Monday, 30th October 2017

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'Split' face of Odisha insurgency

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  • Published 25.03.12

Hyderabad, March 24: The talk of a Maoist faction fight spawning last night’s MLA abduction highlights a traditional facet of the insurgency in Odisha: its dominance by Telugu speakers from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

Of all the Maoist top guns in the eastern state, only one is an Odiya speaker: state organising committee secretary Sabyasachi Panda.

Most of the state’s worst Maoist-affected districts — including guerrilla strongholds Koraput and Malkangiri — are the domain of the Maoists’ Andhra-Odisha border zonal committee, controlled by the Telugu leaders. As the name suggests, these key south Odisha districts are hyphenated with a few northeastern coastal Andhra districts.

One reason for the Telugu dominance is that Maoism was largely imported in Odisha from across the border. The Andhra Maoists began building hideouts in Odisha’s forests in the early 1990s when the southern state banned the People’s War Group.

Later, as Andhra police’s elite Greyhounds went after the rebels in Nallamala and north Telangana in the mid-2000s, some among the Maoist brass shifted to Odisha. Among them were Azad and Ramakrishna, who is now the border committee’s secretary and commander of its guerrilla forces.

Andhra police sources said the MLA’s abduction was carried out with logistical support from the dalams of Visakhapatnam’s Paderu region.

“We had warned Odisha police of the threat perception in view of the Maoist bandh call (for today),” an Andhra officer said. He said state intelligence had advised district officials and lawmakers in Andhra not to venture into interior villages without police escort.

“We had advised them not even to visit their village homes for the Ugadi festival,” he said.

The Maoists had won over the impoverished tribals and Dalits of Odisha by attacking corrupt bureaucrats and exploitative contractors and moneylenders.

A foreign journalist recently quipped that the Maoists ran a parallel administration in the Andhra-Odisha border with the tribals and Dalits as their loyal subjects and businessmen and industrialists as their taxpayers.

Andhra police sources suggested the Maoists wanted to turn the border region into a new safe haven for their top brass following the central forces’ onslaught in Chhattisgarh, Kishan’s killing in Bengal and Azad’s elimination in Andhra.

The border committee controls the East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra and five Odisha districts: Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Gajapati and Nabarangpur.

Koraput shares its borders with Malkangiri, Rayagada and Nabarangpur districts of Odisha; Bastar district of Chhattisgarh; and Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra.