New Delhi : Security forces were on high alert in several states Friday, fearing Maoist violence a day after the killing of the top rebel leader popularly known as Kishanji.
The alert went into effect in Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh as well as Andhra Pradesh, Kishenji’s home state, hours after it became known that he had been killed in West Bengal Thursday.
Security forces were already on the alert in West Bengal, where operations are still on against Maoists.
Mallojula Koteshwar Rao alias Kishanji, 55, who was a politburo member of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), was killed by security forces in a forested part of West Midnapore district.
The third in the hierarchy in the CPI-Maoist, he carried a reward of Rs.19 lakh on his head.
Maoists normally carry out revenge attacks when any of their senior leaders are caught or killed.
In Chhattisgarh, where Maoists virtually control vast areas in Bastar region, thousands of police and paramilitary forces braced for attacks by the rebels.
“Maoists will strive to hit back. The security forces in rebel strongholds have been asked to observe maximum alertness,” Additional Director General of Police Ram Niwas said in Raipur.
“We expect retaliation in the five districts of Bastar besides Rajnandgaon in western Chhattisgarh and the jungle areas of Raipur and Mahasamund,” a senior official said.
Some security personnel deployed in the deep jungles of Dantewada, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts have been asked to move to small police posts and government installations vulnerable to attacks.
Maoist ideologue P. Varvara Rao admitted that Kishanji’s death was a “big loss”. “He was one of those who built the movement, working from the grassroots level,” the Hyderabad-based Rao told IANS.
Police in Andhra Pradesh stepped up security, especially on the border with Odisha. A police officer asked politicians and others on the Maoist ‘hit list’ to be careful.
The elite anti-Maoist force Greyhounds launched combing operations as a precaution. Police began checking vehicles in tribal areas.
Police were on alert in the north Telangana districts, which were once the stronghold of Maoists. Security was tightened in Karimnagar district, to which the dead Maoist belonged.
In Odisha, a senior police officer said: “Police and security forces have been told to be watchful, especially in Mayurbhanj district.” Mayurbhanj is close to the West Bengal border.
Maoists are active in over half of Odisha’s 30 districts.
Police said all police stations in Bihar had been alerted in view of the threat of Maoist violence.