The police and security forces have achieved some success in the Naxal affected Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra with the surrenders and death of some of the top Maoist leaders in last six months.
There has been no casualty on the part of police or the CRPF in Gadchiroli, after the Pustola blast in March 2012, in which 13 CRPF personnel were killed.
But the police have managed to eliminate eight Naxal cadres and many senior cadres have either surrendered or have been arrested.
Last month's Govindgaon encounter in which the C-60 force of Maharashtra police shot dead six Maoists in Govindgaon village in Aheri division of the district was considered “one of the most successful encounters in the history of the Naxal conflict of the district”, informed one officer of Gadchiroli's Anti-Naxal cell.
“Successful area domination exercises have boosted the moral of our ground level security forces. We have been able to strengthen our network also” said Ravindra Kadam, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Naxal range.
The top Moaists killed in last six months include the Aheri Area Cammander Shankar Anna and Aheri Dalam Commander Vinod Kodape, who were killed in Govindgaon encounter with four other Dalam members last month.
But the surrender of Shekhar, the South Gadchiroli Divisional Secretary and member of Western Military Command of the CPI (Maoist), was a “bigger jolt” to the Naxals, according the Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police (SP) Suvez Haque.
Shekhar alias Bandarapa Mallaiah alias Chandranna and his wife Vijaya Akka had surrendered before Andhra Pradesh police in November last year.
The CPI (Maoist) Dandakarnya Western Regional Committee had issued a press note “condemning the treachery of Shekhar”.
“Despite being associated with the party for a long time, Shekhar suffered from many ideological weaknesses. The party did carry an ideological battle with him but he decided to deceive the movement with which he was associated for more than two decades. Due to his narrow minded thinking and bureaucratic approach, he was not getting along well with the party cadres” says the press note signed by Mr. Shrinivasan, the spokesperson of the CPI (Maoist) Dandakarnya Western Regional Committee.
According to some police sources, Shekhar played an important role in giving “hot inputs” to police in carrying out the Govindgaon encounter.
The CPI (Maoist) press note accepted that Shekhar was taking police to some important locations and had given them (police) some important documents.
A day before the surrender of Shekhar in November last year, Gadchiroli police arrested senior Khobramendha Dalam member Rajita alias Sukri Weladi, Suman alias Sumitra Malo Lekhami and Tunge Hedo near Korchi Tehsil. In the same month, a member of Kasansur Local Operating Squad (LOC) Riky alias Lakshmi Lekhami was killed in an encounter near Ambapur forest in the district.
Another woman naxalite was killed on December 4 last year in an encounter on the bank of the river Parlkota but the ultras managed to drag away her body inside forest. But this encounter sparked rumours of the death of 57-year-old Narmada Akka, the Divisional Secretary of South Gadchiroli CPI (Maoist).
Police considered the death of "the senior most women naxal cadre Narmada Akka’", as a major blow to the Naxal movement in Gadchiroli and it was said that Narmada Akka’s funeral was carried out in a village in Chhattisgarh.
But after a month, police refused to confirm her death with SP Suvez Haque refusing to comment on it. Even the Maoists decided to keep quite on the wellbeing of Naramda Akka.
But Narmada Akka visited some of the villages bordering Kanker district of Chhattisgarh in Gadchiroli last month.
Villagers of this area confirmed to The Hindu that Narmada Akka is “healthy and perfectly fine”.
Apart from the area domination exercises, the operations carried out by the C-60 force has helped Gadchiroli police in strengthening its network in the interior parts of the district.
“The C-60 has been an effective force since long. It is a force of local boys and they have a very good network and capacity to sustain in Jangle for weeks” says Mr. Kadam.
“Our C-60 boys have undergone the Greyhounds training, some of them have been trained at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College in Kanker(Chhattisgarh) and some of them have been trained with the NSG commandos as well “ informed Mr. Kadam.
According to some police sources, the Govindgaon encounter was carried out by the two companies of the C-60.
Apart from carrying out security operations, Gadchiroli police have started organizing a large number of ‘Jan Jagaran Melava’ (awareness programs).
Sometimes, the SP and the DIG personally take part in these ‘Melavas’.
Mr. Haque terms the ‘Jan Jagran Melava’ a success.
“Its success can be gauged from the fact that the Naxals have threatened villagers against participating in our Melavas” says Mr. Haque.
But with the increase in security operations, there has been an increase in the Naxal activities in Gadchiroli in last three months.
In December last year, there were around 20 instances in which the ultras exchanged fire with police.
On January 13, the Naxals torched 26 vehicles near Godalwahi village in Dhanora division.
On February 1, around 10 to 15 Naxals entered Dhanora town and fired in the air. The ultras distributed some pamphlets and put up a banner in the town, appealing the police Jawans “to stop serving Punjipati (Capitalists)” and accusing the officers serving in Gadchiroli of being “corrupt”.
In a recent press note, condemning the killings of six Maoists in Govindagaon, the CPI (Maoist) has said that the Govindgaon encounter was a part of “brutal conspiracy of the police”.
“In this brutal conspiracy, local leaders Dilip Atram and Dharmarao Atram , some capitalists and Dalals of companies helped the police” reads the press note.
The CPI (Maoists) accepted that the killing of six Maoists with two senior leaders in Govindgaon was a “setback of the revolutionary movement in Gadchiroli ”.
“But the police are leaving in fool’s paradise after killing our comrades and by eliminating some of our leaders. They (police) cannot root out our movement from Gadchiroli” reads the press note giving signals of an intensified conflict in days to come.