| Sande Rajamouli
Hyderabad, June 23: CPI (Maoist) second-in-command Sande Rajamouli, the man who had nearly succeeded in killing former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, fell to police bullets last night in the latest blow to the rebels in insurgency-hit Andhra Pradesh.
The 47-year-old Naxalite leader had 120 cases against him in Chhattisgarh, Andhra and Orissa; was on the wanted list in seven other states and had a cash reward of Rs 16 lakh on his head.
Rajamouli, also known as Prasad, headed the group’s operations in Karnataka and was said to be the No. 2 in the CPI (Maoist) hierarchy after national secretary Muppala Lakshman Rao (Ganapati).
The encounter also claimed a woman guard of the Maoist leader while another rebel escaped under cover of darkness.
Andhra police said the exchange of fire took place near the Dharmavaram railway station in Anantapur district. “They kept running and fired at the police who retaliated, killing Prasad on the spot,” said district police chief Stephen Ravindra.
“The woman rebel died in hospital later. Another injured Maoist escaped,” Ravindra added.
Rajamouli, who was also a member of the central military commission of the rebel outfit, had masterminded the October 1, 2003, landmine explosions that nearly killed Naidu while the Telugu Desam boss, then the chief minister, was on his way to the Balaji temple near Tirupati.
The blasts had ripped apart Naidu’s bullet-proof vehicle but he escaped with fractures to his left collarbone and wrist.
Rajamouli’s death is the latest in a series of setbacks the CPI (Maoist) has suffered in Andhra, where Maoist violence has claimed more than 7,500 lives since 1969.
The outfit, which has lost several leaders, including its top boss in the state, last year, had brought the Karimnagar native back to Andhra to regain control of former strongholds like the Nallamala forests.
Early on Friday, Maoists also struck on the Andhra-Orissa border, blasting the engine of a goods train that ferries iron ore to Visakhapatnam.
The rebels, however, failed to blast the railway station though they asked all the employees to vacate the premises.
Police sources said the late-night attack has disrupted movement of iron ore.