After steadily losing ground in Andhra Pradesh since 2006, the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) in 2011, had become a mere shadow of its past. In 2012, it appears to have managed to arrest a further downward slide, which could have resulted in the Party being virtually wiped out in the State.
According to the partial data compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal, the State has witnessed 10 Maoist-related fatalities - six civilians, one Security Force (SF) trooper and three Maoists - till December 30, 2012. There were ten 10 fatalities in 2011 as well - six civilians and four Maoists. The killing of a Head Constable of the Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) of Andhra Pradesh Police on April 26, 2012, marred the record of zero SF fatalities since 2009. The Maoists had made an earlier attempt on the life of slain SIB Head Constable, Pangi Appanna, four years ago. He was eventually killed, the Maoists claimed, for allegedly converting Girijan (lower caste) youths into Police informers with inducement of money, directly undermining the ´revolution.´
Union Ministry of Home Affairs data indicates 14 fatalities in 2012 (as on November 30, 2012), including with 11 civilians, one SF and three Maoists; as against 11 fatalities - nine civilians and two Maoists - in 2011.
In 2011, fatalities had been reported from three Districts - Visakhapatnam, Khammam, and Warangal. In 2012, fatalities were, again, reported from three Districts - Visakhapatnam (4), Khammam (5) and Karimnagar (1). Interestingly, in a reversal of roles, Visakhapatnam, which had reported the highest number of civilian fatalities (five out of six) in 2011, has reported most of the Maoist fatalities in 2012 (two out of three). Similarly, Khammam had reported all the four Maoist fatalities in 2011, but, in 2012, it accounts for most of the civilian fatalities (four out of six). Karimnagar enters the picture with one civilian fatality, while Warangal exited the picture, recording no fatality. There have been no major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) through 2012. Given the spatial distribution of fatalities, Visakhapatnam and Khammam, appear to have become the principal locus of Maoist activities.
Moreover, Maoists exchanged fire with SF personnel four times in Khammam and once in Visakhapatnam District. They also triggered three blasts in Visakhapatnam and one in Khammam. One of the explosions in Visakhapatnam was purportedly triggered to protest against bauxite mining in the region. Interestingly, all five arson incidents reported in the year were from Visakhapatnam District. In one of these, a BSNL tower was torched in protest against the killing of a Maoist cadre in the Koraput District of Odisha. Maoist cadres also abducted two youth from Khammam District; however, they returned home safely the next day. Further, Maoists disrupted railway services on the border of Visakhapatnam District, creating a significant challenge for authorities to maintain railway freight traffic, particularly in the Kottavalasa and Kirandul (KK) sector, the single line between Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
Purely in numerical terms, the incidence of Maoist-linked violence has registered a marginal increase in 2012, over 2011. However, the spatial distribution of incidents remained overwhelmingly confined to Vishakhapatnam and Khammam in 2012, while in 2011, apart from these two Districts, incidents were reported from Warangal, Vizianagaram and Karimnagar Districts as well. Nevertheless, on May 10, 2012, the Maoists organised a ´praja adalat´ (Kangaroo court) at Mukkunur village in the Mahadevpur Forest area in Karimnagar District, where they badly assaulted two local leaders of the ruling party, and opened fire on one of them when they attempted to flee.
The Maoists called for two nation-wide general strikes on March 24 and May 16, 2012. The March 24 strike evoked a significant response in Visakhapatnam District. They also called for one general strike each in Khammam, the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) zone, and the North Telangana (NT) region, as well as two general strikes in Visakhapatnam District. The general strikes in Visakhapatnam were called to protest against ´Operation Green Hunt´ in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. Significantly, the ´general strikes´ had no notable effect, except in Visakhapatnam and Khammam Districts.
The state´s successes against the Maoists continued to grow, with an 86 per cent increase in the number of Maoist arrests recorded in partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal; 93 Maoists were arrested in 2012, as against 50 in 2011. The top arrests included Tupakula Ramanjaneyamma alias Santhi, a leader of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), carrying a bounty of INR 500,000; CPI-Marxist Leninist-Janashakti ´state secretary´ Subhash alias Narayanalingam Tyagaraju alias Prakash; and Punem Saraiah, a CPI-Maoist ´militia commander-in-chief´ of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. The majority of arrests were made in Khammam (29), Visakhapatnam (15) and Warangal (11) Districts.
Further, the number of Maoist surrenders also increased visibly. According to SATP data a total of 259 Maoists surrendered in 2012, in comparison to 88 in 2011, and 66 in 2010. Khammam and Visakhapatnam saw the largest numbers of surrenders in 2012. On March 31 and June 24, 2012, 75 and 148 Maoists surrendered in Visakhapatnam and Khammam Districts respectively. One of the top-most surrenders of the year would be Bandarapu Mallaiah alias Chandranna, the ´chief´ of Maoists´ Southern Division in the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra State, and his wife Gadhagoni Balavva alias Vijaya. Chandranna is a prime accused in the killing of 15 Policemen in an ambush in Lahiri (Gadchiroli, Maharashtra) in 2009.
Commenting on the Maoist activities in the State, Andhra Pradesh Director-General of Police (DGP) V. Dinesh Reddy on December 24, 2012 said that the State Police had successfully kept the Maoists under check in 2012 by arresting as many 299 extremists, including Maoist leaders, while 304 Maoists surrendered. There were four exchanges of fire, in which three extremists died and 51 weapons were recovered. Further, he disclosed, "There are over 300 underground cadres from Andhra Pradesh, of which around 200 migrated to other states, while the rest of the underground cadres stay in bordering Districts of other States and occasionally cross over into Andhra Pradesh. However, the Andhra Pradesh Police has been driving them back."
