Maoists’ attack a big jolt to Andhra Pradesh police (News Analysis)

June 30th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, June 30 (IANS) The ambush by leftist guerrillas on Greyhound personnel, the elite anti-Maoist force, on the Andhra-Orissa border has come as a big jolt to the Andhra Pradesh police. Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which suffered major setbacks in the southern state during the last three years, Sunday struck in a big way to once again make their presence felt, though just outside the state’s border.

Ten Greyhound personnel were injured and as many as 35 were missing after the sensational attack by the Maoists on the police party which was crossing a reservoir to return to Andhra Pradesh after taking part in joint operations with the police force of the neighbouring state.

About 100 guerrillas attacked the motor launch carrying 64 personnel in Ballimella reservoir in Orissa’s Malkangiri district, about 220 km from Visakhapatnam. The manner in which the Maoists carried out the attack proved that their lethal power remained intact despite suffering huge losses in recent years.

The guerrillas used rocket launchers and mortars and fired from AK-47 rifles and light machine guns from hillocks surrounding the reservoir. The attack caught the policemen off guard as many of them were in a relaxed mood and some were taking a nap on top of the launch.

The launch driver was reportedly killed in the firing, making the stranded launch a sitting duck for the Maoists. It is still not clear if the launch capsized under the impact of heavy firing or due to the policemen coming to one side to take positions to return fire.

It is one of the deadliest attacks by Maoists and the first on water, aimed at reviving Maoist activity in the state. It is also the biggest ambush so far on the personnel of Greyhound, which was raised by Andhra Pradesh in 1989 to tackle the Maoist menace.

“This is the first time since creation of Greyhound that it has come under such an attack by the Maoists,” admitted Home Minister K. Jana Reddy Monday.

The attack came as a shock to the state police, which claimed to have almost eliminated the Maoist movement in the state and the Greyhound had become a role model for all states facing similar problems.

The Greyhound personnel, whose numbers are estimated to be 2,000, are specially trained in forest combat. The best policemen of the state make it to the Greyhound, which is one of the highest paid forces in the country.

The force played a key role in curbing the Maoist activity in their traditional strongholds in north Telangana, Nallamalla forests and areas bordering Orissa and Chhattisgarh during last few years.

It also achieved successes in eliminating top cadres of Maoists including several CPI-Maoist state and central committee members in recent months.

Impressed by its successes in anti-Maoist operations, the union home ministry recently proposed Special Anti-naxal Force (SAF), on a similar pattern to counter left-extremism in 13 Indian states.

The attack came close on the heels of police claim that the number of armed cadres of Maoists in the state came down from 1,133 last year to 474.

The Maoist outfit lost more than 300 cadres including top leaders while an equal number were either arrested or surrendered since early 2005, when first-ever direct peace talks between the insurgents and the state government and eight-month-long ceasefire collapsed.

Andhra Pradesh was earlier the stronghold of the Maoist movement as it was here that the Communist Party of India-Maoist Leninist (CPI-ML) People’s War Group (PWG) took birth in the early 1980s.

The most powerful of a dozen Maoist groups in the country later spread its activity to other states. On the eve of peace talks with Andhra government in 2004, the PWG merged with the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) of Bihar to form the CPI-Maoist.

While the CPI-Maoist carried out several major attacks in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa during last three years, the merger failed to have any impact in Andhra Pradesh as the hot pursuit by the state police, especially Greyhound, dealt vital blows to the extremist movement.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in the Maoist violence in the state during last four decades.

The Maoists, who claim to be fighting against “exploitation” of the poor and the landless farmers, killed ministers, MPs, state legislators, village-level public representatives, political workers, rich landlords, policemen and those working as police informants.

In the biggest-ever attack, Maoists had made a bid on the life of then chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in October 2003 near Tirupati. Naidu, however, escaped with minor injuries in the landmine blast.

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