Hyderabad, July (IANS) Maoists appear to have stepped up their efforts to regroup in Telangana, their former stronghold, if the two incidents of exchange of fire between police and ultras in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts last week are any indication.
As many as 18 cadres of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), including a leader escaped after the encounters in the forests bordering neighbouring Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
Hundreds of security personnel, including the personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the elite anti-Maoist force Greyhounds were on a hunt for the Maoists.
That the police force has also taken a serious note of the attempts by the banned outfit is evident from the fact that the police chief M. Mahender Reddy himself flew in a helicopter to the region to review the situation.
During his two-day visit the police chief discussed with senior officials the operational strategies to contain the renewed attempts by Maoists to gain a foothold in the tribal areas.
The police higher-ups see the recent incident as a proof of the serious bid by the Left-wing extremists cadre to revive the activity since Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh as a new state in 2014.
The Maoists made a determined bid to revive the activity during COVID-19 when the police force was busy enforcing the lockdown. Some cadres crossed over from neighbouring Chhattisgarh and reached the interior villages to take up the issues of tribals.
During the exchange of fire in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad district on July 14, five Maoist including a senior member, carrying a reward of Rs 25 lakh, managed to escape. The team was led by Mailarapu Adellu alias Bhaskar, Telangana State Committee member of the CPI (Maoist). Believed to be armed with AK-47, Bhaskar and his team entered from neighbouring Maharashtra during the lockdown period, by pretending to be migrant workers.
The DGP said during his visit that 500 personnel, including Greyhound commandos were on the hunt for the Maoists. He appealed to people not to provide shelter to the outlaws.
His appeal came after police arrested one villager on charges of providing shelter and food to the extremists.
Police officials of Mulugu, Jayashankar Bhupalapally, Mahabubabad and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts released photos of 18 Maoists and announced rewards of Rs 5 to Rs 10 lakh to anyone providing information about them.
The police chief said that at a time when the government has taken up a lot of development and welfare programmes, Maoists are seeking to create terror and tension among tribals and sow seeds of suspicion.
The DGP also warned that if Maoists were allowed to re-enter, development and welfare programmes undertaken by the state government, particularly for the benefit of the tribals, would be hampered.
The DGP vowed to "foil the sinister designs of Maoists to make a re-entry into the state from Chhattisgarh to carry out disruptive activities and hamper its development".
He said the CPI (Maoist) State committee leaders based in Chhattisgarh were making desperate attempts to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
He alleged that Maoist leaders like Haribhushan, Damodar and others were leading a luxurious life in the neighbouring state while exploiting innocent tribals.
The police chief said the Maoists were instigating innocent tribals to indulge in violence to further their nefarious designs. "They are conspiring to extort money from contractors, businessmen, doctors, engineers and other professionals by sending threatening letters. Their evil designs and disruptive moves will be thwarted with steely resolve," the DGP said.
He said the Maoists ran away from the state to protect their lives following the outrage from the people of Telangana a decade ago. "Now they are making attempts to come back. They would face the wrath of the people and the police will also inflict a major blow on them if they kill people branding them as police informers.
The CPI-Maoist has also issued a statement saying while it was observing self-restraint by not indulging in attacks in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, the central and state governments were trying to eliminate its members. It appealed to people to condemn the arrests of people and attacks by Greyhounds on Maoists.
It alleged that in the recent past police have killed 20 revolutionaries in fake encounters in Dandakaranya. If attacks on people and 'dalams' are not stopped, leaders of TRS and BJP would not escape punishment in the hands of people, the statement said.
The police had estimated last year that a total of 126 underground cadres of CPI (Maoist) hailed from Telangana. Out of 17 Central Committee members of the Maoist outfit, 10 come from Telangana. All were operating from outside Telangana.
Telangana police remain confident that the Maoists will not succeed in reviving the activity as the situation had undergone a sea change during the last 10 years. "They will not get fresh recruits now as people are fed up with their ideology," a police officer said.
Telangana, especially north Telangana, was a major stronghold of Maoists but the movement was almost eliminated after the police launched a crackdown in 2005 in the then undivided Andhra Pradesh following failure of a dialogue between the extremist leadership and the state government.
It was during the talks in September 2004 that then CPI-ML People's War Group (PWG) had merged with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) to form CPI (Maoist) as the biggest and most powerful Maoist outfit in the country.
However, CPI (Maoist) lost many top leaders in the police crackdown led by Greyhounds, the elite anti-Maoist force. The remaining leaders escaped to neighbouring states.
There have been apprehensions in some quarters that statehood to Telangana would give Maoists an opportunity to stage a comeback. However, the fears proved unfounded as the police force kept the pressure to foil any attempt by the banned outfit to revive its activities.
The police maintained tight vigil on the borders with Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra to stop the Maoist cadres from crossing over.
Experts believe that it will not be easy for the Maoists to stage a comeback as they were not able to draw new recruits or get new arms over the last decade. They attribute this to people losing faith in the ideology of violence and benefits of the government schemes reaching the masses.