Over 4,000 left-wing extremists (LWEs) have laid down their arms in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in the past seven years, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
In response to an Right to Information (RTI) query by Cuttack-based activist Srikant Kumar Pakal, the MHA said as many as 4,122 extremists had surrendered in the three States, which share borders, between 2014 and 2020. The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) has been active in the border areas of these States.
Of those who surrendered, 3,185 returned to the mainstream in Chhattisgarh, while Andhra Pradesh and Odisha recorded 617 and 320 surrenders respectively.
Similarly, 656 LWEs were killed in encounters with security forces in the three States. Chhattisgarh continued to be the worst-affected, as far as encounters between security forces and ultras are concerned. As many as 533 extremists were killed in Chhattisgarh in the past seven years, followed by 105 in Odisha and 18 in Andhra Pradesh. In 2016, Chhattisgarh recorded killings of 135 ultras, the highest single-year mortality.
Incidentally, not a single casualty was reported on the part of LWEs in Andhra Pradesh in 2020. While 31 ultras were killed in Chhattisgarh, 13 died in Odisha.
Mr. Pakal said the MHA declined to share any information regarding security forces deployed in Maoist-affected regions of the three States. It also refused to provide information regarding casualties on the part of security forces and civilians. The Left Wing Extremism Division of MHA did not provide information on seizures made in operations against extremists in the past seven years.
“During the past six years, there has been a steady decline in the activities of the CPI (Maoist) in the region. We have been able to consolidate in Malkangiri district bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, so influx could be controlled. The security forces have managed to bust the hideouts of LWEs. In Koraput district, security forces have also squeezed out CPI (Maoist) rebels,” said Shefeen Ahamed, Deputy Inspector General of Police for the South West Range, Odisha, which controls districts bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
Odisha police woke up to the Maoist threat in 2004 when LWEs carried out a daring armoury raid. Since then, police modernisation and creation of specialised force were taken up.
“Now, special anti-naxal forces and intelligence agencies have been working in tandem. We are receiving excellent cooperation from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in combating LWEs,” said Mr. Ahamed.
According to him, no area could be claimed as a Maoist bastion any more. Due to coordinated action by security forces, including State police and Central forces such as Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force, LWEs were forced to lay down their arms, said a senior officer.