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Examining the Maoist Resurgence in Andhra

Uddipan Mukherjee, PhD, is Joint Director, Government of India, Ministry of Defence at Ordnance Factory Board.
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  • December 28, 2010

    If two recent events are compared, then they would ostensibly appear to be disconnected. Nevertheless, they ought to evoke considerable interest because of the actual linkage between them. The first is Swaranjit Sen, former Director General of Police (DGP) of Andhra Pradesh, is to be anointed as the vice-chancellor of the troubled Osmania University, which of late has been a hotbed of Telangana agitation. His appointment would be a historic occasion since for the first time an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer will be a vice-chancellor in the state.1 Second, the Maoists called for a bandh in the Andhra-Orissa border area on December 22. Their agenda was to protest against the killing of five of their comrades in an encounter by the elite Andhra Greyhounds personnel at Cheruvuru near Korukonda in Chintapalli mandal.2 These two events represent different facets of the Maoist movement in Andhra. And the connection is manifested when it is remembered that Sen is known in the state for his ‘hard line’ image against the Maoists.

    On one hand, Sen’s appointment shows that the police force in Andhra commands significant confidence among the political leadership. That is why an IPS officer has been entrusted with task of sorting out a trouble-torn university. For instance, media reports say that the Andhra government has, in principle, approved a suggestion by Governor Narasimhan to nominate senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or IPS officers to head the three strife-torn universities of Osmania, Kakatiya and Andhra.3

    On the other hand, these events also portray the fact that the Maoists are trying their best to reclaim lost territories. Hence, a more severe skirmish is in the offing in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, the Maoists have a grandiose plan to create ‘liberated zones’ in the state.4 Moreover, it is not at all unlikely that the left-wing ultras are not aiding and abetting the Telangana movement and would continue to do so in future through their frontal student and other mass organisations.

    To corroborate, quite recently, the Telangana Praja Front (TFP) was floated by Maoist sympathiser and balladeer Gaddar. Reportedly, he has demanded that the central government honour its commitment by immediately tabling a bill in parliament for the formation of Telangana.5 Gaddar’s actions, though in the garb of democracy, needs to be conceived as a covert move of the insurgents. Moreover, when some Telangana groups have already warned of a 'bloodbath' if the Sri Krishna Commission makes no recommendation for the formation of Telangana state by December 31 2010, the inherent liaison between these militant pro-Telangana groups and the Maoists simply cannot be rejected outright.

    Against this backdrop, Gaddar’s TFP, acting as an open party to subvert the democratic processes of the state, is basically what the outlawed outfit wants or rather badly needs. It is a natural tactical belief of the Maoists that overt military acts in the Andhra-Orissa border region can be effectively compounded with mass agitations around Hyderabad to weaken the existing political structures of Andhra Pradesh. Moreover, when the issue is as emotive as Telangana, the rebels do have a solid ground from which to launch their tactics.

    There is another reason to believe that the ongoing agitation for a separate Telangana state may have a Maoist ‘hand’. There are allegations of extortion against Telangana activists which seem to follow the ‘extortion regime’ of the Naxalite movement in Andhra.6 Pro-Telangana activists believe that taking donations to propel the movement forward is a reasonable step. However, Lok Satta Party president Jayaprakash Narayan asserted in the state assembly that there is heavy extortion involved in the Telangana movement. Furthermore, there have been allegations that local leaders were collecting huge amounts to the tune of Rs. 10,000 to 20,000 from businessmen, government employees, contractors and others to conduct even cultural programmes.7 This is quite interesting considering the fact that this is a standard modus-operandi of the Maoists to garner finances.

    Operating from their headquarters at Abujhmar in Chattisgarh, the Maoists are essaying into other states. Most importantly, along with the historically rebel-dominated district of Srikakulam, the districts of Vizianagram, Vishakhapatnam, East Godavari and Khammam are the disturbed areas of Andhra Pradesh. Khammam shares a long border with Chhattisgarh whereas the other districts are contiguous with Orissa.

    The Maoists are now celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and hence have taken up a month-long recruitment drive in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Their party spokesperson Gudsa Usendi and Dandakaranya special zone military commission in-charge Sudhakar said that the 10th anniversary of the PLGA, which began on December 2, will continue till January 2, 2011. They proclaimed that during the period, revolutionary propaganda, processions, meetings and rallies would be conducted in every village.8

    The Maoists had been physically driven out from Andhra from a law and order point of view almost five to six years back. But in June 2008 at Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district of Andhra-Orissa boarder, the elite greyhounds suffered casualties at the hands of the Maoists.9 That could be interpreted as the ‘come back’ event for the latter in Andhra. And the present surge in militancy is in sync with that. Additionally, since the Maoists are losing ground in other states, they need to regain their lost forte in their old backyard so as to have an edge in the psychological war with the Indian state.

    In addition, it is quite disturbing for the Maoists not to have a mass base in Andhra since most of their top leadership hail from the very region. Hence, they are trying to cash in on major issues to extract maximum dissatisfaction of the masses towards the political system. Telangana is one such. Along with it, it seems natural that the Maoists may focus on the issue of suicide of farmers too in the foreseeable future through their frontal organisations.

    In this regard, the porous border with Orissa is a major cause of concern for the Andhra authorities. The ultras have bases in the Malkangiri, Koraput and Rayagada districts of Orissa that adjoin the Andhra border. There are no border check posts except on the highway and main roads. Furthermore, on both sides of the border the same Kondh tribals live who provide the mass base for the ultras.

    The Andhra government might have won the first phase of the civil war with the Maoists. But the renewed violence in the area portends ominous signals for the future. A far more dangerous future situation was reflected by an opinion poll published by the Times of India on September 28 201010. According to it, a clear 58 per cent of the populace (who were polled) in the Maoist-dominant areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa said that Naxalism had actually been good for their area. In Andhra, Khammam was one of the districts where the poll was conducted. Four districts of the Telangana region – Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal – were also chosen.

    Probably the vital aspect of ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of the people in counterinsurgency is yet to be accomplished by the Andhra authorities. And the continued failure to do so would have serious ramifications in the long run.

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