Maoists losing battle with State? In latest encounter, 24 killed by AP-Odisha joint forces

The place where the encounter happened is said to be 15 km inside Orissa from the AP border in the Visakhapatnam agency area.
File photo for representational purpose | PTI
File photo for representational purpose | PTI

VISAKHAPATNAM/BHUBANESWAR: Are India’s Maoists fighting a losing battle? At least, that’s what top police officials believe in the wake of the killing of 24 Naxalites, including some top Maoist leaders, in a thick forest bordering Odisha and Andhra Pradesh early Monday morning. An equal number of Maoists reportedly escaped from the engagement. It is one of the biggest anti-Naxalite operations jointly conducted by the police of the two states.

According to information accessed by The New Indian Express from highly placed officers, the operation was led by a team of the Greyhounds, the specialized anti-Naxalite force, based on thorough intelligence gathered over a period. Incidentally, the encounter spot is just a few kilometers away from the place near the Balimela reservoir where Maoists gunned down policemen in 2008.

While it is believed that the slain included some top leaders of the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) committee of the CPI (Maoist), senior police officials to whom New Indian Express spoke did not confirm the identity of those killed. “We are still in the process of establishing the identities of the Maoists. A team will be reaching the encounter spot shortly,” an officer said.

The place where the encounter happened is said to be 15 km in Orissa from the AP border in the Visakhapatnam Agency area. All those killed are said to represent the AOB committee of the Maoist party which has separate state committees for Andhra and Odisha, apart from AOB.

According to an official, around 50 kit bags were found at the spot which meant that at least 50 Maoists would have assembled for what is believed to be a meeting of the AOB committee.  While 23 bodies have been recovered so far, one is said to have been washed away in the Balimela reservoir as the Maoists tried to escape in boats soon after the encounter began. The others, however, managed to flee. One policeman was injured in the encounter which lasted for many hours.

Those in the know of developments said the police were fully prepared for the operation. Apparently, they received information about the scheduled meeting and how and when the AOB committee members would reach the place for the session. The Maoists, on the other hand, had no inkling of what was coming and could do little to counter the fully-armed Greyhounds personnel, who are well-trained to carry out such surprise attacks.

“While it is more than possible that the Maoists could regroup, we can certainly say that this is a huge psychological blow to them and a major setback to the AOB committee at least,” a senior officer said, adding that the police were fed information about the movements of Naxalites by local people themselves.

According to him, the Maoists are clearly “fighting a losing battle” as there is no way they would be in a position to take on the forces at any point of time.  “What should be understood is that we are currently using the lowest rung of our response teams to tackle them. But if and when we decide to unleash our complete capabilities, they will be no match.”

With the telecom revolution touching even interior villages and forest belts and police equipping themselves with the latest gadgets to intercept communications, the Maoists have been finding it extremely difficult to maintain secrecy about their movements in the past few years. 

Recent acts like what one of those killed in today’s encounter reportedly did – posting a selfie on a social media platform – and they could well be sitting ducks.

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The New Indian Express