Updated: April 11, 2021 12:29:55 pm
Since 2011 in unified Andhra Pradesh and since the bifurcation of the state in 2014, Maoist-related offences in Andhra and Telangana combined have mostly remained in single digits. Yet, anti-Naxal units such as the Greyhounds and police in these parts rarely let their guard down.
“We stay alert because whenever there are anti-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh or Odisha, they cross over to Telangana or Andhra. Here they hide in their earlier strongholds. When we intercept them, they are either purchasing essential supplies or acting as couriers,’’ said an official.
In Telangana, most of the recent arrests have been of Maoists from Chhattisgarh.
Officials also add that Maoists who take refuge in the two states have not been indulging in violence.
“That’s probably because they do not have many safe areas left. Also, they do not want to antagonise security forces in the two states because that will leave them with no place to run to,’’ said a source.
Officials said that the Maoists facing heat in Chhattisgarh usually cross over to Bhadradri Kothagudem, Khammam or Mulugu in Telangana, or East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. When there are operations in Odisha, they cross over to Araku in Visakhapatnam.
Officials point to the infrastructure work on in the border areas of the two states as indicator of Maoists maintaining a low profile. “Until 2010-11, contractors were afraid of taking up infrastructure projects,’’ said an official.
After more than three decades of Maoist and Left-wing violence, it was in December 2011 that the then united Andhra Pradesh achieved success in nearly eliminating the threat. That year saw seven civilian deaths and zero police casualties in 41 Left-wing violence cases — the lowest number of deaths and offences since 1980.
The violence that began in 1980, the year People’s War Group (PWG) was formed and spiralled out of control, had peaked in 1991. That year, 178 civilians and 49 policemen were killed and 953 cases were filed against Left-wing extremists.
With 21 of the 23 districts in the state affected by Naxalite violence, 1990 (145 deaths), 1991 (227 deaths), 1992 (212 deaths) and 1993 (143 deaths) were particularly bad years for Andhra.
The tide started turning in the late 1980s as the state administration began strengthening its police forces. In 1989, the state set up Greyhounds, an elite force trained in jungle warfare and counter-Maoist strategy that carried out pin-pointed operations with great success.
This was coupled with a surrender-and-rehabilitation policy and setting up of the Remote and Interior Area Development Department to ensure that welfare schemes and infrastructure projects were tailored for Maoist areas.
Nearly 10 years after the formation of the Greyhounds, by 1999, the state police started getting an upper hand.
Between 2003 and 2012, more than 800 Naxalites and 50 top leaders were killed in encounters, forcing them to retreat to the Andhra-Odisha border or Andhra-Chhattisgarh border.
In 2005, more than 300 cadres, including four top leaders, were killed in police encounters while as many were either arrested or surrendered, dealing a major blow to Maoists. With the occasional setbacks, it wasn’t until 2011 that Andhra Pradesh finally managed to eliminate the Maoists.
— With Deeptiman Tiwary
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