Monday, July 13, 2009

Naxals building corridor through three states

Sreenivas Janyala

Some 250 km south of Rajnandgaon where 24 policemen were killed in Sunday’s deadly ambush, a larger and longer-term Naxal project — with wider and more dangerous ramifications — is currently under way.


Maoist guerrillas are working to free up a jungle corridor that connects Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh with Dantewada in the heart of Chhattisgarh’s rebel stronghold, Andhra police officers said.


If completed, the corridor will pass through the districts of Koraput and Malkangiri in south Orissa, giving control of a large area in the Andhra-Orissa-Chhattisgarh border area to the Maoists, and allow rebel cadres and arms to travel freely from the coast to deep inland.

In the event of a crackdown by the state in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand to the north, Maoist leaders and cadre can use the corridor to escape into the thickly forested tribal areas on the Andhra-Orissa border, officers said.

“If the Maoists succeed in creating the corridor, large swathes of the region will pass under their control. Police action will be difficult because three states will need to work in coordination, and the Maoists will manage to move seamlessly between states,” said Shivadhar Reddy, DIG, Special Intelligence Bureau, Andhra Pradesh, a unit that deals exclusively with anti-Maoist intelligence and operations.


Reddy said the situation is already serious, and it could take the three states up to two years to win the entire area back if they started immediately.


“The intensified Maoist activity in Koraput and Malkangiri districts in Orissa indicates that they are going beyond the control of the administration. The situation is the same in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, which is a hotbed of Maoists. If they manage to create a link that extends from the forests on the Andhra-Orissa border through Koraput and Malkangiri to Dantewada and down to the Khammam district border, they will have a very large area to operate in. States will find it difficult to bring them back under their control,” said Reddy.


“Even if we start now, it might take two years.”


Satyabrata Bhoy, SP, Malkangiri, confirmed increased Maoist movements between Chhattisgarh and the Andhra-Orissa border over the last two months. “They are using Malkangiri or Koraput districts as a passage between Andhra and Chhattisgarh. In the last two months, the number of armed cadres in Malkangiri has swelled to 250 or more. They strike in Chhattisgarh and flee back to Malkangiri and from here they go to hide on the Andhra-Orissa border,” Bhoy said.


In Koraput, the Maoists have made Narayanpatna their transit camp, from where there is easy access to their border stronghold in Visakhapatnam district. “It is from here that they direct cadres into Chhattisgarh and up into Jharkhand,” said an official.


Andhra police have also been grappling with heightened Maoist activity along the borders of Andhra’s Khammam district with Dantewada in Chhattisgarh and Malkangiri in Orissa. The Naxals have been working to establish bases in the forests that straddle Khammam and Dantewada.


The Godavari passes through Khammam, dividing the district and leaving the northern part with its thick vegetation and forests vulnerable because it shares borders with both Dantewada and Malkangiri, where the Maoists have a strong presence. Due to the river there are accessibility problems as well, making it more likely for Maoists to try and increase their influence in this region so that three districts in three different states are under their control,” an official explained.

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