By Deepak Kumar Nayak*
On August 19, 2019, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres of the East Division squad, which is led by Venkata Ravi Chaitanya aka Aruna, were killed by the Security Forces (SFs) at Mandapalli village under GK Veedhi Mandal (administrative unit) in Visakhapatnam District. Police recovered some Maoist literatures, a couple of kit bags, about 10 tiffin carriers, wire bundles and two radio sets from the encounter spot. The identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained.
On July 18, 2019, two tribal civilians were shot dead by CPI-Maoist cadres at Veeravaram village of Chintapalli Block (administrative unit) in Visakhapatnam District. The victims, identified as Emilli Satti Babu (40) and Pangi Raja Rao (43), were branded as ‘police informers’ by the Maoists. A third tribal – Pangi Linga, was brutally assaulted on similar charges. Annaram Sub-Inspector Raghu Varma disclosed, “They first beat up the three tribals branding them as police informers and then gunned two of them down. Linga repeatedly pleaded with them to spare him. They beat him black and blue with sticks and left him at his house.” The Maoists left a note at the village saying that they were compelled to kill the two tribals as they were responsible for killing of two of their colleagues – Sarat and Gangapati — in the past. “The police informers should accept their mistakes and lead a normal life,” the note added. Maoist leaders Sindri China Ranga Rao aka Sarat, a ‘district committee’ member, and Palasa Gangapati, a militia member killed a tribal priest in Veeravaram village on October 20, 2014. The villagers subsequently lynched Sarat and Gangapati.
On June 28, 2019, CPI-Maoist cadres killed a tribal youth after branding him a ‘police informer’ in Bongjangi village in Pedabayalu Mandal, Visakhapatnam District. The victim was identified as Kora Sattibabu (21), a resident of Bongjangi. In a blood-stained letter found at the site of the killing, the Maoists said that he was shot dead after holding a ‘praja court’ (people’s/ kangaroo court). Sattibabu had earlier worked as a ‘militia’ member. They accused him of using his position to extort money from the neighbouring villages. The Maoists said he did not change his ways despite being ‘warned’ several times. Instead, Sattibabu had joined hands with the Police and passed on information to the SFs, the Maoists alleged in the letter. As a result, many ‘militia’ members were arrested. Sattibabu also had a hand in the surrender of many members in the recent past. Those turning into ‘police informers’ would meet a similar fate, the Maoists warned.
According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least seven fatalities (three civilians and four Maoists) have been registered in four Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked incidents of killing in Andhra Pradesh since the beginning of 2019 (data till August 25, 2019). During the corresponding period of 2018, only one fatality (civilian) was recorded in one such incident, and in the remaining period of 2018, another two fatalities (both civilians) were registered in one such incident.
With seven fatalities already recorded in the current year, the trend of declining fatalities in LWE-linked violence, on year on year basis, in the State has been reversed again. The overall fatalities stood at 10 (five civilians and five Maoists) in 2016; fell to nine (five civilians, one trooper, and three Maoists) in 2017; and further, to three (all civilians) in 2018. The three fatalities registered in 2018 were the lowest recorded in a year in the State since March 6, 2000, when the SATP started compiling data on LWE-Linked violence.
The spurt in LWE-linked violence is a cause of concern, especially since Andhra Pradesh had experienced the consolidation of an enduring peace for some time now.
