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Small States: Potential Maoist Strongholds

Dr. P. V. Ramana was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, New Delhi. Click here for detail profile.
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  • December 17, 2009

    The creation of a separate state of Telengana by carving out nine or ten districts from Andhra Pradesh has the potential to provide space to Naxalites of the Communist Party of India Maoist, or CPI (Maoist), to regroup in the areas from where they have been driven out during the past few years, and in some other regions where demands are being made or are likely to be made for separate statehood.

    Owing to sustained intelligence-based operations by the elite anti-Naxalite crack force, Greyhounds, the Maoists retreated to Bastar –– in neighbouring Chhattisgarh –– and North Coastal Andhra –– bordering Orissa.

    Ganapathy, the general secretary of the CPI (Maoist), admitted in an interview circulated to the media on October 17, 2009 that “It was due to several mistakes on our part that we suffered a serious setback in most of Andhra Pradesh by 2006.” The Maoists failed to gauge the intensity of police operations against guerrilla squads and did not relocate cadres from Telengana and elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh. As a result, several prominent leaders were killed in encounters.

    The Maoists are also making fervent efforts to stage a come-back in North Telengana, once their flagship guerrilla zone, also because the Andhra Pradesh leaders in the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist) run the risk of their position being undermined by leaders of the erstwhile Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) in the Maoist Central Committee.

    Many leaders of the ruling Congress-I in Andhra Pradesh, including those belonging to Telengana, have argued against the creation of a separate state, especially because they apprehend that the Maoists could gain control over such a state. In fact, over a decade ago, in 1997, the Naxalites gave a call for the creation of a separate Telengana; this demand, however, did not attract public support.

    After the demand was raised once again in 2000, the Naxalites and their ideologues such as Gaddar and Vara Vara Rao did not lose time in expressing their support. In fact, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), a political party that was formed with the single-point agenda of a separate Telengana, had publicly declared during the State Legislative Assembly elections of 2004 that the “Naxalites’ agenda was their agenda.” A number of former rebels have also joined the TRS cadres.

    At the present juncture in 2009, when the Union Home Minister announced that the process for the creation of a separate Telengana would be initiated, media reports held that the announcement was made, importantly, in the wake of reports that the Maoists have infiltrated the agitation for the creation of a separate Telengana. Media reports further claimed that the Maoists could take advantage of the situation and commit ‘actions’ in urban areas and attempt to strengthen themselves in the Telengana hinterland.

    Further, Telengana geographically lies adjacent to Bastar, the Maoist Base Area, and the Maoists had, some years back, demanded the creation of a separate Bastar state by carving it out of Chhattisgarh; in the past there were also demands for the formation of a larger Dandakarnya state. According to a senior Congress leader, “the creation of two separate states –– Telengana and Bastar / Dandakaranya –– would leave a large swathe of land at the mercy of the Maoists.” Moreover, the Maoists have varying degrees of presence in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, two states highly affected by Maoist activities. Thus, a large and near contiguous stretch of territory extending from Telenaga to Jharkhand could, eventually, come under the hold and sway of the Maoists.

    Besides, the announcement on a separate Telengana could also give a boost to old and fresh demands for the creation of many more separate states, for instance Vidharbha from Maharashtra, Koshal from Orrisa, and Bundelkhand comprising areas in southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh. Media reports claimed that there have been demands for 11 such states.

    Areas that comprise Vidharbha and Koshal, for instance, are Maoist affected. The Maoists could join hands with self-serving and unscrupulous political leaders, or prop them up, in the regions demanding separate statehood, which would add to the already existing security concerns.

    The aspirations and demands for the creation of separate states might, or might not, have merit. However, in the light of the possibility that the Maoists could either steer or infiltrate agitations for such demands, the governments in the respective states would need to plan appropriate responses. Also, from the security point of view, it might not be prudent to carve out states from Maoist affected regions –– merely out of political expediency –– without adequately preparing the administrative and security apparatus.