Andhra Pradesh and Naxal Outfits: Again on Collision Course

Rajat Kumar Kujur

It took not less than thirteen months for the Andhra Pradesh government to realize that its much-publicized honeymoon with the Naxal groups was a damp squib. Instead, the Naxals used the period as an opportunity to regroup, rearm and consolidate in new areas.

After the breakdown of peace talks in January 17, 2005, the state has been reeling under the heat of Naxal violence. Since January this year, there are approximately 254 deaths, including 108 Naxalites, 16 policemen and 130 civilians and political activists. The YSR Rajsekhar Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh re-imposed the ban on the Communist Party of India (Maoist) along with its seven frontal organizations on August 17. The other banned organizations: the CPI (Maoist), the Radical Youth League, the Rythu Coolie Sangham, the Radical Student’s Union, the Singareni Karmika Samakhya, the Viplava Karmika Samakhya, the All India Revolutionary Student’s Federation and the Revolutionary Writers Association. The ban came as an immediate fall out of the outrageous killing of Congress legislator Chittem Narsi Reddy and eight others by an action team of Naxals at Narayanpet in Mahbubnagar district on Independence Day.

The YSR government could not escape the blame game for recent spurt of violence in the state because it allegedly took the help of the Naxalites to come to power. Even in July 2004, the YSR government had extended an invitation to the Naxals to come to the negotiating table ignoring the ground situation. It rolled back anti-Naxal operations and lifted the ban over them to open talks, unfortunately without much preparation. The government made the biggest blunder for it gave primary importance to electoral issues over the national security issues. However, it was more of a fairytale, away from the reality as both the sides were not at all sincere when they came to the negotiating table. As there was no agenda, the talks went nowhere. In fact during the peace talks the Naxals got the much-sought publicity at government’s cost; by organizing rallies and village meetings.

Ironically, this was the third time that the ban has been imposed on naxals. On May 21, 1992, for the first time, the then Congress government had outlawed the erstwhile People's War Group and its frontal organizations. This followed the killing of a former minister T Hayagreeva Chary, who was a close aide of former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. However, during 1995, the then Telugu Desam government led by N T Rama Rao had relaxed the ban on the People's War and its frontal outfits. The ban was re-imposed by the Chandrababu Naidu government in July 1996, subsequently; the TDP government renewed the ban every year.

The recent ban on the CPI (Maoist) and its frontal organizations is bound to have serious implications. More than 1700 villages in North Telangana have been classified as Naxal-affected. The state must prepare itself to witness desperate naxal attacks in the days to come, particularly in the districts of Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Mahbubnagar and Khammam, which have now become guerilla zones.

Immediately after the re-imposition of ban, the Naxal spokesperson Janardan sounded the Naxal game plan. “There will be no peace zone in the state. We will attack wherever and whoever possible.” As expected the Naxal groups have started coming together in responding to the ban immediately. The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Janashakti (Ramachandran faction) and CPI-ML Pratighatana have merged to form the new organization -- CPI (ML) which will be headed by K Ramachandran.

Experts believe publicity is the dreaded weapon Naxals are using to create an atmosphere of terror. Past experience shows that the media is the only channel to communicate with and know the mind of Naxals and the government must use it to solve this complex problem.

Nevertheless, the latest ‘hot pursuit’ must come along with the much-required healing touch, as it would help creating an atmosphere for lasting peace. The government has to realize that the ban in itself is no solution to the decades old problem of Naxalism in the state.

Author Note
Rajat Kumar Kujur, Research Associate, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi.