Maoist military chief’s visit gives cops the jitters
VISAKHAPATNAM: Maoists have started chalking out plans to regain their foothold in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana following the recent visit of their central military wing chief Namballa Kesava Rao. According to sources, the top Maoist leader visited some areas on the Visakhapatnam and East Godavari border last month. Sources said that news of Kesava Rao’s visit has been giving jitters to the security personnel as the top leader was known for masterminding attacks on cops. “An old man visited both the districts and interacted with the Maoist rank and file. Although we are not sure whether it was Basava Raju or some other big leader, intelligence inputs claim that he was Basava Raju himself,” a senior cop involved in anti-naxal operations told TOI.
Basava Raju is learnt to have advised the CPI Maoist cadres in East Godavari and Visakhapatnam to orchestrate people’s movements without being seen as getting directly involved. “The naxals plan to create trouble for both, the Telangana and Andhra governments, by using people’s movements to their advantage. They want to project the anti-bauxite and anti-Polavaram movements as anti-people’s projects and gain support of the masses,” a senior police officer of East Godavari said. Kesava Rao alias Basava Raju alias Ganganna, who started the Maoist movement in the East Division of Visakha Agency and East Godavari district in the early 80s with only eight armed members, is well versed with the topography of the two districts and has good relations with the elders of many villages.
Sources said that he played a major role in preparing the squads and area committees, besides village committees and militia network in building up the anti-bauxite and Polavaram agitations. Sources said the naxals are now focusing on strengthening the people’s movements in the Andhra-Odisha and Andhra-Chhattisgarh border areas as well as in Telangana. As a result, they have been playing a key role in the anti-Bauxite movement in AP and anti-Polavaram agitations in Telangana. Earlier, the naxals depended on their military prowess to spread the Maoist ideology among the masses, but now they are reportedly changing their tactics. “The Maoists have already chalked out plans to strengthen their base in AP and Telangana through people’s movements. They have even prepared a detailed document on the anti-bauxite and Polavaram agitations,” the police official added. According to sources, the seven mandals that were merged into AP once had a very strong Maoist presence, which declined over a period of time. But, they are now trying to revive their connections in around 350 villages in those mandals as well as East Godavari to strengthen the village level committees in the Visakha Agency.
Young Maoist sympathisers under vigil
CPI-Maoist cadre could be fast depleting in Telangana as the State intelligence claims, but those holding extreme Left-wing ideology are fighting lone battles standing close to people’s movements in several Telangana districts, forcing the intel wing to up its social media surveillance. Like Kodamangundla Vivek (19), an active Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika member and commander of CPI-Maoist who was slain in a police ‘encounter’ in Chhattisgarh, several others who are mostly students and young human rights activists from across the region, having Maoism as ideology, are active on social media platforms and agitations. From protests against Polavaram project and those against eviction of Adivasis from tribal areas in Eturunagaram in Warangal district, Bhadrachalam in Khammam district and Utnoor in Adilabad district, to smaller student protests on campuses, several social movements witness the presence of those harbouring Maoist ideology, both Maoist ideologues and participants of these movements said.
Police surveillance on these activists range from video recording students’ protests on campuses in Hyderabad, Nalgonda and Warangal, to closely gathering details on the activities of leaders on micro-blogging and social networking platforms. While activists say they are being watched online, police confirmed that “routine” online checks are common, especially that of over-ground workers (OGWs) of CPI-Maoist. “There is a good presence of people who are Maoist sympathisers on social media platforms. We consider such propagation in is not illegal,” said a student leader, who wished to maintain anonymity. With several court rulings, including a recent Kerala High Court ruling that stated that having an ideology, even that of a banned outfit, does not warrant arrest, unless the accused has indulged in “unlawful activities”, young leaders are hopeful of their growing base. From Progressive Democratic Students Union (PDSU), TVV and less active AISA, all outfits which participate in social movements in various districts are watched, police sources confirmed.
“Intelligence officials are in touch with most of these suspects and gather reports on regular basis about their activities,” a police source said. The State’s police head confirmed that social media surveillance is a common affair. “We have an intelligence branch which looks into these kinds of things,” said Anurag Sharma, DGP, Telangana, adding social media is a vast area because of which it is literally impossible to monitor everything. “Normally universities and campuses go through peripheral checks,” Mr. Sharma said. According to police sources, officers monitor even public posts of activists on social media platforms. “The party is currently living in exile in Dandakaranya. But there are enough young men and women who are active in social movements to support the ideological base of the party,” said Varavara Rao, Maoist sympathiser writer.