K.M. Dayashankar

Once a hotbed of naxalite activity, Bheerpur village in Karimnagar has lost its fear of Left extremists and their calls for poll boycotts

There is hardly any political graffiti in the interior villages of Karimnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. Instead, you are greeted by slogans such as AK lu oddu, ABCD lu muddu (say no to AK 47s and yes to alphabets), which urge the youth to desist from violence and join the mainstream.

At Bheerpur village in Sarangapur mandal, the native place of Maoist supremo Muppala Laxman Rao alias Ganapathi, one is greeted with a huge “peace memorial” (shanti stupam) raised by villagers and the police together in memory of those killed by the naxalites. The village also has a library constructed, again, by the people and the police. The village sports other signs of development: concrete roads, roadside drains, a public health sub-centre, cell phone towers, protected drinking water supply, water for irrigation from the SRSP canal.

These villages in the forested Sarangapur mandal, located on the banks of the Godavari at some distance from the district headquarters, were once naxalite-affected. In particular, Bheerpur was considered the hotbed of the movement.

The residents of Bheerpur were subject to a Maoist poll boycott call years ago, but after raising the banner of revolt against the naxalites, they now actively participate in the elections. Last time round, there was 70 per cent polling in the village, with a population of 4,600 and an electorate of 2,600.

Said R. Ramchander, the village secretary: “The naxalite movement spread in our villages because of police highhandedness and the harassment of innocent youth. Thanks to the change in the attitude of the police and the government, the villagers are revolting against the naxalites including its supremo.”

When the naxalite presence loomed over it, no official would visit the village, said Latchanna, a youth. He remembers how he and his friends would run whenever a jeep entered the village, fearing the wrath of the police. “Now we are part of development and demanding that the elected representatives do more for the village, which was neglected for all the three decades of the naxalite movement,” he said.

Village sarpanch M. Ramesh, whose cell phone ring tone is the naxalite tune, says he has the tune as it is a traditional and popular folk song of the Telangana region. “We are happy as there are no naxalites in our village,” he said, adding he was also a victim as they had thrashed him, after branding him an informer. “Come what may, we will participate in the election process and strive for the development of the village,” he maintained.