VIJAYAWADA: Last Sunday when Maoists gunned down TDP MLA K Sarveswara Rao and former legislator Siveri Soma in the Visakhapatnam agency, DGP RP Thakur, who was at the time in the US, was as much surprised as his team back home. It’s the first major challenge of his tenure and the challenger is an old enemy he had battled back in the 1990s. “We were caught off-guard,” he admits ruefully.
The DGP had cut short his visit and rushed to Visakhapatnam to take stock of the situation, but in the absence of hard evidence – the police are still in early stages of investigation -- he relies on his powers of deduction, experience and preliminary leads to shed light on the incident.
“He (MLA) was a soft target. Generally, if you see, they (Maoists) don’t kill a tribal. Till now, they have not come out with a statement either,” he points out, leaning forward on his desk in his spacious and swanky chambers at the State police headquarters in Mangalagiri. Analysing the radio silence of the Maoists, he postulates, “Normally, they leave a chit the same day itself. Give out a story.
That did not happen. Why? They must have had the CPI (Maoist) top committee’s approval obviously since an MLA is a high profile target. They might have been directed to kidnap. May be, it did not go as planned and something may have gone wrong.” Taking this line of thinking forward, he reasons that the Maoists could be wondering how to justify killing the legislator, who had been doing some good work in the agency area.
Fielding questions patiently in a free-wheeling chat with Express, Thakur appears neither defensive nor combative. Striking a pragmatic note, he veers to the conclusion that the motive for the twin murders was the need of the Maoists to assert their identity once again in the region from where they had been driven out.
“They have been trying to do so since the Ramguda encounter in 2016 wherein 30 Maoists died. Literally, for one year or so, they never entered this area. They were planning to hit hard but their main target is the Greyhounds. They tried five-six times but failed. They can claim they avenged the encounter if they kill a group of Greyhounds personnel. Failing to do so, they wanted to create a sensation. It is not about bauxite mining or some other thing as reported in a section of the media. Where is bauxite mining? The Chief Minister has clarified 10 times that no such mining is happening despite the Centre’s insistence,” he says.
On the failure of intelligence, he admits without hesitation that “it is bad on our part.” But, he insists that one should keep in mind the fact that there was no Maoist movement in the area for years. “They have come out suddenly. It is a fact that they arrived in good numbers in the area may be, a day or two days before last Sunday.
They have taken local support,” he says. To accusations that the police looked the other way, despite being informed of the MLA’s visit, he replies that the legislator hadn’t informed the cops of his visit. Investigation is going on, he, however, hastens to add but not before pointing out that moving in the area without keeping the police in the loop was taking a calculated risk. The question then is why did the MLA take the risk? “It can’t be total ignorance. But the general impression in the area is that the Maoists at best kidnap,” Thakur opines, suggesting that the legislator took the risk in the belief that he would not be killed.
But, the MLA’s initial reaction after his vehicle was stopped by the Maoists pointed to complete surprise and resignation to what was in store. What does this indicate? The State police chief suspects Sarveswara Rao may have been lured into a trap. And, there in hangs a tale which only the ongoing investigation can unravel.
The police have released sketches of Maoists suspected to be involved in the attack but is there a grain of truth in speculation that Chalapathy, incharge of Andhra-Koraput division, is the mastermind? “Obviously, he must be knowing. But unless one of the attackers is arrested or someone surrenders, we won’t get the full picture. We have to get them first. Till then, it is all guess work.”