Monday, October 25, 2010

Maoists making comeback in Andhra Pradesh

Maoists have made inroads into northeast Andhra Pradesh bordering Orissa

Times of India, October 24, 2010

HYDERABAD: More than four years after they were thought to have been driven out of Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists have begun to rear their heads once again in the state. Sources say that Maoists are now active in six of the 11 mandals of Visakhapatnam district in northeast corner of Andhra. They are also flexing muscle and mulling over the prospects of activating themselves in the north Telangana districts. Intelligence reports suggest that balladeer Gaddar entered the Telengana movement recently only after being cajoled and coaxed to do so by the Maoists.

As of now, the activities of the Left ultras in north-coastal AP is restricted to felling trees, digging up roads, blasting government property and damaging road transport corporation buses. Presently, they are operating in the interior areas that can be accessed by kutcha roads. They operate out of Orissa and come walking between one to three hours on undulating terrain, indulge in violence and go back, an informed source said. He added: ”They have local support in these basically tribal villages.”

Right now, the activities of the Maoists are manageable from the law and order point of view. But sources say that the police zeal in combing these godforsaken places for Maoists is very low. This has been so since June 2008 when in the Balimela operations, scores of policemen lost their lives at the hands of Maoists. Ever since, the police have been on the backfoot. There is combing in these areas, but it is not that serious. Exchange of fire takes place once in a blue moon. In the last year-and-a-half, only seven times has there been an exchange of fire, a source said. If Maoists get caught, it is only by accident, the sources reveal citing the example of an ultra, Nilesh alias Jaipal.

“The ultra was going on the main road on a motorcycle when due to heavy rains the engine stopped. A police party was close at hand and the home guard accompanying the party, being an ex-Maoist, was able to recognise him. Thats how he was nabbed,” a source says.

What is worrying the police now are the agitations in the three districts of north coastal Andhra against projects perceived to be environmentally damaging. Though there is no direct Maoist hand in these agitations, the police believe that the ultras can step in to take advantage of the discontentment that is fomenting the agitations.

In some cases, they are believed to have already stepped in. The police believe that the blast that happened in the toilet of an activist in Sompeta earlier this month could have been the handiwork of the Maoists who have supporters in the area.

Although the police were able to contain the Maoists earlier, the porous borders with Orissa is a major cause of concern. Orissa does not have a serious anti-Maoist policy and the ultras have a base in the Malkangiri, Koraput and Rayagada districts of Orissa that adjoins the AP border. There are no border checkposts except on the highway and main roads. Whatever check posts were there have been blasted. To cap it, on both sides of the border the same Kondh Tribals live, a source said. In the emerging situation, Maoists may choose to operate indirectly by cashing in on local sentiments and operating the levers. They may not come out openly, a source speculated.

The Maoist operations on the Andhra Orissa Border (AOB) is looked after by a special zonal committee.

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