Maoists on a firm footing in Chhattisgarh's Dandakaranya as cops intensify operations

Even as notorious Inspector General of the Dantewada Range of Bastar, SRP Kalluri, handpicked by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, was recently asked to proceed on a long leave following indictment by the National Human Rights Commission in January 2017, the spate of encounter killing of Maoists has been on the rise in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) and Chhattisgarh region of the Dandakaranya forests.

 Maoists on a firm footing in Chhattisgarhs Dandakaranya as cops intensify operations

Representational image. AFP

On the other hand, the CPI (Maoists) led by its new leader Kakarala Madhavi has been striking terror amongst the security forces. Ever since she took over as the secretary of the AOB, she has also been paving a strategy for refurbishing and training, militia recruitment and strengthening the Maoist control over AOB.

Kakarala and Maoists bomb expert Sonu (alias Mallojula Venugopal) have been credited with the landmine blast on 1 February in an armoured vehicle of Odisha State Armed Police which killed 5 policemen and injured 20 at Mogarguma village, near Pottangi in Koraput district, on the Sunki-Salur highway. This region is an old stronghold of the Maoists' 3rd Central Regional Committee, which has been dormant for some time now.

Telangana and Chhattisgarh police sources say nearly 12 policemen and 8 Maoists have been killed in three different encounters in AOB and other regions nearby since then. The alarm has also been sounded by the Union Home Ministry last week on Maoist threat to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after the state police arrested a group of advocates who went on a fact-finding mission to the AOB to investigate the October 24 massacre of Maoists.

Security has been beefed up for Chief Minister KCR. The Telangana Intelligence Security Wing (ISW) which reviewed the situation and added a second bullet-proof fire fighter (the composite armed vehicle which could carry 15 commandos and withstand landmine and grenade attacks) to his entourage while on district tours and doubled the commando force guarding him to 250.

Telangana police have also approached the Centre to grant Z-category status to KCR but stopped short of seeking NSG commando support for him. “We can take care of our CM with our Greyhounds and VIP security wing commandos,” said Telangana DGP Anurag Sharma.

However, the events of October 24 - when over 30 ultras including several top guns were butchered at a plenary meet - continue to haunt the Maoists. The episode was reportedly discussed at the Central Committee and other fora of CPI (Maoists) twice. It is said that an arrested Maoist Sriramulu Srinivasan, had tipped off the AP police about the October plenum meeting in the cut-off area of Odisha’s Malkangiri district.

The 80 square kilometers stretch of no man's land in AOB is a water-locked area of 151 villages without power, drinking water or roads. “It is a shame that our comrades did not take precautions after comrade Srinivas Sriramulu’s arrest and change the venue and dates – this is a sort of overconfidence and dereliction of Che (guerrilla) procedures,” said a recent circular of CPI (Maoists) which highlighted the reasons for the October massacre and fixed the blame on four top leaders.

Ground Scenario In AOB
Despite the setbacks of October 2016, Maoists in Andhra-Odisha Border areas are gradually gaining strength. Security forces in both AP and Odisha suspect that the Naxals have been able to recover, regroup and regain control of crucial segments of the AOB with the help of battalions from Dandakaranya in Chhattisgarh.

It is said that 5 companies of PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) from Sukma and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh have been deployed to various places in AOB in an effort to boost the morale of their sympathisers and cadres which were demoralised after the October massacre.

It is also said that Mallojula Venugopala Rao alias Sonu of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), the younger brother of Kishanji (from Peddapalli in Karimnagar district) and Tipparthi Tirupati alias Deoji are now in charge of the intelligence network in AOB. Both the experts in political campaigns and military actions in difficult situations and terrains have been positioned full time in the AOB since January 2017.

Ramakrishna alias RK and Akkiraju Hargopal, who miraculously escaped in the 24 October episode, have been guiding both Sonu and Deoji in their new assignment from a safe hideout away from AOB. “ It appears both of them are in charge of operations, recruitment, training, and Kakarala Madhavi is coordinating in generating funds, managing cadres and also strengthening frontal organizations,” said a senior police Intelligence official at Visakhapatnam quoting from his sources.

The Naxals have been engaging in Tactical Counter Offence Campaign in AOB areas. Police Intelligence contends that the Maoists have deployed around 150 armed ultras and another 300 activists from Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand to put up a show that they are still in control of the AOB.

Maoist squads were still manning some crucial forest junctions in AOB. Visakha rural SP Rahuldev Sarma, however, denied that the Maoists were gaining control but said the police combing and patrolling operations had been stepped up in the forest belt.

For the Maoists though, the bitter pills are their surrendered comrades. “Nayeemuddin, Sambashivudu, member Sriramulu Srinivasan and even Paritala Ravindra (former TDP minister) all turned into covert informers to the police. There were some journalists who were RSU members and now have become cosy to the Congress, TDP (Telugu Desam Party) and TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samiti) parties and those in power just like the surrendered Comrades,” wrote Maoist spokesman Sudarshan of AOB region in a recent statement issued in Adilabad after the Chhattisgarh landmine blast.

The CPI (Maoists) has declared most of the surrendered Maoists as 'traitors' to the Maoist movement. Since 2003, nearly 1,152 Maoists activists including 81 grade 1 and grade-2 (classification by Police Intelligence) Maoist leaders have surrendered and around 74 have been arrested.

Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 17:40:00 IST