K. Srinivas Reddy

HYDERABAD: The continuing political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh over the issue of Telangana will provide a perfect ground for the Maoists to re-establish their base in the State, police agencies fear.

Their apprehensions are based on the fact that Maoists have always increased their strength in times of political crises and especially when the people’s agitations took place irrespective of the political parties’ involvement. The ongoing agitation for separate statehood for Telangana is one such development, which the Maoists are trying to take advantage of in Andhra Pradesh, once their stronghold.

Maoists have been quite vocal in their support for the pro-Telangana agitation. The CPI (Maoist) has issued two statements so far and its central committee member, Kishanji who is spearheading the Lalgarh resistance in West Bengal, spoke extensively on the issue over telephone to different Telugu news channels. Though it may be a coincidence, Telugu Desam leaders hailing from Telangana convinced their party leaders to join the all-party Joint Action Committee, hours after the Maoist North Telangana unit secretary issued a statement calling upon TD leaders to defy their party president N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Officers involved in counter-insurgency operations point out that the cause of concern is the growing militancy among the agitators in Telangana districts. Pro-Telangana agitators have been refusing to pay electricity bills in Medak district. Power officials were confined and told that the bills would be paid only after Telangana was formed. Such is the spontaneous militancy which Maoists could not achieve in the last 10 years. Now that the struggle for Telangana is becoming militant, Maoists would certainly ride piggy-back on the agitation and consolidate their base, if not hijack it, they fear.

A parallel is sought to be drawn between the Lalgarh resistance movement led by the Maoists in West Bengal to the ongoing Telangana agitation by officials who monitor Left Wing Extremist activity in the country. Though West Bengal had seen three resistance movements – Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh, it is the Lalgarh movement which got so much of people’s support that Maoists have dubbed it as a ‘Second Naxalbari.’

Maoist chief Ganapathi said three months ago that people spontaneously started the Lalgarh movement to fight the ‘oppression and exploitation by the CPI(M).’ The excesses by police while investigating the landmine attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhabdeb Bhattacharjee’s convoy had brought the masses out in the open. “This assumed the form of a long-drawn mass movement, and our party played the role of a catalyst.”

Maoists are now getting ready to play this role of a ‘catalyst’ in Andhra Pradesh and the situation is conducive for them. Naxalites could use their sympathisers and mass organisations to notch the level of militancy up forcing the police forces to use excessive force to reach that flash point where they can take over the movement. This is where the role of police in tackling the emerging situations becomes extremely important. Any excessive use of force, as seen during the lathi-charge on Osmania University students on November 29, would fuel the militancy and this is what the Maoists want. “We are aware of this peculiar situation and that is why we are showing extreme restraint while dealing with agitators,” police top brass say.

The biggest cause of concern for the police leadership is the massive rally of students planned on January 3 in Hyderabad. As the police are instructed to prevent students from reaching the State capital, a potentially explosive situation could emerge in the event of a face-off between police and the students.

“We are aware that the quantum of force to be used, if necessary, should be minimum especially when we deal with political agitations like this” police officials say.