Andhra Pradesh: Residual Vexations

Having been conclusively pushed to the wall, the 'central committee' of the CPI-Maoist and the AOBSZC leadership, have been given an ultimatum to infiltrate and regain some of the lost ground in the state.

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Communist Party of India (Maoist)

The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) was pushed further back in the state in 2023. Indeed, according to a December 21, 2023, report, from an initial strength of about 500 cadres and 1,500 militia members, dominating at least 18 of the 22 Mandals (administrative units) in the Alluri Sitharama Raju District, the Maoist strength dropped to below 20 cadres and about 100 militia members. More importantly, almost all the top surviving leaders, including the ‘chief’ of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), Gajarla Ravi aka Uday aka Ganesh, who were believed to be present in Alluri Sitharama Raju District have been forced to move to ‘safer places’ in the neighbouring state, Chhattisgarh. They are reported to have taken shelter in the South Bastar area of Sukma District in Chhattisgarh. Alluri Sitharama Raju District Superintendent of Police (SP), Tuhin Sinha, thus noted,

There is practically no Maoist movement in the AOB region, especially in the once hotbeds such as Munchingput, Pedabayalu, Chintapalli, G.K. Veedhi and G. Madugula Mandals. The only place where they are trying to make some inroads is in the Chintoor and Rampachodavaram Mandals.

Having been conclusively pushed to the wall, the ‘central committee’ of the CPI-Maoist and the AOBSZC leadership, have been given an ultimatum to infiltrate and regain some of the lost ground in the state. Leaders such as Uday (‘central committee’ member), Aruna (‘SZC’ member) and Suresh (‘SZC’ member), and Jagan alias Kakuri Pandana (‘divisional committee member’), reportedly guarded with about 40-odd cadres, have been told to re-establish their contacts and move into the AOB region before the upcoming Parliamentary Elections in 2024. They are reported to be trying to move in through the tri-junction area of Chintoor (Alluri Sitharama Raju District), Kalimela (Odisha), and Sukma (Chhattisgarh).

On December 18, 2023, to emphasize their relevance among the masses, the AOBSZC disclosed that their ‘committee’ will extend full support to Anganwadi workers across the state, in their ongoing protests against the government for failing to address their list of 19 key demands. In a release, Ganesh, the ‘committee secretary’, stated that Anganwadi workers should continue their protest until the government addressed their demands, adding,

Around 1.06 lakh [106,000] Anganwadi workers, including their helpers, are doing their work in every village in the State with very low salaries. They submitted a memorandum to the government before calling for the State-wide bandh from December 8. The government did not address their demands. We appeal to the public leaders and communities to support the Anganwadi workers.

Ganesh stated, further, that the ruling YSR Congress Party had promised to create 265,000 jobs and increase salaries of Anganwadi workers. But, after coming to power, the party forgot all the poll promises.

Meanwhile, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) 2023 recorded a total of 13 Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked incidents as against 14 in 2022. Such incidents have been on a decline since 2019, dropping from 37 in 2018 to 30 in 2019. There were 19 incidents in 2020 and 15 in 2021.  

In particular, incidents of killing have been falling since 2020. There were seven incidents of killing in 2019, down to four in 2020, two in 2021 and one each in 2022 and 2023. Overall fatalities have also been declining since 2020, with an exception in 2021. There were 14 fatalities in 2019, which dropped to five in 2020, increased to seven in 2021, and again down to one each in 2022 and 2023. 

Moreover, civilian fatalities dropped from five in 2019 to four in 2020 and have since remained at one in the three subsequent years (2021, 2022 and 2023).  The last Security Force (SF) fatality was reported on May 5, 2017, when a Home Guard, identified as Sheikh Valli, was killed in a landmine blast triggered by CPI-Maoist cadres on the Lothugedda junction-Balapam stretch, when he was returning from the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) outpost at Rallagedda in Visakhapatnam District. The last Maoist fatality in the state was recorded on June 16, 2016, when six Maoists were killed in an exchange of fire with the Greyhound forces of Andhra Pradesh Police, at Theegalametta forest in Koyyuru Mandal (administrative sub-division) in the Mampa Police Station area of Visakhapatnam District.

