The declining trend in Naxalite or Left Wing Extremist (LWE) violence in Andhra Pradesh, established dramatically since 2006, continued through 2011, with the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) responsible for all significant incidents. The State recorded six civilian and four Maoist fatalities in 2011, as against 17 civilian and 16 Maoist fatalities in 2010. In a remarkable feat, the State, which was once the epicenter of Maoist violence, has not reported a single Security Force (SF) casualty for three years in a row, since 2009. Fatalities in 2011 were, in fact, a tad lower than a third of the previous year. Andhra Pradesh recorded no major incident (involving more than three fatalities), and no incident of ‘swarming attacks’ (involving more than 50 cadres and militia).
Even as the intensity of Maoist-violence reduced in the State, its spatial spread has also contracted further. Maoist-related fatalities were reported from 12 Districts in 2009 and seven Districts in 2010, while in 2011, these were restricted to just three Districts, viz., Visakhapatnam, Warangal, and Khammam. Visakhapatnam accounted for five civilian fatalities, while Warangal witnessed the only other civilian fatality. All Maoist fatalities were reported from the Khammam District alone.
In addition to the incidents in which Maoists fatalities were reported, Maoists exchanged fire with SF personnel on at least another three occasions – once each in Khammam, Warangal and Vizianagaram District. The Maoists also triggered three explosions – two in Visakhapatnam and one in Khammam District. Other incidents of Maoist violence in 2011 included four incidents of setting ablaze construction equipment (three in Khammam and one in Karimnagar) and destruction of Forest Department quarters in Vizianagaram District. The Maoists also abducted two persons in Karimnagar District.
At least 50 Maoists were arrested in the State in 2011, 19 in Khammam; 15 in Visakhapatnam, five in Warangal; four in Guntur; two each in Karimnagar, Vizianagaram and Adilabad; and one in Hyderabad. Among the important arrests, was a `State committee’ leader, Dudekula Rayabose, arrested from Guntur District. Rayabose, a native of Husnabad mandal (administinistrative division) Karimnagar District, had been with the CPI-Maoist for the last two decades.
Another 89 Maoists surrendered through 2011, 66 in Visakhapatnam; eight in Khammam; five in Warangal; four in East Godavari; two each in Medak and Nizamabad; and one each in Karimnagar and Hyderabad. Total surrenders recorded in 2010 amounted to 66. Significant surrenders in 2011 included two ‘commanders’ – Vantala Somaraju alias Sekhar; and Balaraju, who worked along the Andhra-Odisha border (AOB), and carried an INR 300,000 reward on his head. Balaraju’s wife Sunitha who also had a reward of INR 300,000 against her, and who worked with him, also surrendered. The surrender list included three ‘deputy commanders’ – Jartha Nageswara Rao alias Naresh; Gammella Neelanna; and Kakuri Kanthamma alias Shanti alias Syamala
Major recoveries of arms were recorded from three Districts – Khammam, Srikakulam and Chittor. In the unearthing of one arms dump in the Mailapadu mandal of Srikakulam District, Police recovered 1,600 grenade, plastic chambers, springs, rings, safety-pins, hammers, live ammunition and 6 rocket launchers, were also found. It was reported that the material recovered was sufficient to assemble 3,000 grenades.
An analysis by SATP of violence, as well as of overground and underground activities by the Maoists through 2011, indicates that only three Districts in the State – Visakhapatnam, Warangal, and Khammam – remain in the ‘highly affected’ category; Karimnagar, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Guntur, Chittoor and East Godavari are ‘moderately affected’; while another four Districts – West Godavari, Adilabad, Nizamabad and Medak are ‘marginally affected’ by Naxalite activities.
Towards the end of 2011, the Andhra Police estimated that there were around 340 underground Maoist cadres remaining in the State, of whom 140 were on the borders with other States, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Andhra Pradesh Police Chief, V. Dinesh Reddy, in a media report dated November 25, 2011, asserted that the Maoists, at one time, had over three thousand cadres in the State.
In June 2011, K.V.V. Gopala Rao, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Srikakulam District, had claimed that there were only eight top Maoists leaders left in the troubled Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) zone. The SP identified these leaders as Nambala Kesava Rao, Central Committee member and in-charge of international affairs; AOB Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) member, Chelluri Narayana Rao; Marpu Venkataramana [former secretary of east division of AOB; Mettaru Joga Rao, member, AOBSZC; and dalam (squad) leaders, Boddu Kundanalu, Erothu Sundaramma, Chelluri Indumathi and Maddu Dhanalakshmi.
Despite cumulative and continuing setbacks, the Maoists persisted in their efforts to regain a foothold in the State. This was most in evidence in their desperate attempts to infiltrate and manipulate the Telengana Movement, which was repeatedly pushed over into aggressive demonstrations and intimidatory mass violence.
