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Why Andhra Naxals lead the Red movement

April 08, 2010 14:37 IST

The dossier on Naxalites put out by the Union home ministry has several names of most wanted Naxalites in it and 99 per cent of the leaders in that list are from Andhra Pradesh, indicating how strong movement is in this part of southern India. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

Ganapathy, Koteshwar Rao or Sudarshan, who hold important posts in the Maoist movement, all hail from Andhra Pradesh, and are primarily considered to be the men who have strengthened the movement.

It is largely believed that the Naxal movement in Andhra Pradesh has almost ended and the Greyhounds -- a special squad set up by the Andhra Pradesh government -- has neutralised them to a large extent. However, with the re-birth of the Telangana movement a couple of months back, security forces see a major danger -- the return of the Naxal movement in the state.

The fact remains that the Naxal movement became strongest during the Telangana movement, almost 60 years back, and with the issue on a boil once again, security agencies do not rule out a Naxal resurgence again in Andhra Pradesh.

Each of the leaders in the most wanted list has had an affiliation with the Telangana movement prior to taking the Red route.

There are two versions to the story of emergence of the Naxal movement in Andhra Pradesh. A section claims that the birth of the movement originally took place when people were fed up of the atrocities of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

A group of people came together to protest these acts, and finally, took up violent means to counter the Nizam and safeguard the people.

However, the most common version that is quoted is the affiliation of the Naxal movement to Telangana movement, which was an off shoot of the poor living conditions and the barbaric zamindari rule in these regions.

Most of the leaders who now form a part of the Naxal movement were initially part of the Radical Students Union, and later the Telangana Sangharsha Samithi.

Most of the leaders who belonged to these movements then moved into the Naxal movement, and from there they started to take up larger issues such as farmers' problems, while also demanding a separate Telangana state.

Sympathisers of the movement say that the Andhra government has always been hostile towards the problems of the farmers. The police force always suppressed the farmers when they tried raising their voice for better living conditions. The ruling class of Andhra Pradesh was always accused of using the political system to their advantage.

The Naxal movement became extremely popular in Andhra, since at that time, the violence was very limited in nature. The movement was considered to be the strongest in Adilabad, Warangal, Khammam, East Godavari and Visakhapatnam districts.

Records show that unlike the rest of Andhra Pradesh where the movement spread with the help of armed squads in northern Telangana, the movement was mostly popularised by the labour class and students.

There was huge awareness in the Telangana region for the formation of a separate state, and the labour class and students unions decided to spread the ideology of Maoism through peaceful means.

However, this did not last long and blaming the government and the police for suppressing the movement, the armed squads reached the Telangana regions too, and the struggle became violent.

This struggle did manage to drive out the landlords, but that did not end matters. A new class of people called the 'rich elite' started flocking these areas and the poor people felt that the only way to keep their rights intact was continue supporting the Naxal movement.

The first signs of major violence by the Naxalites was in 1985. Two policemen were killed in separate incidents in Dharmapuri in Karimnagar and Warrangal. The war had come out in the open. The police retaliated with a host of encounters. The battle only got worse in the years to come.

In 1990 paramilitary forces were deployed for the first time in Andhra Pradesh. However, the Naxal movement had grown by now, and they had acquired a new skill of blowing up police vehicles.

As a compromise strategy, the government decided to hold talks and send the paramilitary forces back. There was even speculation that the Congress, which returned to power after the rule of the Telegu Desam Party, had permitted the Maoists to carry out their 'political' activities openly.

However, there was a fallout, as it is believed that the Congress did not live up to the promise of pre-election agreement.

The movement got even more aggressive then, and the Maoists declared that they would be in control of the whole of northern Telangana, the Nallamalla forests in the Krishna basin and also the Eastern Ghat hills.

Experts point out that it was the formation of the Peoples' War Group by these persons in the 1980s which made this movement extremely violent in nature.

It is pointed out this was a battle which originally commenced for land reforms. However, the sympathisers of this movement allege that despite the Andhra government adopting several laws to this effect -- such as the Andhra Pradesh Land Reforms (Ceiling and Agriculture Holdings) Act of 1973 -- it was never properly implemented. It is alleged that most of the land that was distributed to the tribals were dry lands and of poor quality.

Although this problem existed in many states, Andhra has always been the epicentre of the problem. The movement gradually spilled into West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar and Orissa.

However, the very reason for the Andhra leadership of Naxals being so popular in the entire country is largely due to the fact that the movement turned into an arms struggle for the first time in this state.

The violent means adopted by the PWG had put the government on the backfoot several times and this encouraged the Naxal cadres of the other states to adopt to the same module.

The Naxal leaders from Andhra were preferred, since they had been using violent means from a long time and were well versed in this kind of 'guerilla' warfare.

After the advent of the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh, the movement was neutralised to a large extent, which in turn forced most of the leaders to leave the state. All these leaders then took shelter in other states such as West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh, from where they continue to operate even today.

However, it was not only the Greyhounds which played a major role in neutralising the movement. There is a big change in the mindset of the youth of Andhra.

They feel that there was a need to drive out the landlords from their villages and ensure equal rights. But they also point out that the Naxals managed to bring the police to their villages. This was a turning point, since the Naxal cadres started losing local support.

Vicky Nanjappa