During the late 1980s, the Naxalites were virtually running a parallel government in parts of Andhra Pradesh. They collected taxes from the locals and conducted ‘people’s courts’ regularly. Such was their influence that on one occasion in June 1989 a police inspector in Rangareddy district, whom the Naxals had charged with certain offences, presented himself at a people’s court to plead that he was innocent!
Yet even as the Naxals have expanded their influence elsewhere in recent years — specially after the merger in December 2004 of the People’s War (PW) in Andhra Pradesh and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Jharkhand to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist) — they are on the run in Andhra.
Ironically almost the entire top leadership of the CPI (Maoist), including its supreme leader Muppalla Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy, hails from Andhra. Yet none of them dares reside in Andhra any more, nor are they effective in the state.
How was the Naxal threat neutralised? Through a three-pronged approach of the state police, summed up in the words: ‘elimination, arrest, surrender’.
The number of armed cadres of the Maoists in the state has fallen from 1133 in 2004 to 474 in 2008. During the same period over 6500 sympathizers and propagandists of Naxals were arrested, while another 2300 surrendered. The number of incidents involving Maoists has dipped from 708 in 2004 to less than a hundred in 2008. The last major Naxal attack was that on then chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, shortly before the 2004 elections.
The Congress government that came to power after the polls sought a permanent solution to the problem by initiating talks with the Maoists. But the talks soon collapsed as the Maoists were unwilling to surrender arms.
The government then went after the Maoists with a vengeance. It set up the Greyhounds, an elite commando force specialising in tackling left extremists, while using satellite imagery and advanced snooping devices to track the Maoists movements.
The government also made a concerted effort to win over the residents of the tribal villages that sheltered the Naxals, giving jobs to their young people. It initiated a tempting rehabilitation package for Naxals who surrendered.
“There are remnants of Maoists still remaining near the Andhra-Orissa border,” said state director general of police, A.K. Mohanty. “But we hope to neutralise them too.”