Originally Published 2005-08-22 04:47:17 Published on Aug 22, 2005
Confusion and vacillation have been the marked features of the Andhra Pradesh government¿s policy towards the Naxalites of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which it proscribed on August 17, along with seven of its front organisations in the wake of the killing of nine persons,
Naxalites misused peace process
Confusion and vacillation have been the marked features of the Andhra Pradesh government's policy towards the Naxalites of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which it proscribed on August 17, along with seven of its front organisations in the wake of the killing of nine persons, including C. Narsi Reddy, the serving Congress legislator from Matkal, Mahabubnagar district, on August 15. 

Following a landslide victory in the elections to the state legislature, in May, 2004, the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy-led Congress government announced a now-failed peace process with the Naxalites and allowed the ban on the CPI-Maoist to lapse on July 21. Apparently, the government launched the peace process - and engaged the Maoists in talks from October 15 to 18 - merely out of political expediency, without careful planning, vision and adequate appreciation of its implications and consequences. Initially, the Rajasekhara Reddy government wanted to be seen as adopting a softer stand in contrast to the hard-line approach of the earlier Telugu Desam government. Also, his government had to repay its "debts" to the Maoists because it is said to have struck an unholy and unprincipled deal with them for electoral gains; by proscribing the outfit, it made a complete U turn. 

On June 16, the government announced its offer of "holding fire" (informal ceasefire) and the Maoists reciprocated on June 21. Even though the government had, in effect, declared a ceasefire, it desisted to actually term it as one and chose to observe an informal ceasefire. Moreover, the government constituted a 20-member committee to monitor the ceasefire agreement that it never signed with the Naxalites! On January 17, 2005, a day after the Naxalites trashed the peace process and announced that they were walking out of it, the government asked the same committee to probe the violations by the Naxalites. 

In the run-up to the talks, the state Home Minister, Mr K Jana Reddy, said the government's announcement on holding fire, and its invitation to participate in peace talks, was applicable to all Naxalite groups operating in the state. Further, Mr L. Sampatha Rao and Mr P. Srihari represented one such smaller Naxalite formation, the Communist Party of United States of India (CPUSI) during initial consultations with the government in the run-up to the talks, while CPUSI state secretary Sadhu Malyadri Jambhav and Khammam-Warangal district secretary E Sammakka Swaroopa were nominated as its representatives for the peace talks; the same was conveyed to the Home Minister on October 7, 2004. But, strangely, the CPUSI did not participate in the October 15-18 talks, and it is not known if the government had any role in this. 

The peace process was certainly a godsend for the battered Maoists who had suffered numerous body blows during the tenure of the earlier Telugu Desam government. They had lost three centre committee members (Nalla Adi Reddy Shyam, Erramreddy Santosh Reddy Mahesh and Seelam Naresh Murali, in 1999), a few special zonal committee/state-level leaders (such as Anupuram Komaraiah, in 2003) and some district-level leaders (such as Polam Sudarshan Reddy, of Warangal, in 2003 and Nelakonda Rajitha of Karimnagar, in 2002), besides numerous cadres in encounters with the police, either real or staged. They were almost wiped out in their traditional stronghold in North Telengana. Therefore, they needed some respite. 

Thus, the Naxalites made the best use of the opportunity afforded by the peace process in a number of ways. They held public rallies, unveiled martyrs' memorials, earned a lot of publicity through the print and visual media and sought to gain legitimacy. Also it helped them enormously to regroup and strengthen their cadre base as well as shore-up their weapon-holdings and coffers. On the other hand, the government clearly abdicated its responsibility of maintaining law and order, looked the other way and had directed the police not to act against the Naxalites even as they roamed around the villages bearing arms publicly. 

All along the Naxalites were unambiguous in their stand that participating in the peace process was a tactic and that "talks were war by other means." A day before the talks were to commence, in a Press release on October 14, 2004, announcing the formation of the CPI-Maoist - following the merger of the People's War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre of India - Ganapathy and Kishan, the two top leaders, said: "the immediate aim and programme of the Maoist party is to carry on and complete the already ongoing and advancing New Democratic Revolution... This revolution will be carried out and completed through... protracted people's war with the armed seizure of power remaining as its central and principal task..." 

True to their assertion, the Maoists have shown no let-up in their violence and have launched attacks on unarmed innocent people as well as the police, resulting in the death of 139 people and 17 policemen this year until August 17, 2005. They also made a spectacular but vain attempt on the life of Mahesh Chandra Ladda, the police chief of Prakasam district, on April 27, 2005, in the heart of the district headquarters town of Ongole. This rising trend of violence peaked with the killing of Narsi Reddy on August 15 and resulted in the subsequent proscription of the Maoists. 

Reacting to the news of the ban, Maoist over-ground supporter P. Vara Vara Rao poohpoohed the ban and said it would not have any impact on the outfit while Maoist commanders warned of bloodier days. Indeed, the spectre of Maoist violence and the numbers participating in an attack have acquired a qualitative shift in recent months. In the attack on Narsi Reddy at a public gathering they had fielded AK-47 rifles. Earlier, on March 11 a group of 20-30 Maoists lobbed grenades and bombs during the attack on a police station in Chilakaluripeta, Guntur district, in a crowded part of the town, killing four civilians and three policemen. Moreover, until now, there were at least five occasions on which they had deployed improvised rocket launchers during the attacks on police stations. Besides, reports of May 3, 2005, indicated that each of the eight Maoist military platoons in operation in the state have been given 10 rockets each. 

Evidently, the Maoists have little concern for the lives of the people while the government's approach to the Naxalite problem has not been helpful, either. 

The writer is a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. 

Source: The Tribune, Chnadigarh, August 22, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.

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