Ke­shava as new Maoist chief may mean more vi­o­lence

The Sunday Guardian - - The Big Story - CON­TIN­UED FROM P1

tin­ued his MTech, af­ter study­ing BTech from the Re­gional En­gi­neer­ing Col­lege (now Na­tional In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy), Waran­gal in Te­lan­gana, joined the un­der­ground move­ment of CPI( ML) Peo­ple’s War in 1984. He be­longs to Srikaku­lam district of Andhra and car­ries a re­ward of Rs 25 lakh on his head, as an­nounced by the Union Min­istry of Home Af­fairs.

Gana­p­athi, af­ter helm­ing the ex­trem­ist out­fit for over two decades, stepped down fol­low­ing an in­tense de­bate on the fu­ture course of the party in the wake of the crack­down by the BJPled NDA gov­ern­ment on the Maoists over the last fourand-a-half years. A ma­jor­ity of the cen­tral com­mit­tee favoured Gana­p­athi mak­ing way for Ke­shava Rao, the cen­tral mil­i­tary com­mis­sion-in-charge, as the next sec­re­tary.

Th­ese changes and other pol­icy shifts came to light fol­low­ing the sur­ren­der to the po­lice re­cently of an im­por­tant Maoist leader who is their Ch­hat­tis­garh state com­mit­tee mem­ber. The change of Maoist lead­er­ship hap­pened three months ago, but the new sec­re­tary has taken charge very re­cently, ac­cord­ing to po­lice sources.

Th­ese changes are be­ing stud­ied by the po­lice of sev­eral states, in­clud­ing Te­lan­gana and Andhra Pradesh, and of­fi­cials of the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA), be­sides other Cen­tral agen­cies. Sev­eral other changes too were made at the level of the top Maoist lead­er­ship. Gana­p­athi, how­ever, has been re­tained as ad­viser and guide, “marga dar­shak”.

Un­like in the past when the out­go­ing sec­re­taries were al­lowed to end their un­der­ground life, Gana­p­athi will con­tinue to re­main un­der­ground, but will be con­fined to analysing rev­o­lu­tion­ary move­ments across the world. Gana­p­athi led the Maoists since Septem­ber 2004 and was the sec­re­tary of CPI (Peo­ple’s War) from 1993.

Gana­p­athi has stepped down in the wake of a gen­er­a­tional shift among the Maoists for some time. Ke- shava Rao, in his early 60s, is known to be ac­tive among the top lead­er­ship and state com­mit­tees, as he has han­dled the pur­chase and sup­ply of arms and am­mu­ni­tion and train­ing to the squads. Now, Tip­piri Tiru­pathi, a 53-year-old cen­tral mil­i­tary com­mis­sion (CMC) mem­ber re­places Ke­shava Rao, as CMC sec­re­tary.

Tiru­pati, alias Devji, who stud­ied up to In­ter­me­di­ate, is from Jagi­tial in Te­lan­gana and car­ries a re­ward of Rs 25 lakh on his head. He has been the trusted lieu­tenant of Ke­shava Rao in the CMC and is re­spon­si­ble for sev­eral armed at­tacks on the Cen­tral forces in Ch­hat­tis­garh. Yapa Narayana, 54, an­other CMC mem­ber, has been given charge of Te­lan­gana state com­mit­tee, a sort of el­e­va­tion in the party.

The oth­ers who were pro­moted as part of the gen­er­a­tional shift are: Takkel­la­palli Va­sudeva Rao, alias Vasu, 52, who has been given charge of Dan­dakaranya spe­cial zonal com­mit­tee and the cen­tral ac­tion team (armed at­tacks). He be­longs to Bhoopala­palli district in Te­lan­gana and has been work­ing in Ch­hat­tis­garh since 2016.

An­other key Maoist op­er­a­tive in Ch­hat­tis­garh, Katta Ra­machan­dra Reddy, 54, has been pro­moted from East Bas­tar divi­sional com­mit­tee in-charge to Dan­dakaranya spe­cial zonal com­mit­tee mem­ber. He car­ries a re­ward of Rs 20 lakh on his head. Po­tula Kal­pana, 44, the wife of killed Mao- ist leader Kis­hanji, has been made an­other Ch­hat­tis­garh based for­est zonal com­mit­tee mem­ber.

Saka Hanu­man­thu, 55, has been el­e­vated as Dan­dakaranya zonal com­mit­tee mem­ber and is in charge of West Bas­tar divi­sional com­mit­tee and south­ern re­gional uni­fied com­mand to carry out at­tacks on the Cen­tral forces. Kr­ishna Ku­mari, 48, has been el­e­vated as Dan­dakaranya for­est com­mit­tee mem­ber. Both Hanu­man­thu and Ku­mari carry a re­ward of Rs 20 lakh each on their heads.

The po­lice forces are alarmed over the rise of Ke­shava Rao as he is be­lieved to be a hard-liner. If Gana­p­athi pre­ferred spe­cific tar­get ori­ented at­tacks against the “en- emy” (po­lice forces), Ke­shava Rao be­longs to a camp which be­lieves that some col­lat­eral dam­age is in­evitable in times of emer­gency, po­lice sources said.

The po­lice has def­i­nite in­for­ma­tion that Ke­shava Rao was be­hind the 2010 Maoist at­tack on CRPF per­son­nel in Ch­hat­tis­garh in which 74 jawans were killed. Ke­shava Rao is also re­spon­si­ble for the killing of Ma­hen­dra Karma, the founder of Salwa Judum, and 27 oth­ers in 20I3. The re­cent killing of TDP MLA K. Sarve­wara Rao and an ex-MLA, Somu, too, are at­trib­uted to Ke­shava Rao’s rise.

The Maoists have been un­der at­tack for the last I0 years, es­pe­cially af­ter the launch of Op­er­a­tion Green Hunt by the pre­vi­ous UPA regime, but they faced se­vere heat af­ter the BJP-led gov­ern­ment came to power at the Cen­tre in 20I4. In th­ese cir­cum­stances, they have come to be­lieve that only an ag­gres­sive hard line against not only the Cen­tral forces but also “in­form­ers” (civil­ians) who help the po­lice, will help them.

The po­lice point out that the 7 Novem­ber Thurs­day at­tack of land­mine blast in Ch­hat­tis­garh killing four civil­ians and a se­cu­rity jawan in Dan­te­wada, is an ex­am­ple of the Ke­shava Rao style op­er­a­tion. The at­tack came a day be­fore the meet­ings of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Con­gress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi in Ch­hat­tis­garh on Fri­day.

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