28 December, 2010

Examining the Maoist Resurgence in Andhra

by Uddipan Mukherjee

IDSA Comment, 28 December 2010


If two events of recent occurrence are compared, then they would ostensibly appear to be disconnected. Nevertheless, they ought to evoke considerable interest because of their actual linkage.

First, 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 Telengana agitation. His appointment would be a historic occasion as 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 the protestation against the encounter of five of their comrades by the elite Andhra Greyhounds personnel at Cheruvuru near Korukonda in Chintapalli mandal. [2]

In fact, 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 ‘hardline’ image against the Maoists.

On one hand, it shows that the police force in Andhra commands significant confidence among the political leadership. That is why an IPS top cop has been entrusted to tackle internal security problems; and that too within academic circles. 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, the events portray the fact that the Maoists are trying their best to reclaim their 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 the central government to honour its commitment by immediately tabling a bill in the Union parliament for formation of Telangana. [5]

Gaddar’s actions, though in the garb of democracy, needs to be conceived as the covert moves of the insurgents. Moreover, when some Telangana groups have already warned of 'bloodbath' if Srikrishna committee 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 outrightly rejected.

In 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 raison d’etre to back their tactics.

There is another reason to believe that the ongoing agitation for separate Telangana state may have a Maoist ‘hand’. There are allegations of extortion against the 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 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 toward the parliamentary structure of the state. Telangana is one such. Alongwith 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 adjoins the Andhra border. There are no border checkposts 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 had 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 futuristic situation was reflected by an opinion poll published by the Times of India on September 28 2010 [10].

According to it, a clear 58 per cent of the populace (who were polled) in 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 Telengana region; Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal were also chosen.

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


1: ‘Swaranjit may be first IPS to be Osmania VC’, December 19 2010, DC Correspondent, http://www.deccanchronicle.com/hyderabad/swaranjit-may-be-first-ips-be-osmania-vc-983

3: ‘Maoist-hunter top cop to be Osmania University V-C’, Hyderabad, Dec 19 2010, DHNS, http://www.deccanherald.com/content/121994/maoist-hunter-top-cop-osmania.html

5: ‘Telangana groups observe 1st anniversary of centre’s announcement’, Dec 8 2010, IANS , http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/politics/telangana-groups-observe-1st-anniversary-of-centres-announcement_100471551.html

6: ‘T activists following extortion line of Naxals?’, TNN, Dec 23 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/T-activists-following-extortion-line-of-Naxals/articleshow/7147670.cms (TNN-3)

7: TNN-3, See 6

9: ‘Maoist Insurgents Hit Back Greyhound Commandos Killing 35’, Santosh K Agarwal, Alarm Bells, July 01 2008, http://www.groundreport.com/Arts_and_Culture/Maoist-Hit-Back-Greyhound-Commandos-Killing-35/2864225

10: ‘58% in AP say Naxalism is good, finds TOI poll’, TNN, Sep 28 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com//india/58-in-AP-say-Naxalism-is-good-finds-TOI-poll/articleshow/6639631.cms

15 December, 2010

Maoists Eye the Cities

by Uddipan Mukherjee

published in the Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies, 14 December 2010


In the first week of December 2010, the Special Task Force (STF) of Kolkata Police arrested Kanchan alias Sudip Chongdar, the West Bengal state secretary of the banned outfit CPI-Maoist. Along with him, four other top leaders of the group were also taken into custody. Kanchan is considered to be next in hierarchy to the media-friendly Maoist leader Kishenji alias Koteshwar Rao. This high-profile arrest comes months after the state committee leader Telugu Deepak was nabbed in March 2010 from the same city. Moreover, in February 2008, Kanchan’s predecessor Soumen alias Himadri Sen Roy had already been put behind bars.

Kanchan’s role in the radical outfit could be evaluated by the following facts. When Maoists announced their involvement in the landmine blast that targeted West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2, 2008, the statement was issued in the name of Kanchan. Later Kanchan issued the statement claiming responsibility for the Lalgarh movement in 2009.

Some startling revelations have been extracted by the STF from Kanchan and his comrades. These, inter alia, indicate toward a number of important things.

First, it points to the fact that the Maoists are trying to build up an urban network in the eastern zone with Kolkata as the focal point. This means that in the foreseeable future, they want to coordinate their activities from Kolkata. Apart from aiding the ongoing guerrilla warfare in the hinterland by supplying logistics from the city, the Maoists seem to have chosen Kolkata for two more additional reasons.

One, they want to penetrate the student organisations and workers in the unorganised sector. This would help them to bolster their frontal mass movement. Furthermore, the students can serve as a potent recruitment pool for the guerrilla movement as well as provide fillip to the technological prowess of the ultras. And secondly, the rebels, by all probability intend to wreck the electoral process of the impending Legislative elections in West Bengal in the middle of 2011. To ensure that, presence in the city is a must.

Second, information has been obtained that the insurgents want to extend their network beyond the so-called Red Corridor and target the tea plantation labourers in the North-East. In that venture, they are in the process of forging alliances with terror outfits based in that region. Incidentally, the capture of these Maoist leaders appears to be linked to the nabbing of Anthony Shimray, the chief arms buyer of the NSCN (IM) and Rajkumar Meghen, the chairman of UNLF.

Shimray was located from Kathmandu on October 2 soon after he had bought a fresh consignment of rifles, rocket launchers, pistols and communication devices worth 4.5 crore. There is a distinct possibility that the huge cache of arms and voice-controlled explosives seized from Kanchan and his team was in some way connected to the separatists of North-East.

Kanchan has disclosed that the Maoists have already struck a deal to get arms and training from the Manipur-based insurgent group, the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak). He further told the STF that the deal with Prepak was struck around eight months ago after the leadership of both outfits agreed to help each other.

Hence, this is an additional rationale for the Maoists to develop a base in Kolkata since that would facilitate the communications with North-East. Moreover, close contacts with the Bangladesh-based Shailen Sarkar’s Communist Party can also turn out to be a reality.

Third, the investigations also point to the interesting fact that Kanchan and his associates feel alienated from the party activities. According to them, Kishenji has been bypassing the state committee since the beginning of 2009 and has been operating with his coterie. Kanchan has claimed that he was almost kept in the dark regarding the party's activities in Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore. However, this could well be a ruse in order to avoid divulging any operational information to the authorities.

Fourth, following these arrests, Maoists appear to suffer from a leadership crisis. A day after the arrest, Asim Mondal alias Akash, a senior member of the state committee, told the Times of India: “The arrest is unfortunate and no doubt it is a jolt to our organisation.”

In fact, Maoist sources have confirmed that they had an 11-member state committee and now seven of them are either behind the bars or dead.

However, these arrests are not without a parallel. A 42-year-old Maoist operative Loknath Panth, hailing from Gulmi district in Nepal, has been arrested from New Delhi on December 03 with a huge cache of explosives. This clearly indicates that the Left-wing ultras are ominously targeting the cities. It is to be remembered that their top ideologue and politburo member Kobad Ghandy was also arrested from New Delhi.

In sum, it may be inferred that the Maoists are venturing into the cities like Kolkata and Delhi with obvious intentions of solidifying and extending their networks. And in addition to that, they are in the process of colluding with other terrorist outfits based in North-East, Bangladesh and Nepal which have grave security implications for the Indian state.

The Maoists are losing legitimacy

by Uddipan Mukherjee 

published in CLAWS Web Journal, 04 December 2010


Of late, it seems that the SPs (Superintendents of Police) of the Bankura and West Midnapore districts of West Bengal have bagged considerable evidence so as to jeopardise the legitimacy of the Maoists in Jangalmahal; that is, the area spreading across the three Maoist-affected districts of West Bengal (Purulia being the third).

On November 16, Rumpa Mahato alias Sujata surrendered at the Bankura SP's office. She actually belongs to the Majurkata village in West Midnapore's Salboni area. Rumpa told SP Pranab Kumar that she joined the Maoist ranks about two years ago, basically with a hope to get work as she was the daughter of a daily wage labourer.

A couple of months back, in August, Maoist woman leader Shobha Mandi alias Uma, surrendered to the police in West Midnapore. After four months on the run, the CPI-Maoist Jhargram area commander walked into West Midnapore SP Manoj Verma's office.

