Hyderabad, Sept. 27: Police today said the influence of the People’s War Group was waning and the number of its workers had drastically reduced over the years.
Addressing the media after the surrender of 10 Naxalites, state director general P. Ramulu said the rebel group’s present strength stood at less than 750 as against the 2,500 activists in 2001. “They are recruiting even teenagers and children, which displays their desperation at dwindling recruitment and popularity,” he said.
Among those who surrendered today is Ambala Madanaiah, who carried a cash award of Rs 3 lakh, and Durgam Swamy, commander of the Sirpur local guerrilla squad.
Four women activists also laid down arms — Jejjari Devi, 12, P. Lakshmi, 20, Suguna Kumari and K. Sukanya, 25. Jejjari said she had joined the PWG after a beating from her father one day, and that she carried the baggage of the squads.
The director general said those who surrendered would not be harassed or detained for long on the pretext of investigation. “All those who surrender will be free to go anywhere they want within few hours, unless they face serious criminal charges. If they surrender in the morning, they are free birds by evening,” he said.
“Nearly 488 activists have surrendered in the last nine months.”
According to police estimate, this year 62 PWG extremists were killed, while the group murdered 66 people, including 10 police personnel, and committed 386 offences. The police seized 207 weapons from the rebels.
In the last four months, all five platoons of the People’s Guerrilla Army (PGA) that had terrorised Andhra Pradesh, had taken refuge in safe havens, Ramulu said, adding that police are hunting for them along with the joint effort of forces from West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.
The state police chief said the group’s hold over Warangal and Karimnagar districts was gradually being neutralised. “There are only three dalams of PWG left in Warangal as against eight earlier,” he said. The PWG strategy is to merge most of its independent dalams into platoons of the PGA to ensure better control and action. For publicity and general purpose, the group at present is operating with local guerrilla squads while the PGA is retained for major attacks, he added.
The rebels had recently struck terror in the Chandrababu Naidu administration by tracking the movement of three ministers in Kurnool district. Five of the group’s suicide squads had targeted one minister to no avail. The attempts, however, unnerved Naidu’s Cabinet colleagues and security was beefed up for the chief minister during his district tours and also during his stay in the secretariat. As an added security measure, his appointments are either delayed or preponed by over 45 minutes.