HYDERABAD – Andhra Pradesh, once a stronghold of Naxalites, is now witnessing a steady decline in Maoist movement with the cadre strength coming down to 335, the lowest in the three decade-old history of the extremist movement.
Police sources familiar with anti-Naxal operations said that in the last 18 months, the number of Maoists from the state had come down from 408 to 335 while fresh recruitments had almost dried up. A majority of the top leaders of the CPI (Maoist) hail from AP but are now operating from the forest areas in the neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. “The Maoists are facing a rapid erosion of their support base. Several of the top leaders are ageing and sick. The outfit is finding it extremely difficult to get the new recruits because of the changing socio-political situation,” the sources said.
With the police gaining an upper hand because of improved intelligence gathering and sophisticated weapons and training, several top leaders have either died or surrendered during the last five to six years. Some of them have shifted their base to the border states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra. “They are looking for an opportunity to cross over and regroup themselves here in their home state. However, the police has been repeatedly foiling their attempts,” the sources said.
According to official figures, there were 408 Maoists from the state in July 2010. During the last one-and-half years, 19 naxalites were killed in police encounters and 48 had surrendered while 24 were arrested. Another 35 naxalites are keeping themselves away from the movement citing ill health.
There were some fresh recruits in the Andhra-Odisha border area but Telangana region, which was once seen as a hotbed of Naxalism, has been completely free from any extremist activity. Among the Maoist top brass, the Central Committee accounts for 12 members from AP while another 41 naxalites are serving the outfit in state-level committees, the sources said.
There are an estimated 87 commanders and 73 “Dalam” (armed squad) members. Last year, AP witnessed the lowest level of violence since the inception of naxalite outfit. There were seven deaths linked to ultra left extremism while 41 cases were registered, the lowest since the formation of People’s War Group (PWG), the earlier avatar of CPI (Maoist).
The rapid decline in the Maoist activity comes as a big boost to the state police whose anti-Naxalite strategy, referred to as “Andhra model,” has yielded desired results over the years. After the failure of the first-ever peace talks with the state government in October 2004, Maoists suffered big setbacks in the state with several of their top
leaders being eliminated in police operations and many more surrendering to the police.
At one stage, naxalites were in a position to run parallel administration in some of the pockets of Telangana region. Apart from facing the heat from the police, the Maoist movement also witnesed significant erosion in its support base over years. The success in anti-insurgency operations was largely due to “greyhounds”, an elite anti-Naxalite outfit of the state police raised in 1989 to specialize in executing intelligence-led precision strikes. “The success has been achieved because of the two-pronged strategy adopted by us. It involved modernization of the force to execute intelligence-led precision strikes and massive development in the remote areas particularly focusing on roads, infrastructure, communication, schools and hospitals,” a top official involved in the anti-Maoist operations said.