Further, a report on the law and order situation in the State, which was tabled at the Collectors’ Conference on December 16, 2011, observed that some unresolved conflicts involving developmental projects had the potential to provide leverage to Maoists in the foreseeable future. These conflicts included opposition to the Sompeta and Kakarapalli thermal power plant projects in Srikakulam District; a nuclear power plant project in Vizianagaram; the Hindujas’Power Plant in Visakhapatnam; and the setting up of eight thermal plants on either side of the Krishnapatnam port in Nellore District. The report also highlighted mining issues, particularly bauxite mining in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam; iron ore mining in Anantapur and Khammam.
In April 2011, the Special Intelligence Branch of the anti-Maoist agency of Andhra Pradesh Police had recovered key documents and sketches with details of how the Maoists planned to defend themselves against air attacks, and to capture airports. The syllabus for military training of Maoist cadres is accordingly being revamped, with the introduction of a manual, titled Guerrilla Air Defence, written by the ‘Central Military Commissioner’ and senior Maoist, Tipparthi Tirupati alias ‘Devji’ of Andhra Pradesh. This document includes instructions on how to kill air borne commandos as they rappelled off choppers.
Top security officials involved in anti-Naxalite operations in neighbouring Chhattisgarh and other States indicate that an increasing number of Maoist cadres were now using High Frequency (HF) radio waves instead of Very High Frequency (VHF) waves used earlier, in order to escape surveillance radars available with state intelligence units. The SFs are now planning to obtain and deploy advanced interception equipment which can intercept HF communications.
On its part, the State Police has sought to augment its anti-Maoist capacities. The Andhra Pradesh Government, in October 2011, announced that it would press into service an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for a close monitoring of Maoist activities in dense forests. The UAV, along with a chopper for rescue operations, had been sanctioned by the Centre to beef up the surveillance set-up. The UAV would have its base station at Madurapudi in the coastal city of Rajahmundry. The cost of these UAV’s can vary depending upon the type of payload used, and whether indigenously built, or imported, from a figure of INR 3 million to as high as INR 30 million. The Andhra DGP Reddy commenting on the news of their procurement asserted, “It (the UAV) will help us track down the activities of Naxals even in the thick forests and also send back images.”
The Police population ratio in Andhra Pradesh which stood at 96 at the end of 2007 was increased to 99 in 2008, further to 128 in 2009, has reached 131, as on December 31, 2010.
To supplement Police action against the Maoists, the State Government is also implementing major development programs in Maoist affected Districts. Eight Districts – East Godavari, Karimnagar, Khammam, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Warangal and Adilabad – are currently under the centrally sponsored Integrated Action Plan (IAP). Further, in March 2011, Soumya Misra, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Visakha Range, claimed that CPI-Maoist activities in the AOBSZ had declined as a result of new strategies adopted by the Police in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam Districts. The DIG emphasized that the spate of surrenders across this region was due to State Police initiatives which included, amongst others, a sincere effort to provide employment opportunities to tribal youth, minimizing the Maoists’ recruitment base among impoverished tribal populations.
The Andhra Pradesh experience remains a dramatic example of what can be achieved by a coherent, sustained and well-resourced strategy, with a clear political mandate, and a committed Police leadership, against what was, not long ago, one of the country’s most virulent internal challenges. It is India’s abiding tragedy that this experience has not been sufficiently studied and understood by the political, security and intelligence leaderships of the country and other afflicted States, which continue to blunder about with contradictory and confused initiatives that have contributed directly to the spread and consolidation of the Maoist movement. Worse, political mischief and adventurism within segments of the Andhra and national leadership have even put at risk the extraordinary counter-insurgency gains in this State, as they play with fire in the Telengana agitation, creating renewed opportunities for a Maoist revival which, though this has been held effectively at bay by the State’s Police and intelligence apparatus.
The Maoists, indeed, concede their progressive loss of influence in their heartland areas in Andhra Pradesh as a result, not only of the state’s operational responses, but also a dramatic transformation of the social and economic profile. Citing a critical CPI-Maoist document, SAIR noted, in July 2011,
Indeed, in their Social Investigation of North Telangana: Case Study of Warangal, probably drafted towards the end of 2001 or early 2002, the Maoists concede that a wide range of social, political and economic transformations in the region have made recruitment difficult, and popular cooperation with the Police far more frequent, undermining the very possibility of effective Maoist mobilization. The tone of much of this document verges on the comical, as there is constant lamentation over precisely these improvements, and the impact they have had on the ‘revolutionary potential’ in what was, for decades, the Maoist heartland.
The Maoists have, however, repeatedly proved themselves to be extraordinarily adaptable and inventive adversaries, rising repeatedly from the ashes to mount a devastating challenge to state power. Despite the tremendous recovery the state apparatus in Andhra Pradesh has engineered against the Maoist insurgency, there can be absolutely no room for complacency.