In addition, according to a senior officer involved in anti-Maoist operations in the Andhra-Odisha Border region, about 20 arms dumps were identified and recovered by the SFs, including the discovery of a 10-year-old arms depot in the Mangi Forest in Adilabad District, which was once considered a hotbed of the Maoists in their North Telangana heartland. In the East Godavari District, a major recovery include six to eight main parts of a rocket launcher, iron rods used as barrels of double and single barrel guns, etc. According to Police sources, the rocket launcher parts were believed to have been procured from Chennai (Tamil Nadu), where the outfit´s technical committee member, Madhu, had established a manufacturing unit.
Despite Police successes and a declining presence, the Maoists appear in no mood to give up. The surrender of Kursinge Divya alias Bharatakka, a 15-year-old tribal Left Wing Extremist (LWE), in Adilabad District on February 9, 2012, exposed a Maoist network of ´sleeper cells´ which had been established to build up an alternative communication network. Earlier, Kanthi Ravinder alias Suresh, a sympathiser from the Kadem mandal (administrative unit) in the same District, was caught trying to recruit youngsters into the Maoist fold, on 29 October, 2011. Divya´s interrogation disclosed that Ravinder was, in fact, reviving contacts with ´sleepers´ who study in high schools or junior colleges in the area. The general modus operandi involved organising cultural programmes with revolutionary overtones, in ashram schools (boarding schools) apparently to mentally prepare the tribal children to join the underground stream when required.
Reports also suggest that the Maoists are desperately trying to regain their hold in the State by piggy-backing on the Telangana movement. During the agitation in support of a separate Telangana State in September 2012, when a number of Policemen from the Kagaznagar Police Sub-Division of Adilabad District were deployed in Hyderabad, the Maoists crossed over into Adilabad from the Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra State. The Maoists crossed the Pranahita River in the Dahegaon mandal on the District´s border with Gadchiroli. Sources also indicate that armed groups are seen quite frequently in the Mangi Forest and parts of the Indervelli mandal, also in Adilabad . Police investigations have also revealed that the Maoists are resuming activites in the Chennur, Utnoor, Kadem and Indervelli mandals of Adilabad District, though little ´overground´ violence has been reported.
Speaking during the Chief Ministers´ conference in New Delhi on April 16, 2012, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy claimed that the number of underground Maoist cadres in the State had been brought down to 150 from an estimated 1,100 eight years ago. However, according to media reports, the Andhra Pradesh Home Department estimates suggest that some 400 Maoists currently operate in the State. Police sources suggest that a significant proportion of Maoists in the State suffer from chronic diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, various skin diseases, and recurrent malaria.
On August 9, 2012, the Andhra Pradesh Government once again extended the ban on the Maoists and six of their affiliates by another year, while adding the Revolutionary Democratic Front to the list of "unlawful associations".
In the bid to flush out the Maoists from the AOB region, the Andhra Government is setting up paramilitary and Special Force bases in the North Coastal Districts. The Border Security Force (BSF) is setting up a base in Srikakulam District, while the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) has selected Anandapuram in Visakhapatnam for its camp. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is also planning to set up a regional base in the Kothavalasa mandal in Vizianagaram District. State Director General of Police (DGP), V. Dinesh Reddy, on November 3, 2012, stated that 15 helicopters would be deployed to track and flush the Maoists out of the State and UAVs would be available for full-fledged operations within three to four months. However, the Police population ratio (the number of Policemen per 100,000 population) in Andhra Pradesh has declined to 106 as on December 31, 2011 (according to Nastional Crime Records Bureau data) from 131 as on December 31, 2010.
In December 2012, in order to encourage Maoists to surrender, the State Government announced cash rewards ranging from INR 100,000 to INR 2.5 million. These are the highest amounts that any Maoist-affected State has offered so far. According to the State Government order, each central committee leader or politburo member, who surrenders, would be eligible for a onetime package of INR 2.5 million, against the INR1.2 million offered earlier, in addition to a further reward for depositing weapons. The reward for State Committee members who give up arms has been hiked to INR two million, against INR one million earlier. Divisional and District Committee members would get INR 500,000 and INR 400,000, respectively. ´Commander´ rank leaders would receive INR 400,000; their deputies INR 200,000. A dalam (armed squad) member would get INR 100,000, up from INR 20,000 earlier.
The Maoists in Andhra Pradesh are currently more or less confined to the Vishakhapatnam and Khammam Districts, though they are desperately trying to revive activities in Karimnagar and Adilabad. Maoist attempts to piggy-back on the Telangana movement have, so far, yielded no tangible results. Fortunately, Union Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde has aired his concerns regarding the Maoist factor in the Telangana movement, and this may help efforts to prevent Telangana politics from giving the Maoists a chance to make a comeback. Further, sustained Police pressure on the Maoists has already resulted in increasing surrenders and arrests of Maoist cadres and leaders through 2012. The Andhra Pradesh Police demonstrate no evidence of flagging will or efforts, and it is unlikely that the Maoists will succeed in any dramatic measure in restoring their dominance in what was, at one time, the very heartland of the movement and the crucible for its national leadership.
(The writer Mrinal Kanta Das is Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management)
(The view expressed in the article is of the author and not India Blooms News Service)