It is obvious from the tone and tenor of the letter written by Shyam, spokesperson of the AP State committee of the CPI (Maoist) that the Reds are seething with rage. Mincing no words, the Maoists have vowed revenge for the killing of 28 of their own in the encounter with Andhra's elite anti-Maoist Greyhounds commandos on Monday morning in the forest range of Malkangiri district in Odisha.
The 5-page letter is as direct as it can be and makes no bones about the fact that Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is on target. As is his son Nara Lokesh, general secretary of the Telugu Desam. The letter can be ignored by Naidu's security apparatus at its own risk.
The letter reminds Naidu that he escaped the naxal attack on his life in October 2003 in Tirupati and should the need arise, the Maoists will make use of suicide bombers to carry out the mission this time. This is a significant detail given that the outlaws are not known to use suicide bombers of the LTTE variety or carry out fidayeen attacks like the Lashkar and the Jaish. Their modus operandi is either to shoot or to plant landmines and IEDs against specifically chosen targets.
The threat to use suicide bombers is also important in light of the fact that over the past decade the Maoists have lost the teeth for a bite in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana. To pursue a single target will mean putting together a crack action team. This needs huge logistical support in order to recce the movements of the VIP target, procure the weaponry and the ammunition needed, communication tools and access to insider information.
The Maoists no longer have the wherewithal to mobilise most of this given their depleted strength. This would mean they will have to import hitmen from either Chhattisgarh or Odisha. Most of their overground sympathisers in most parts of Andhra have either been neutralised or are no longer active. The network of surrendered Maoists that aids the police in identifying their former comrades is also a factor that goes against them.
The Maoists also claim that 6000 police personnel were part of this operation. In effect, that would mean accepting that their informer network is next to nil now.
All these factors seem to have weighed in for Shyam to claim the Maoists will take the suicide bomber route. This should set off the alarm bells in Andhra. Intelligence sleuths will have to probe to find out if the group is looking to take help for a mission of this kind from any other terrorist outfit. Naidu is at present a Z plus category protectee.
The Maoist strategy also is to propagate that the encounter was not above board. It claims that the police utilised the services of covert operatives to lace the food served to the Maoists with sedatives and gunned down the leaders and other members when they were unconscious.
The Maoists also claim that 6000 police personnel were part of this operation. In effect, that would mean accepting that their informer network is next to nil now. It is a known fact that the Maoist eyes and ears exist in many of the tribal hamlets who would pass on the word, either out of affection for them or because of fear. It would be impossible to hide the movement of such a large contingent into the forest area from the public eye. It is more likely that a crack team of well-trained 200-odd commandos were part of the operation, moving in for the kill after receiving precise intelligence of the presence of senior Maoists in the deep jungles.
But their inability to make a return to Telangana and Andhra from where they were driven out a decade ago, is a pointer to their inability to attract fresh talent, even when the leadership of the Maoist force remains largely Telugu.
It is also strange for the Maoists to expect different rules in a war that they admit they are waging against the state. After all, the civil liberties activists never demanded that murder cases be booked against Maoists suspected to have led the ambush on Greyhounds personnel in June 2008, killing 36 of them near the same Balimela reservoir where Monday's encounter took place. Now they want the court to order murder cases to be booked against the police, including the DGP of Andhra Pradesh.
Undeniably, the Maoists control large tracts of India's geography in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and parts of Odisha. It is a part of India where the government of India exists only in name. But their inability to make a return to Telangana and Andhra from where they were driven out a decade ago, is a pointer to their inability to attract fresh talent, even when the leadership of the Maoist force remains largely Telugu. A hit of this kind would also seriously dent their ability to recruit fresh blood into their ranks.
The letter makes a serious attempt to label Naidu as a killer pointing out that 20 alleged sandalwood cutters from Tamil Nadu were allegedly killed in cold blood under his watch in Chittoor district in April 2015. The aim is to pursue the narrative that the CM is following extra constitutional methods while trying to eliminate anyone who is found inconvenient.