Meanwhile, at least 10 Naxalites (LWEs) were arrested in 2023 in addition to five arrested in 2022. Due to mounting SF pressure, a total of at least nine Naxalites surrendered in 2023, in addition to 106 such surrenders in 2022, according to the SATP database.

Other comparable parameters of violence also indicate falling Maoist activities in the State. The Maoists did not exchange fire with SFs in 2023, as in 2022. The last such incident was reported on September 23, 2021. The State did not record any incident of explosion in 2023, 2022 or 2021. The last incident of explosion was recorded on August 3, 2020, in which two civilians were killed. The Maoists did not issue any bandh (shut down strike) call in 2023, as in 2022; there was one such call in 2021.

Since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on LWE, a high 507 LWE-linked incidents were recorded in in Andhra Pradesh in 2005, when the highest civilian fatalities, 132, were also recorded. A high of 41 SF fatalities was recorded in 2001, and of Naxalite fatalities in 2003, at 165.   

An analysis of overground and underground Maoist activities in the state supports an assessment of their weakening impact. According to the SATP database, Maoist activities were reported in four districts in 2023 (Andhra Pradesh has a total of 26 districts). Only Alluri Sitharama Raju District fell into the ‘moderately affected’ category, while the remaining three districts — Visakhapatnam, Prakasam, and Sri Sathya Sai — were ‘marginally affected.’ By comparison, in 2022, Maoist activities were reported from just three districts, with the Alluri Sitharama Raju District falling in the ‘moderately affected’ category, and the remaining two — East Godavari and Visakhapatnam — ‘marginally affected.’

Indeed, on October 6, 2023, in a review meeting on LWE held in New Delhi, Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy affirmed that the LWE was on the wane in the state and Maoist activities were contained to a few pockets of agency areas. Chief Minister Reddy added that the government had been able to restrict Maoist activities to a few pockets in Alluri Sitharama Raju and Parvathipuram Manyam districts, adding that the issue had been combatted by sharing intelligence with neighbouring Odisha, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh. Furter,

We have effectively addressed the issues of poverty, illiteracy, inadequate healthcare and unemployment which are the root cause of the LWE. Tribals were counselled to cultivate alternate commercial crops.

However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) notification of December 8, 2022, continued to categorise five districts in Andhra Pradesh – Alluri Sitharama Raju, East Godavari, Parvathipuram Manyam, Srikakulam and Vishakhapatnam – as LWE-affected districts of the state. These five districts were provided special central funds, as earmarked under the Security-related Expenditure (SRE) scheme for LWE-hit States, for the financial year 2022-23. The notification, also categorised Alluri Sitharama Raju as the “most affected LWE district” of Andhra Pradesh. It is pertinent to recall here that earlier, as per the UMHA notification of June 2021, the five LWE-affected districts of Andhra Pradesh were East Godavari, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and West Godavari. Visakhapatnam was also included in the list of the ‘25 Most Affected Districts’ from eight LWE-affected states across the country.

Despite tremendous security consolidation in the state, the Andhra Police continue to face critical deficits in capacity and deployment in the state. According to the latest Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) data, as on January 1, 2022, the Andhra Paresh Police had a strength of 88,689 policemen, as against a sanction of 106,074, yielding a deficit of 16.38 per cent. The Police/Area Ratio (number of policemen per 100 square kilometres) in AP was just 54.44, against the national average of 63.70. Both the state and national averages for the Police/Area ratio were well below sanctioned levels, at 65.11 and 81.80, respectively. The police-population ratio (police personnel per 100,000 population) in AP was 167.67, as against a sanction of 200.54. Moreover, the sanctioned strength of the apex Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in the state was 144, but just 128 officers were in position, a deficit of 11.11 per cent, weakening executive supervision of the Force.

The sheer dominance of SFs on the ground has forced the Maoists on the back foot in the state, as in the rest of the country. However, residual elements of the Maoist insurgency continue with their efforts to reorganize. It is, nevertheless, unlikely that the rebels will be able to resuscitate their influence in Andhra Pradesh.

Deepak Kumar Nayak

Deepak Kumar Nayak, Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi, India

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