Cornered by the security forces in the many parts of Central India, the CPI (Maoist) is trying to kickstart its movement in the southern parts of India. The arrests of a number of senior leaders such as politburo member Kobad Ghandy and the busting of their camps at Malkangiri in Orissa have forced the ultras to redraw their strategies.
It is expected that the Maoists may step up their activities in certain areas in south India in order to distract the attention of the security forces who are now focusing on the Naxal-affected areas in Jharkand, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
A meeting of the CPI (Maoist) at Sringeri in Karnataka a few months ago decided to carve out a new guerilla zone in the tri-junction areas of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The party's central committee ratified the idea mooted by the South West Regional Bureau (SWRB) of the CPI (Maoist).
The plan is to bring Kannur and Wayanad districts in Kerala, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kodagu districts in Karnataka and areas such as Gudalur in Tamil Nadu under a special zonal committee.
Developing tri-junction areas into well-fortified strongholds is the pet strategy of the Maoists. Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapur districts in Bengal, Mayurjang in Orissa and Singhbaum in Jharkhand are under Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissia regional committee. The Dhandakarayna Special Zonal Committee has areas from Jharkhand, Orissa, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. As these areas are spread across different states, Maoists use this to their advantage as there is often a lack of coordination between the security agencies of the states.
Activities of the Maoists in south India are on the ebb after they suffered a series of major setbacks in Andhra Pradesh. The Maoists in Andhra are yet to recover from the heavy blow they received from the security forces.
Except in the Andhra-Orissa border, there are little Maoist activities in the state, which was once the torchbearer of revolutionary upsurge.
The party in Karnataka is also in tatters after the killing of its state secretary Saketh Rajan alias Prem by the police in an encounter. Naveen alias Sende Rajamouli, the central committee member who was the state secretary after Prem's death, was also killed by the police.
To make things worse, the Karnataka unit of the CPI (Maoist) suffered a vertical split with a group forming the Karnataka Maoist Swathanthra Kendra. This group later changed its name into Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
The presence of Maoists was noticed in areas like Salem and Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. There were encounters between Maoists and the security forces in Theni and Kodaikkanal. But there is no significant growth for the party in Tamil Nadu too.
The movement in Kerala is still in its infancy though there is a state organising committee and a few district committees.
Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharshatra come under the South West Regional Bureau (SWRB) of the CPI (Maoist). Malla Raji Reddy, who was arrested from Angamali in Ernakulam district in Kerala in December 2007, was the secretary of the SWRB for a long time. Kobad Ghandy was looking after the activities of the SWRB after Reddy's arrest.
The proposed move to develop a guerilla zone in the tri-junction area in South India may change the contour of the Maoist movement.
Activities of the Maoists are at different stages in the three states. While Kerala is in the organisational stage, the movement has somewhat advanced in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the Maoist terminology, guerilla zone is an area where the ultras resort to hit-and-run strategy while countering the security forces. The might of the security forces will be higher than that of the rebels in guerilla.
Over a period of time, the guerilla war will be transformed into `mobile war' -- a stage when the rebels are in a position to call the shots. Some of the areas in Jharkhand and Orissa are nearing the mobile war stage.
Some of the recent incidents in the tri-junction areas in South India point to the intensification of Maoist activities. Sinoj alias Rameshan, a leader of the CPI (Maoist) in Kerala, was arrested by the police from Wayanad, which falls under the area. A document seized from him describes 'the 2010 plan', which the police believe, is the blueprint for the development for the guerilla zone. A local leader of the CPI (Maoist) was killed in the encounter with the police in Udupi last month. This incident also could be a pointer to the subterranean preparations the Maoists are making to bring south India under their stranglehold.