These two events, though spatially unconnected, however have profound linkage because both the female comrades of the CPI-Maoist (CPI-Communist Party of India) allege sexual exploitation by their male counterparts and leaders.

What does this indicate?

Prima-facie, if one accepts the veracity of the revelations of these surrendered women comrades, then one is led to understand that there has crept in a serious flaw in the internal organisational structure of the Maoists. And, this can and should be seriously exploited by the authorities to win the ongoing Low Intensity Conflict.

Any sort of physical or mental abuse of women cadres is ideologically totally unsupported by Maoist-Marxist dogmas. Hence such a development, if not arrested soon by the Maoist leadership, in the long run may be effectively used by the government as a propaganda tool to thwart their designs in Jangalmahal and other areas.

In the foreward of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s acclaimed book “Guerrilla Warfare”, Harry Villegas states that “according to Che, the people are to the guerrilla fighters what water is to a fish, that is, their means to existence.”

In fact, this is the very reason why Mao Zedong had used the nomenclature of ‘Protracted People’s War’ to describe the long drawn out ordeal of the Chinese peasants against both the Kuomintang forces and the imperial Japanese in the 1930s and 40s.

And incidentally, this has been the very pillar of ‘legitimacy’ erected by the Indian Maoists. They are supposedly fighting a ‘war’ against the comprador-bourgeoisie Indian state which is overtly exploiting the masses through the bureaucracy-politician-corporate nexus.

Now, in light of the above gruesome tales, what shall be the defence of the Maoist leadership spearheaded by Muppala Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy? Will he term these as mere aberrations?

Now, if these are ‘exceptions’, then how does the leadership substantiate the involvement of their cadres in the sordid saga of the derailment of the Jnaneswari Express? The Maoist leadership may distance itself from such ‘wanton’ acts of terror by using the jargon of ‘lumpen elements’. Simply put, it shall be easy for them to say that such acts of terror were carried out by ‘misled’ cadres. However, more such happenings will jeopardize the internal hierarchy of the ultras and along with it, shall also alienate the very ‘downtrodden masses’ for which they claim to be fighting.

Apart from the afore-mentioned facts, a very recent report of November 11 flashed an ominous link between the CPI-Maoist and the Lashkar-i-Toiba (LeT).

According to Vishwa Ranjan, the Director General of Police of Chhattisgarh; somewhere in April or May this year, two LeT operatives had reportedly attended a Naxalite meeting as ‘observers’ at a forested location inside Orissa, close to Chhattisgarh's Bastar region. He however cautioned that the inputs received by the intelligence wings were based on a single source which had to be corroborated with multiple sources.

In fact, even before, there have been allegations that Islamabad-based terrorist organisations have, if not overt, but at least peripheral connections with the Indian Maoists.

Well, the Maoist core leadership has constantly denied such allegations. Nevertheless, there is a context in which the Naxalites may come close to the Islamist Fundamentalists backed by the theocracy-military complex of Pakistan. As per principle, the Maoists support any movement for self-determination by any section of the Indian populace. Accordingly, they espouse the cause of the Kashmiri separatists and the groups belonging to the North-East. Such an ‘emotional’ and ‘philosophical’ attachment with the groups who in turn have direct linkages with the Islamist Fundamentalists, will certainly brand the Maoists as ‘purely terror outfits, shorn of any legitimacy’.

In his article dated June 3 2006, in the Economic and Political Weekly, Gautam Navlakha strongly opines: “To advocate seizure of power and to work to change the world is a legitimate project. Whether this should be through an armed struggle, peaceful means or a fusion of all is an open question. But to advocate as an absolute must the disarming of people concedes to the government the right to a monopoly over violence.”

Interestingly, if the kind of ‘acts’ under discussion, proliferates with space and time; and the Maoist core leadership is unable to control such ‘growing aberrations’, then the basic ‘ideology’ for which the Maoists are purportedly fighting, shall fall into shambles.

Though any linkage, direct or peripheral, between the Maoists and the Islamist Fundamentalists, are problematic security concerns for the Indian state; but in the long run, such an alliance and along with that any misdemeanor toward female cadres have the potential to ‘internally wreck’ the organisation of the Left Wing Ultras.

Ganapathy et al. must appreciate the fact that ‘they’ also possess no ‘monopoly’ over the will of the Adivasis.