fter several years of quiet, there have been stirrings of Maoist activity in the tribal hills on the Andhra-Odisha border in recent weeks. The banned CPI (Maoist) has been active again, trying to organise people in these hamlets against the government’s plans to resume mining of bauxite.
But what is particularly worrying to the police is the possibility of a gun-running links developing between the Maoists and the flourishing marijuana smugglers in this district. The recent arrest of two tribesmen who were allegedly trying to sell arms to Maoists in the Pedabayalu region of the Visakhapatnam tribal Agency area has set alarm bells ringing in the anti-naxalite units stationed here.
According to the ASP of Paderu, A. Babujee, the two men had procured a weapon from ganja traders and were trying to pass it on to the Maoists. The weapon seized was a country-made 9 mm pistol. Country-made small arms are stock in trade for the Maoists, but this one was of a sophisticated make. It looked like a regular 9 mm pistol with a butt-loading facility. Police also recovered five 9 mm cartridges from the two men.
According to the ASP, the weapon appears to have been procured by ganja smugglers from weapons traders based in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh. “There are places in these States where weapons, even sophisticated ones, are manufactured,” he said.
Sources in the police say easily concealable small arms are being procured by CPI (Maoist) to supply them to its action teams. “Action teams operate in groups of two to four cadres, and they need small arms to fire from close range,” said a senior officer of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB).
The Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) is a major base for CPI (Maoist). In recent months it has also become a major hub for ganja cultivation. Unconfirmed estimates say about 80 per cent of ganja supply to the rest of India is from this region.
Superintendent of police (Visakhapatnam) Koya Praveen told The Hindu that the wild belt comprising Pedabayalu, G. Madugula, G.K. Veedhi, Paderu and Chintapalli in Visakhapatnam and Malkangiri and R Udayagiri in Odisha have gained notoriety for ganja cultivation.
A major part of the cultivation is sponsored by smugglers from Tamil Nadu, and sold to smugglers hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. There has been a spurt in interceptions of ganja trafficking this year.
“Recent arrests show that ganja smuggling has become pan-Indian. In such a scenario, the formation of a nexus of Maoists, ganja smugglers and arms dealers is possible, said deputy excise commissioner M. Satyanarayana.
Though the CPI (Maoist) opposes ganja cultivation by tribal communities, it has not entirely put it down. According to one SIB officer, Maoists have been depending on ganja traders for logistic support such as supply of rations, batteries, wires and tarpaulin sheets.
The two men arrested while trying to sell a weapon to Maoists have both been found to have contacts with ganja traders.