The Maoists are now expanding their campaigns to terrorise civilians. According to a July 2, 2019, report, as many as 23 people from the Visakhapatnam Agency, belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), met Collector V. Vinay Chand at the Collectorate, and sought protection from the CPI-Maoist, stating,
|We are eking out our livelihood by raising crops along the hill slopes and educating our children to ensure their better future. The Maoists are coming to our hamlets and advising us against sending our children to schools and colleges or for jobs at government offices. They are also warning us against using cellphones. The Maoists were suspecting everyone using a cellphone thinking that they were passing on information to the Police on their movements. The Maoists are beating up tribal people and sometimes killing them. The tribal youth are opposing them and have decided to prevent their entry to our hamlets. The Maoists killed Korra Sattibabu of Ginnelakota Panchayat (village level local self-Government institution) in Pedabayalu Mandal recently after picking him up from the village, promising that he would be sent back after questioning. The tribal people were living in a State of constant fear of being picked up and killed by the Maoists.|
The Maoists are also trying to stir up discontent by spreading misinformation. In one such instance, on May 16, 2019, in a letter addressed to the then Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Minister Chintakayala Ayyanna Patrudu, former minister for health and tribal welfare Kidari Sravan Kumar, then Paderu Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Giddi Eswari and local leaders of Visakhapatnam, the Maoists stated,
|There are 30 tribal village people nearby Chapagadda, RV Nagar and Siribala estate. Villagers boycotted to work under the Andhra Pradesh Forest Development Corporation (APFDC) in 2017. Till now, the Police and APFDC are filing fake cases against them in the name of Maoists supporters. Police has detained 6 members of farmers illegally on International Labour Day May 1. Till today, they were not released. What’s going on in the tribal area? Is it democracy or police ruling? We (Maoist) hope that TDP leaders are behind the police and extortion categories (sic)…|
The letter further warned,
|TDP should take responsibility and release villagers immediately, if not then TDP leaders have to face the consequences for our (Maoists) actions next time.|
Similarly, giving a bandh (general shutdown) call on April 5, 2019, to protest the killing of two of their cadres, the Maoists stated that the two killed were villagers and were innocent farmers and not its members as claimed by the SFs. Incidentally, Batti Bhushanam (52) and Sidaari Jamadhar (30) were reportedly killed on March 16, 2019, by the SFs near Buradamamidi village in the Pedakodapalli Panchayat under Pedabayalu Mandal in Visakhapatnam District.
Earlier, through a letter released on March 30, 2019, Kailash aka Kailasam, ‘secretary’ of the Malkangiri-Koraput-Visakhapatnam Border (MKVB) Division, made the allegation that the then TDP Government was using repressive tactics to exploit natural resources in the tribal areas. In the letter Kailasam alleged,
|The SFs were arresting and torturing innocent tribals and destroying their crops and livestock. The Opposition parties were not condemning the repressive tactics and this indicated that they were hand in glove with the State Government.|
The Maoists are also attempting to increase their influence in three southern States, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and particularly Andhra Pradesh. According to a July 4, 2019, report, the security agencies have flagged increased Maoist activity at the tri-junction of these States. To ensure that the Maoist rebels do not gain any foothold in the southern states, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in consultation with the States, has initiated pre-emptive Police action in these areas. Accordingly, an unnamed UMHA official asserted, “there will be a decisive push” against the Maoists, and the focus will be on southern States where increased Maoist activity has been observed of late.
Meanwhile, on July 15, 2019, the State Government issued an order for reconstituting the high-power Cabinet Sub-committee to take decisions on the issues connected with LWE problems in the State. The Sub-committee is tasked to look into various issues connected with rehabilitation of surrendered extremists; review implementation of the policy of payment of ex-gratia to the next of kin of deceased persons in extremist violence; review implementation of policy of payment of ex-gratia for damage caused to the houses and movable properties due to extremist violence; and to solve other issues related to the LW extremism.
On August 7, 2019, the State Government of Andhra Pradesh extended the ban on the CPI-Maoist and seven of its front organisations [All India Revolutionary Students’ Federation, the Viplava Karmika Samakhya, the Singareni Karmika Samakhya, the Radical Students’ Union, the Rythu Coolie Sangham, the Radical Youth League, and the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF)] for one year under the A.P. Public Security Act, 1992. State Principal Secretary (Protocol) R.P. Sisodia stated,
|The CPI-Maoist and its organisations continued to indulge in unlawful activities, which posed a serious danger and menace to public order, peace and tranquillity if their activities were not stopped. The Government, therefore, declared them as “unlawful associations” for the said period.|
With the exception of RDF, the ban on the remaining organisations was extended with effect from August 17, 2019. The ban on RDF was extended with effect from August 9, 2019.
The Maoists have suffered severe loses across the country, compelling them to look for opportunities of revival in areas of their erstwhile dominance. Despite the significant dominance of SFs in these regions, every opportunity will be capitalized. It is necessary to acknowledge the Maoists’ capacities for resurgence and ensure there is no weakening of operational pressure by the SFs.
- Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management