra Pradesh, amounting to INR 21 billion, had been announced, with INR three billion going to each District. An amount of INR 10.5 billion (three installments of INR 3.5 billion at INR 500 million per District) had been disbursed for backward areas and a further amount of INR 10.5 billion would be released in a second phase. Anantapur, Kurnool, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, YSR Kadapa and Chittoor, were identified as backward Districts. The first five of these are in the list of eight LWE affected Districts in the State.
In a significant development, on December 20, 2018, a large number of tribal people from the interior villages of G.K. Veedhi and Koyyuru Mandals in Visakhapatnam District participated in a rally against the CPI-Maoist, demanding that the banned outfit stop interfering in development activities in their region, especially the construction of roads. Holding placards and posters such as ‘We need roads,’ the tribal women said that the Maoists should allow development in the Agency.
Some deficiencies, nevertheless, persist in the security apparatus of the State. At least 11,596 Police posts were vacant in the State as on January 1, 2017, against a sanctioned strength of 61,048 – a deficit of 18.99 per cent – according to the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). Moreover, against the sanctioned strength of the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) Officers in the State at 144, just 120 were in position, considerably weakening decision-making in the Force. The police-population ratio (Policemen per hundred thousand population) in the State was 95.74 per 100,000, significantly lower than the appallingly low national average of 137.11 [over 220 Policemen per 100,000 population are considered necessary even for ‘peacetime policing’], according to BPR&D, as on January 1, 2016 [Disaggregated data of population/area for Andhra Pradesh & Telangana not available for 2017].
The enduring peace established by a successful battle against the Maoist insurgency in Andhra Pradesh needs further consolidation, with a strong focus on both security and developmental measures.
*Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management