In 2013, however, there were signs that Maoists are desperate to come back into the light.
In the night of December 5, 2013, members of the CPI-Maoist's Galikonda area committee descended on the Panasalabanda village in G.K.Veedhi mandal(administrative unit) in Visakhapatnam District at around 10:30 pm, woke up a former president of the Vana Samrakshana Samiti (Forest Conservation Committee), Gemmeli Chinna Rao, took him to the nearby Sapparla village, where he was brought before a Praja Court (People's Court, euphemism for a Kangaroo court). He was awarded the 'death penalty' and executed immediately. His family was told to leave the village. Some pamphlets were left beside his body claiming he had been harassing local villagers and denying them benefits of various Government schemes.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Maoists have killed at least 10 civilians in 2013, as against six in 2012. Two Maoists have been killed in the year, as against three in 2012. As a whole, the State has witnessed 13 Maoist-related fatalities in 2013 - 10 civilians, one Security Force (SF) trooper and two Maoists - till December 15. There were 10 fatalities in 2012 - six civilians, one Security Force (SF) trooper and two Maoists.
In terms of spatial distribution, fatalities in 2013 have been reported from four Districts - Vishakhapatnam (six civilians and one Maoist), Khammam (three civilian and one Policeman) Karimnagar (one civilian) and Nellor (one Maoist). In 2012, fatalities were reported from three districts - Vishakhapatnam (one civilian, one policeman and two Maoists), Khammam (four civilians and one Maoist) and Karimnagar (one civilian).
The Maoists engineered one major (three or more fatalities) incident in 2013, killing three tribals in the Lakkavaram forest area in G.K. Veedhi mandal of Visakhapatnam District on February 19. There were no major incidents in 2012 and 2011.
More significantly, Maoists organised at least four Praja courts in 2013, all in Visakhapatnam District, as against just one in 2012. Similarly, Maoists conducted one swarming attack (involving 50 or more cadres/militia members) in 2013 while there was none in 2012.
Maoists also gave boycott call to the Panchayat (local bodies) elections that were held in three phases in July and tried to disrupt the process. They prevented candidates from filling nominations in 11 panchayats and forced candidates to withdraw nominations in three panchayats. They also snatched nomination papers in sixpanchayats.
However, other categories of Maoist violence have witnessed a marginal decline. The Maoists were involved in at least three exchange of fire, one blast, one incident of arson, four cases of assault and gave call for bandh (general shutdown strikes) on three occasions in 2013, while in 2012 they were involved in five exchange of fire, one abduction, three blasts, five incidents of arson, one case of assault and six bandhcalls. Decline in these kind of violence and increase in other kinds indicate that with a depleted strength the Maoists are using their resources selectively to punch higher than their current strength.
In terms of overall activities, the Maoist activities appear to have been substantially confined to Visakhapatnam and Khammam Districts, while Karimnagar, Warangal Srikakulam, Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar, East and West Godavari Districts remained marginally affected.
The number of arrests and surrenders witnessed a decline. According to SATP data, while a total of 65 Maoists were arrested in Andhra Pradesh in 2013, the number was 99 in 2012. Likewise, the number of surrenders fell to 67 in 2013, against 244 in 2012. The Andhra Police's biggest success in the year was the arrest of Central Committee member Anukul Chandra Naskar alias Goer Chandra Naskar alias Pareshji, in southern Assam's Cachar District, in a joint operation with Assam Police, on May 8, 2013. Another significant catch was Sudarshan alias Srinivas, a member of the Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), who was wanted in connection with several cases, including the killing of the State's former Home Minister A. Madhava Reddy. Sudarshan carried a reward of INR 2 million on his head. He was arrested on March 23, 2013, from an undisclosed location near Wyra town in Khammam District. Other significant arrests include Marpu Venkataramana aliasJagadish, a State Committee member of the AOBSZC carrying reward money of INR 2 million and Pusa Sivanarayana, in-charge of the Central Committee protection platoon carrying reward money of INR 300,000. The significant surrenders include: Dasaram Srinivas alias JNM Vishwanath 'deputy commander' of Malkangiri Division Committee of AOBSZC, (reward money INR 800,000), Sripathi Laxmi, Kalimela 'area committee member' in Malkangiri District of Odisha (reward money INR 500,000), Shanigarapu Uma alias Anitha, wife of Gajerla Ashok alias Janardhan, who is the in-charge of 'military wing' in Gadchiroli Division (reward money INR 500,000), Korra Sattibabu aliasSathish, an area committee member (reward money INR 400,000) and Arun, who worked for past nine years with Special Guerilla Squad of Maoists, which is also considered to the rank of Area Committee Member (reward money INR 400,000).
