December 12, 2019
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Wilful Blindness

The situation in Andhra Pradesh, with particular regard to the Telangana region, exemplifies the political myopia, folly, and sheer mischief that have undermined counter-insurgency gains in many theatres across India

Wilful Blindness
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Political myopia, folly, and sheer mischief have undermined counter-insurgency gains in many theatres across India, making a mockery of the tremendous sacrifices Security Forces (SFs) must accept to secure even limited successes. Unfortunately, there is no indication that the political leadership in this country has learned anything from the past, or that its wilful blindness and disruptive opportunism are yielding to any greater sagacity or concern for the national interest.

The situation in Andhra Pradesh, with particular regard to the Telangana region, is an immediate case in point. Over the past years, the Andhra Pradesh Police has struggled against great odds, and at great cost in blood, to bring a rampaging Maoist movement under control.

The Telangana region has always been at the heart of the Maoist insurrection, but by 2005, each one of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 Districts was in the Maoist-affected category. The situation had been substantially worsened by the ill-advised deal between the Congress Party and the Maoists in the run-up to the 2004 elections, and the ‘ceasefire’ that the new Congress regime unilaterally announced in one of its first moves after its electoral victory. Despite significant and further Maoist consolidation, however, the Andhra Pradesh Police were able to fight back after the breakdown of the so-called ‘peace process’ in early 2005, and by 2007, almost the entire State had been cleared of the Maoist menace.

Fatalities in Maoist related violence provide an index of the astonishing turnaround that was achieved in this short while. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, in 2005, there were 320 Maoist related fatalities (132 civilians, 21 SF personnel, 167 Maoists); 2010 saw just 33 such fatalities (17 civilians, 16 Maoists). To date, there have been just 4 fatalities in 2011 (2 civilians and 2 Maoists). There have been no SF fatalities since 2009.

Year
Civilians
SF Personnel
Extremists
Total
2004
42
3
43
88
2005
132
21
167
320
2006
18
7
122
147
2007
24
4
45
73
2008
28
1
37
66
2009
10
0
18
28
2010
17
0
16
33
2011
2
0
2
4
Total*
273
36
450
759

*Data till July 10, 2011

The Maoists made a concerted attempt to regroup in the Nalamalla Forest area in Central Andhra, and in the Telangana region, in 2010, but their attempts were quickly neutralised with the arrest or killing of their leadership cadres, forcing them out of the State once again.

A residual problem of sporadic violence, essentially by armed groups located across the border, principally in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, persists in eight border Districts of Andhra Pradesh. However, even this has been substantially handled with effective coordination with SFs in these States, and in Joint Operations. Today, the Maoist operational capabilities in Andhra are minimal.

The Maoists have also been increasingly aware that the improving social and economic profile of populations in the region no longer lends itself to their patterns of mobilisation and recruitment. The socio-economic transformation of the Telangana region has been elaborately documented by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee, which has debunked the entire ‘separatist’ argument on grounds of economic neglect and backwardness. It is not the intention, here, to review the Srikrishna Report. However, the extensive indices of human and economic development compiled, demonstrate the most dramatic improvements in the Telangana region, and force the Committee to the conclusion that, “In recent years… the shares of Telangana for many common development parameters are in league with the share of population / area, often being higher… Additionally, the rate of growth of most of the parameters of development has shown robust growth in Telangana… Thus, on the whole, it would appear that the deprived region is Rayalaseema not Telangana.”

The Srikrishna Report has, of course, been accused of bias and political prejudice by the votaries of a separate Telangana, which is why the Maoist perspective becomes the more significant. Indeed, in their Social Investigation of North Telangana: Case Study of Warangal, probably drafted towards the end of 2001 or early 2002, the Maoists concede that a wide range of social, political and economic transformations in the region have made recruitment difficult, and popular cooperation with the Police far more frequent, undermining the very possibility of effective Maoist mobilization. The tone of much of this document verges on the comical, as there is constant lamentation over precisely these improvements, and the impact they have had on the ‘revolutionary potential’ in what was, for decades, the Maoist heartland. A few samples are instructive:

Now the governments are starting "Akshara deepika", Malli badiki", "Chaduvula panduga" (education programmes), education for child labourers, thievish audio visual educations, bridge schools to educate the peasantry and make them buy their goods. It is only to transform the people as "market being". Earlier, farmers never had anything to eat when they go to the market. They used to go without even brushing their teeth. Now they go to the hotels. They also have to watch the imperialist's TV. So they have to go by bus...

Telephones are also brought along with this. The middle class is opposing the blasting of the (telephone) exchanges. The increased communication network facilitated the enemy to receive our information soon...

The roads in remote rural areas of the district have become tar roads... There is almost no village without RTC buses in the summer season... Two wheelers have become a common feature in majority of the villages in the district ranging from scooter to spider, Hero Honda, Bajaj, Chetak, Kavasaki... In addition to these each mandal (administrative block) has at least 40 tractors, each village has 4 to 5 jeeps. Six seater autos, Matadors and Tata Sumos are in big number... Now if a squad member goes to the village for food and it is exposed, the police from the nearby station can encircle us within one hour. We are unable to identify who leaked the information. Information can also be sent through phones...

Twenty years back, apart from the district collectorate in Warangal district there were two RDO (Rural Development Officer) offices in Mulugu and Mehaboobabad... Now there are revenue offices to each mandal and agriculture and education departments, now the Janagama, Narsampeta and Warangal Revenue Divisions are established. There are 6 RDO offices in the district. Administration is decentralised and bureaucrats (employed section) and administrative departments (political and ruling class) have developed in a big way...

The women are gaining political consciousness by knowing the bourgeois political society mainly through the TV. Because of the schools, participating in development activities taken up by the various organisations, they are increasingly coming out of the houses. Number of girl students is increased. The number of those who go around the offices also increased to 5 or 10 in each village...

The impact of cricketisation and gutka (a mild stimulant containing areca nut and tobacco) is high. Due to the imperialist culture 40 per cent of our youth are away from our activities. In 1980s there was no Television even radio was seen only in middle class families. Now cassette recorders and decks become a normal feature... Cricket, volleyball, carom board, chess, ball badminton and kabaddi are played. Every village has cricket and volleyball.

This, precisely, is what makes the separatist movement in Telangana integral to Maoist designs in the region. The only possibility of the recovery of Maoist influence and dominance in Andhra Pradesh is envisaged through the Telangana agitation. Significantly, a detailed plan to encourage such separatism was drawn up in the Fourth North Telangana Special Zonal Committee Meeting of the People's War Group (PWG, now CPI-Maoist) in 1997, where it was concluded that, "when it comes to separate Telangana issue, it cannot be entrusted to others" and that "It is not proper to say that only constitutional means would be adopted." Indeed, in the PWG's State Conference in 1995, a resolution had already been passed to start an agitation for the formation of a separate Telangana. What we are seeing in the Telangana region today is a slow and systematic unfolding of the Maoist plan for a sundering of the State, through various proxies, in order to restore their own disruptive dominance.

All the formations currently spearheading the separatist movement, including the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the Telangana Praja Front (TPF), have a large representation of ex-Maoist cadres and leaders, and have synchronised their campaigns with various Maoist directives on the issue.

The observations of the Sri Krishna Report in this regard, in its 'secret' Chapter 8, are significant:

  • With the bifurcation of the state and Hyderabad in Telangana region, incidents of agitations, dharnas and even violence, are expected. This may result in flight of capital, stagnant growth and disincentive for entrepreneurs, leading to slow down of economic activity.
  • The Maoists are also likely to gain by the creation of a new state. The new state is likely to be soft towards them initially, given that they have over the years supported the struggle for the formation of Telangana. By the time the state realizes the Maoist menace, it may be too late for the state to handle them with a bifurcated police force contributing to a weaker response to the problem. The CPI (Maoist) will also use political boundaries of state and districts, to their advantage. It is not without reason that most of the Maoist zones, sub- zones etc., straddle state and district boundaries.
  • Telangana is also contiguous with other highly affected Maoist areas viz., Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra States. As such it is likely that the Maoists will extend their activities from these neighbouring states to Telangana, especially the districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Khammam, parts of Nizamabad and Medak in north Telangana and Mahboobnagar and Nalgonda in south Telangana. It is important to note that it is not entirely a coincidence that the increased spread of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, has been after the creation of these states. Increase in poverty which is a natural corollary to a slowdown in economic activity, will drive more people into the arms of the CPI ( Maoist). This may again lead to a vicious cycle of Naxalism, leading to less of economic activity and greater impoverishment, which may provide fillip to left wing extremism.
  • An important development that has to be noted is that after K. Chandra Shekar Rao gave up his fasting protest on 30.11.2009, Gaddar organized wide spread protests and later the top leadership of Maoists including Kishanji @ Mallojula Koteshwar have organized various protests programs through students of Osmania University and other universities of Telangana. Thus, while the student's involvement in the Telangana agitation became very intense due to the encouragement of the local committees of the Maoists, Telangana Rashtra Samithi was also forced to utilize simmering sentiment in the students. When the intensity of the agitation by TRS started ebbing down, Gaddar floated a new front called Telangana Praja Front (TPF) on the instructions of the underground cadre of the Maoists to sustain agitation for a very prolonged duration. This front, which is totally Maoist backed and motivated, tried to project itself as an alternate to KCR and TRS. Thus, the Maoists are trying to make a come back through the Telangana agitation. The impact of possible growth of Maoist/ Naxal influence in Telangana has to be evaluated in the right perspective keeping in mind that a large number of important and sensitive industries are located in and around Hyderabad.

It is unfortunately the case that the Centre’s policies and pronouncements, and especially the December 9, 2010, announcement of an imminent division of Andhra Pradesh by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, have inflamed the agitators further. The resignation of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Telangana region since July 4, 2011, can only worsen the situation. The problem has been aggravated significantly by the succession war within the Congress Party after the death of Chief Minister YSR Reddy in a helicopter accident in September 2009, and the claims of his son, Jagan Reddy, with his breakaway YSR Party.

All parties and groups opposed to state division have been intimidated by the threat of a violent backlash to maintain their silence. Some political formations have opportunistically changed their positions, sensing some electoral advantage in the Telangana region by shifting from an integrationist to a separatist position.

There is a grave and imminent danger of a Maoist revival in the Telangana region if a separate State is created there. Indeed, the increasing chaos of the Telangana agitation has already created new spaces for Maoist revival and consolidation, though the operation of armed cadres is still being effectively contained by the Police. The rising apprehensions and potential backlash in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions can only widen such spaces. The Maoist leadership and cadres from this State have played – and continue to play – a historically pivotal role in the armed insurrection across all affected areas of the country. A Maoist revival in Andhra Pradesh will not only wipe out hard-won gains in Telangana and in the wider State; it would have disastrous consequences for the Maoist ‘red corridor’ States, and for the internal security situation in India at large.


Ajai Sahni is Editor SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management & SATP. Courtesy: the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

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