Hyderabad, July 23: Andhra police commandos today shot dead the state’s top Maoist leader who had a Rs 22-lakh reward on his head after a tip-off about a rebel meeting deep in the forests between Guntur and Prakasham districts.
Prakasham police superintendent N. Balasubramanyam confirmed that Madhav alias Burra Chennaiah, who had recently taken over as secretary of the state provincial committee of the CPI (Maoist), has been killed in the encounter.
Earlier in the day, the police had said Guntur district secretary Jeevan was among the eight rebels killed, including five women, and that Madhav had escaped. But in the evening, they said it was not Jeevan but Madhav who had died in the shootout in the Nallamala forests in Prakasham, about 435 km southeast of the capital Hyderabad.
Nearly 1,000 Greyhound commandos of the state’s anti-Naxalite special wing took part in the raid, which came six days after at least 25 people were killed in an attack by Maoists on a government camp in neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The camp housed a state-backed anti-Maoist group.
A Class V dropout from Karimnagar, Madhav was involved in various crimes, including the attack on former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in October 2003. Last year, the state police had announced a cash reward of Rs 22 lakh on his head.
The 48-year-old, who had been elected to the CPI (Maoist) central committee in 2005, had climbed to No. 3 in the overall party hierarchy.
State police chief Swaranjit Sen said Madhav’s death was a major blow to the Maoists in Andhra, but added that all police stations have been put on high alert against retaliatory strikes.
Police officials said they found an AK-47 rifle, two pistols, huge amounts of explosives and extremist literature at the site of the meeting.
The police also found cooking materials and ration for three days. “We recovered several kit bags, personal diaries and other belongings of top guns which could lead us to many unknown places,” Balasubramanyam said.
This was the third massive effort to catch top Maoist leaders since negotiations failed to broker peace after the rebels refused to give up arms for truce talks.
“Now they have no place to hide in these forests in Andhra Pradesh,” said DGP Sen.
Civil right activists, however, said the encounter was staged and demanded a post-mortem on the dead Maoists.
“When not a single policeman is injured in the encounter, it appears like a fake encounter,” said Sheshaiah, the president of the Hyderabad-based Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee.