In a significant blow to Maoists, CPI (Maoist) Central Committee member Ravalu Srinivas, popularly known as Ramanna, has died in the forests of Bastar earlier this week after an illness. While reports of his death had been doing the rounds for the past few days, police and intelligence agencies struggled to corroborate the news.
On Thursday, Vikalp, spokesperson for the CPI (Maoist)’s Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, called up journalists in Bastar and confirmed the development. Besides being a member of the Central Committee, the apex body in CPI (Maoist), Ramanna was a member of the Central Regional Bureau and secretary of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, which handles Maoist activities in Bastar.
In his call to journalists, Vikalp said Ramanna was ailing for a while and died at 10 pm on December 7 in the forests near Chhattisgarh-Telangana border. Bastar range IGP P Sundar Raj said, “Maoists have confirmed Ramanna’s death in the phone call placed to journalists.”
Four days ago, security agencies in Bastar picked up wireless chatter from intercepts which suggested the death of Ramanna. However, confirmation was difficult to come by. Senior police officers said, “With the phone call from Vikalp today, that has been confirmed. It is a huge blow to them,” a senior officer said.
Ramanna, 59, was born at Warangal in Telangana. He joined the Maoists in 1982 and came to Dandakaranya in 1988. He began as a member of the Bhadrachalam Dalam but became commander of the Sukma Konta Dalam in 1988. He rose through the ranks rapidly, becoming secretary of the south Bastar zonal committee in 1998, secretary of the Dandakaranya Special Zone committee in 2011 and a member of the Central Committee of CPI (Maoist) in 2013.
P Sundar Raj told The Indian Express, “He was a massive figure for them. He had rewards on him across five states and 32 FIRs against his name. He was the man who controlled the organisation in Bastar.”
Ramanna had a cumulative country of Rs 1.5 crore on his head across the states of Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
According to senior police officers, Ramanna masterminded the most serious attacks on security personnel in Chhattisgarh, including the 2010 Tadmetla attack which left 76 CRPF personnel dead, the Ranibodli attack and the Jhiram Ghati attack that left 28 dead, including top state Congress leaders, in 2013.
Ramanna married a fellow Maoist cadre in 1994, Sodi Hidme, also known as Savitri, who is now secretary of the Kistaram Area Committee. They have a son, Ranjit, who is also an active Maoist. A senior police officer said, “It will be interesting who they replace Ramanna with. For the Maoists, this is a major blow that will hit their morale,” a senior officer said.