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Aug 30, 2018 32 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Yesterday had shared about #UrbanNaxals in Andhra Pradesh, and how for 2 decades my home state, had to grapple with this problem. Today I look at another aspect, how Andhra Pradesh was succesful in combating Naxalism at multiple levels.
Andhra Pradesh strategy against Naxalism was a mix of carrot and stick. While on the one hand we had the regular police encounters, it was backed up by an excellent intelligence network. The carrot on the other hand was the social welfare schemes and development works.
A brief history of Naxals in Andhra Pradesh, roughly speaking there were 3 phases, one between 1969-74, one of the bloodiest ones, another from 1980 to 1990 and the final phase from 1990 end to mid 2000s, that was the turning point basically.
1969-74 was when the Naxal movement took root in Andhra Pradesh, primarily in North Telangana( Warangal, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad), Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, agency areas of Vizag, Godavari districts. And Srikakulam one of the most backward dts, was where it was born.
Jalagam Vengal Rao then CM of Andhra Pradesh, took a hard stance against Naxals and managed to crush the movement, giving a free hand to the cops. From 1976-80, there was not much Naxal activity, however it reared it's ugly head from 1980 onwards again.
And that was when the AP Govt recognized that to win the war against Naxals, needed a fight on all levels- police, economic, social. It was not a pretty one, there were mistakes, countless lives were lost, for most of 80s and 90s, people in Naxal areas lived in fear.
One of the first steps was taken by NTR, as CM, doing away with the Patel-Patwari system in Telangana, one of the prime causes for many youths joining the Naxal movement. Add to it, populist measures like Rs 2 per Kg rice, subsidized housing, farming helped wean away most.
Much as economists decry "populist measures", they played a major role in containing spread of Naxalism in AP. In a way, they helped to puncture the "anti-people" propaganda of Naxals, and alienated their support base- tribals, small time farmers, landless labor.
Let me state it clear my take on the Naxal issue we faced in Andhra Pradesh, is pretty much a lay person one. Some one who grew up during those times. I really am not qualified enough to comment on economics or policy matters. Nor am an intellectual kind.
Anyway by late 1990, the Naxals had taken full control of Northern Telangana, Agency areas of Vizag, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Godavari districts. To the extent that they were confident enough to declare those areas as Liberated Zones, run their own parallel Govts.
By end of 1990, the Naxals were calling the shots in their areas of influence, while the Security forces were clearly losing out, with AP Govt, then dependent on Central Para Military Forces. The casualties were mounting, and the Naxals seemed to be winning, it was scary.
It was this critical situation that made the AP Govt, come out with a proper counter strategy, the first step was to reclaim control over the Naxal areas. One advantage was that the Naxals being concentrated in pockets, made it easier for the AP Govt to target them.
Grey Hounds a professional anti Naxal unit was set up, and worked in coordination with the local state Police, as well as Central reserve. The Grey Hounds was made up of youngsters mostly in their mid 30s, absolutely professional and ruthless, and given a free hand.
Apart from the Grey Hounds, another important thing the AP Govt did was to involve the local police in tandem with the Central paramilitary forces. The local state police, knew the language, the terrain and they acted as an effective layer in the fight.
During the 80s Naxal attacks on Police stations, were quite common in AP. The Govt put in the Paramilitary forces in charge of those Police stations, and that drastically bought down the attacks. It also helped the local police to assert their authority.
What essentially worked in AP against Naxalism, was a coordinated effort by the Central Paramilitary Forces, Greyhounds and State Police, where each had their role clearly defined, and given importance. It ensured all had an equal stake in the process.
Now the next part that made a difference was the AP Govt putting in a surrender and rehab policy for the Naxals. Now in the Naxal movement the committed ones would be around say 20%, the Govt targeted the 80%, who basically joined it for other reasons.
Giving an option to surrender, and then rehabilitating the ex Naxals, ensured a good lot gave up their arms. And many of them were assisted in some way or other to make a living. Also these ex Naxals helped in the intelligence gathering, giving inputs on the movement.
But it was not just the police operations, what made the difference in AP, was a solid intelligence network set up by the Govt. People part of the intelligence network were paid 40% more, and it was not just tracking the Naxals, but also getting to know the people's pulse.
The intelligence dept, gathered details not just on the Naxals, but also the socio-economic conditions in those areas. Especially the middle men and contractors, who were often exploitative of the tribals. And this helped the Govt to combat the issue at multiple levels.
And finally the critical part, when you are fighting an insurgency, you need the support of the local people. The AP Govt realizing this, began a series of steps that would wean away the Naxal support base- tribals, marginal farmers, landless labor from them.
As I stated, one thing was those series of welfare measures in Naxal hit areas, that weaned away locals from Naxalism. Another was the role of the cops themselves, for a good part of the 80s, most of the people, looked upon the police with fear.
Lockup deaths were common, and the people in Naxal hit areas feared the cops as much as they did the Naxals. Realizing this the AP Police, changed tack. Instead of mere policing, they began to assist in developmental activities in those regions, winning trust of locals.
The cops began to play a more proactive role in the Naxal hit regions of AP, taking part in developmental activities, opening schools, also cracking down on some of the corrupt middlemen and contractors. This ensured in a way they got the support of the local people.
Also the cops adopted a softer approach to Naxals who wanted to surrender, giving them all assistance, helping them to settle down. Constantly publicizing the surrenders of Naxals, acquisition of arms, by the police, helped in weaning many youth away from that path.
So it was more a carrot and stick policy. A softer approach for the locals, ex Naxals who wanted to surrender, welfare measures, building of roads, schools, while a more ruthless take no prisoners policy against the hardcore Naxals. And that is what worked in AP.
Of course the political leadership in Andhra Pradesh made the difference too. Both Congress and TDP, went on all out offensive. During CBN's time, the Naxals were hit really hard along the Odisha, CG borders, while YSR wiped em out in North Telangana region.
Actually during YSR's time, the Naxals had planned to spread their influence in Nallamalla forests, with the crackdown in Telangana. However the Govt got information on this, and in a bloody encounter in Nallamalla forests, wiped out some of the top leaders.
To understand the success of Andhra Pradesh against Naxalism, take a look at these 2 maps, in 6 years, AP Govt managed to totally contain it, and this inspite of political instability, death of YSR, TG movement. It was not an overnight success, took a long drawn out battle.
The battle against Naxalism has not been an easy one for Andhra Pradesh, faced it for 20 years. Countless lives lost, mistakes made and some real painful memories. But here is nothing romantic about Naxalism, it's a bloody destructive ideology, that needs to be rooted out.
And finally my take on Naxalism in AP, and the long war against it, is more from a common person's POV. I am not an intellectual, nor a policy expert, nor one of those think tankis. This is just what I experienced as a lay person during those times and my feelings on it.
And to all those attacking me on my thread on Naxalism in AP, and calling me names, Frankly my dear I don't give a fucking Damn. I am here to state my views, not to sound politically correct or make certain groups. Too bad if they offend you, can't do much about it.

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