Chhattisgarh gun battle blow to Andhra Maoists (News Analysis)

Hyderabad, April 17 (IANS) The killing of nine Maoists, including a top leader, in a gunfight with police in the forests of Chhattisgarh near the Andhra Pradesh border Tuesday has come as another blow to the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist).

After losing its traditional strongholds in Andhra Pradesh over the last six years, the Maoists are also receiving setbacks on the Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh-Orissa borders, the two regions where they are still active and trying to revive the Maoist activity, security experts aver.

It was another key breakthrough by Greyhounds, the elite anti-Maoist force of Andhra Pradesh Police, which in a joint operation with Chhattisgarh Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) virtually wiped out Khammam-Karimnagar-Warangal (KKW) division committee of the CPI (Maoist).

The slain Maoists include Marri Ravi alias Sudhakar, secretary of KKW division committee and member of North Telangana state zonal committee, who was carrying a Rs.8 lakh reward on his head. A native of Seetarampur village of Ghanpur mandal in Warangal district, Sudhakar went underground in 1995.

His wife Lakshmi alias Pushpakka, secretary of Kothagudem-Narsannapet area committee, was also killed. She was among five women killed in the gun battle. A native of Rampur village of Bhupalapally mandal of the same district, she was carrying a reward of Rs.4 lakh on her head.

All Maoists killed in the gunfight were from Andhra Pradesh.

Like in other gun battles in the region in the past, the input about the presence of Maoists in Puvarti village of Sukma district of Chhattisgarh came from Andhra Pradesh Police. Greyhound commandos, with their expertise in fighting Maoists, moved in first to encircle the area.

The operation is being considered the most successful anti-Maoist one in Chhattisgarh.

A police official said Greyhounds commandos had been carrying out combing operations in both Andhra Pradesh-Orissa and Andhra Pradesh-Chhattisgarh border areas to prevent the guerillas from regrouping and sending their cadres into Chhattisgarh.

North Telangana and Nallamalla forests in south coastal Andhra Pradesh were once the strongholds of Maoists, with several active ‘dalams’ – or armed squads of then CPI(ML) People’s War Group – which merged with the Maoist Communist Centre in 2005 to form CPI (Maoist).

However, sustained combing operations by police, especially the Greyhounds, wiped out many ‘dalams’. Some cadres, including top leaders, escaped to neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Orissa and other states.

Greyhounds, which have become a role model for the entire country in tackling Maoists and has also won laurels from other countries, are training security personnel in other states and providing them satellite imagery and intelligence to track down Maoists.

The state police also are using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to track down the Left wing extremists in dense forest areas on borders with Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Andhra Pradesh, which was once the hotbed of Maoists with over 3,000 armed cadres, now has less than 300.

“Of these, 200 have shifted to other states and some are on the border with neighbouring states,” Director General of Police V. Dinesh Reddy said a few months ago.

The union home ministry early this year made available a new helicopter for anti-Maoist operations in north Telangana districts and parts of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

Andhra Pradesh Police are heading the unified command for the anit-Maoist operations.

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