The most important development which could have a bearing on the future course of the Maoist insurrection in Andhra Pradesh is, however, the Centre's declaration of the decision to bifurcate the State and create a new State of Telangana. The issue has created tremendous tension with many Andhra Pradesh leaders opposing the move. Significantly, the Maoists have long seen the agitation for a separate Telangana as anopportunity to engineer their own revival in what were once their heartland areas in the Telangana region. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has argued that the majority of the top Maoist leadership hails from Andhra Pradesh, and particularly Telangana. Giving details of the Maoist leadership during a press conference held at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan in New Delhi on November 18 he said, 'Of the 11 Central Committee leaders, nine are from Telangana, while two are from Andhra region; at the next rung [of leadership] of 18 members,15 are from Andhra Pradesh of which 14 are Telanganites and one is from Andhra [region]. The entire Andhra-Orissa border is controlled by nine Maoist leaders, of which three are from Telangana, four from Coastal Andhra and two from Rayalaseema Rayalaseema - and hence the Maoists are likely to make a comeback if separate Telangana is created'. However, according to SATPdata, out of the 39 Central Committee members (which include Politbureau members) of the CPI-Maoist, 14 have been arrested, three killed, one died of malaria and one surrendered while nothing much is known about the status of the rest 20 members. Any administrative infirmity or political disorders in the existing or bifurcated States would certainly allow the Maoists to recover some ground - even if the gains are transient.
Earlier, the Srikrishna Commission had argued strongly that the Maoists were likely to piggy-back on the Telangana movement to attempt a revival in Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh Police, however, rejects this possibility. An internal report presented at the annual Chief Ministers' Conference on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in Delhi in July 2012 claimed, "In all, there are 340 (Maoist) underground workers from Andhra Pradesh, of them 140 are active on the border," while intense combing operations had pushed the remaining 200 into Chhattisgarh. Police officers assert that the cadre numbers in the State have not changed since. A senior AP Police officer stated, "We have a well-entrenched intelligence network and we reached the 140-figure after doing a headcount. All these people have been identified, we have their names and details." There are eight Districts in undivided Andhra Pradesh affected by the LWE problem. While four of these - Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal and Khammam - fall in the Telangana region, Srikakulam, Vijaynagram, Visakhapatnam Rural and East Godavari are in the Andhra region.
While the division of the State, per se, may not have much of a bearing on the trajectory of the Maoist movement, the distribution of assets could result in some difficulties. If the fine coordination between the SIB and Greyhounds is disturbed, things can go wrong. Given the weakness of the CPI-Maoist at this juncture - on their own assessment, the movement is in a "critical condition" - it is unlikely that the Maoists would be able to exploit the opportunity that the creation of a separate Telangana may offer. Nevertheless, the Maoists have displayed tremendous resilience over the decades, recovering repeatedly from what have appeared to be terminal reverses. While the capabilities and confidence of the Andhra Pradesh Police are reassuring, the potential for political mischief has often been demonstrated in the past.
(The writer Fakir Mohan Pradhan is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management)
(The view expressed in the article is of the author and not India Blooms News Service)
--IBNS (Posted on 26-12-2013)