The naxal factor

Published : Feb 25, 2005 00:00 IST

CPI (Maoist) secretary Ramakrishna, who led the naxalites in the talks with the State government in October 2004, with police personnel before returning to his forest hideout after the talks. - SATISH H

CPI (Maoist) secretary Ramakrishna, who led the naxalites in the talks with the State government in October 2004, with police personnel before returning to his forest hideout after the talks. - SATISH H

ANDHRA PRADESH'S tryst with peace has turned out to be brief. After a seven-month-long lull, violence has once again broken out in the rural areas with the police and naxalites attacking each other.

A series of killings by both sides in the New Year is threatening to derail the dialogue process between the State government and the leaders of the ultra-Left. But Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is still optimistic about the resumption of talks with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the Janashakti after the restoration of peace in the State.

The two naxal outfits had announced their withdrawal from the talks on January 17 by which time they had lost eight of their cadre and three other political activists in six various encounters. Since New Year's Day, 19 naxalites have been killed while the ultras have eliminated 20 of their targets (as of January 31). The CPI (Maoist) and the Janashakti announced their decision to withdraw from the talks barely two hours after a Cabinet meeting resolved to continue talks with the naxalites. Home Minister K. Jana Reddy immediately appealed to the naxalite outfits to reconsider their decision and assured them that there would be no more repression or combing operations by the police.

There appeared to be a cessation of encounters after Chief Secretary Mohan Kanda and Director-General of Police Swaranjit Sen advised on January 19 the Collectors and Superintendents of Police respectively of the 13 extremist-affected districts to exercise restraint. The Chief Minister also met the police top brass on January 20 to advise them against fake encounters, killings in face-offs and harassment during combing.

The peace was once again shattered on January 29 by a major encounter in the interior forest of Tadvai mandal in Warangal district, which led to the death of four Pratighatana members. Though this group is not involved in the peace talks, the police action was meant to drive home the point that there would be no let-up in the combing operations.

The Maoists and Janashakti activists have continued their violent activities. The Maoists killed six activists of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and one each of the Congress and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the last a sarpanch. The Janashakti eliminated two Congressmen, including the sarpanch of Rudrangi village in Karimnagar district.

The killing of a 17-year-old tribal boy, V. Dashrath, a former militant, at Peddammagadda thanda in Chandampet mandal of Nalgonda district was perhaps the most heinous. Over 30 extremists chained him to a tree and tortured him for half an hour in a bid to extract a confession about his police connections before pumping bullets into his body.

A landmine set up by the Maoists near Emmajigudem in Guntur district on January 27 to target a State transport bus which had 65 passengers, including 26 members of a special police party, went off before the bus reached the spot.

Interestingly, both the government and the naxalites are demanding peace as a pre-condition for talks. In fact, the naxalites want the stoppage of the combing and the return of conditions prior to the first round of talks from October 15 to 18 last year, for a resumption of dialogue.

The Maoist emissary to the talks, Varavara Rao, said four of the nine encounters since January 6 took place during police combing operations in search of naxalite leaders. A police party lay in ambush near Dornal in Nallamalla forest for three days to eliminate the party's State secretary, Ramakrishna, in vain. It was the same route he and other naxalite leaders had taken to return to their forest hideout after the first round of talks.

A functionary of the TRS, a partner in the Congress-led government, was killed in an encounter with naxalites. This led to a delegation of four Ministers, 14 MLAs and some senior leaders from the party threatening to review its ties with the Congress, after meeting the Chief Minister. Party president and Union Labour Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao called on the Prime Minister in New Delhi to appeal to him to take note of the breakdown of talks.

The Congress responded by releasing a list of 62 political workers with `a militant background'. As many as 40 of them, including an MLA, belonged to the TRS.

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