Hyderabad, Jan. 15: The spectre of Naxalite terror loomed menacingly over Andhra Pradesh tonight as Maoists declared there was no point in sticking with peace talks after eight of their colleagues were gunned down.
The rebels were killed in two encounters with police in violence that surged suddenly after a relative lull for seven months. The Maoists claimed the state police had violated all norms of their truce with the government, stepped up patrolling and openly hunted them down.
In a strongly-worded letter to the state home minister K. Jana Reddy and forwarded to newspaper offices, CPI (Maoist) secretary Ramakrishna said he had 'given up all hopes' of continuing the talks.
Andhra Pradesh DGP Swaranjit Sen immediately declared a red alert in 12 Naxalite-infested districts, cancelled the leaves of all constables and officers and warned his forces of Maoist plans to attack police stations and government offices.
'I cannot say anything right now. The top priority for us is to protect the lives of policemen and take all precautionary measures,' he said.
All elected representatives have been advised not to venture out of their homes on their own. 'If they want to travel in their districts and constituencies, they should inform the police and go with escorts only,' Sen said.
This afternoon, the rebels clashed with police in a big way after the expiry of the December 16 ceasefire. The bigger encounter took place near Siddayapalli in Mahboobnagar district, about 130 km from Hyderabad, in which five Maoists were shot dead.
A few hours earlier, three others, including a woman, were killed in the Nallamala forests near Srisailam, 240 km from here.
There were also reports from Adilabad and Khammam, on the border with Chhattisgarh, that Maoists had been exchanging fire with the police all afternoon.
Deputy superintendent of police of Markapur in Prakasham district, A.V. Rama Rao, said: 'Police reached the Nallamala forests on information of extortion by the Maoist rebels. One claymore mine, several pistols and five kit bags have been seized from the spot after exchange of fire.'
The sudden surge in Maoist violence has spread fear in the Karimnagar and Warangal districts with several Congress leaders quitting their villages and making a beeline for the district headquarters. Many condemned the government for 'reviving encounter killings of extremists'.
'The government is very vague and ambiguous in its policy towards the Maoists. It has made things difficult for elected representatives in Naxalite-affected districts,' Congress legislator D. Sridhar Babu, who represents Manthani Assembly segment in Karimnagar district, said.
Earlier, chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy took stock of the situation in a meeting with home minister Reddy and senior police officers. The coordination committee for peace talks also met at the residence of convener K.G. Kannabiran.
The home minister defended the police action, saying they were only doing their duty of maintaining law and order. 'The second round of talks can begin only after the creation of a conducive atmosphere. Not right now,' he said.
The chief minister said that unless the Maoists give up arms and stop roaming the villages with arms, talks would not be resumed. 'The Maoists cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,' he said.
The Maoists have called a three-day bandh in all Naxalite-dominated districts starting tomorrow.