Three weeks back we wrote about the Maoists Mobile Warfare strategy in this column. Little did we know that the Maoists would announce their intention most boldly and unambiguously thus, "We will capture some towns in the four states, including Orissa, within a few years. The Peoples' Liberation Guerrilla Action will be strengthened and the bandh called to mark Martyr's Week will be withdrawn henceforth," read the message by Bhaskar, chief of the Maoists' Andhra-Orissa border special zonal committee. This was posted in the Gajapati district in Orissa. Seizure of government areas through control of the district HQs is one of the clearest signs of a mobile warfare strategy by guerrillas.
This pronouncement has come immediately after the Maoists launched a second major attack within a month in the same general area of the Orissa-Andhra border on 16 July where they had ambushed the crack Grey Hounds of Andhra. 21 Orissa policemen were killed in a landmine explosion on an MPV followed by firing in a major ambush in the Malkangiri district. The van was carrying members of the Special Operations Group.
These incidents are increasingly seen as an indicator of the mobile warfare phase of Maoist operations. The general secretary of the CPI (Maoist), Mr M Lakshmana Rao alias Ganapathy had warned that they would intensify their actions against the state machinery, as destruction of the enemy forces was on their immediate agenda. It is said that 'Operation Ropeway', the Nayagarh attack on an armoury in Orissa was the first time the policy was executed.
Mobile warfare involves undertaking company level or above operations in the form of hard hitting raids and concentrated attacks at weakly defended posts in outlying areas. This phase is followed by that of conventional operations. Under the present circumstances with the Maoists able to operate in large groups effectively, these could be seen to be in the first phase of mobile warfare. Lack of sufficient trained cadres is said to be one hindrance for expansion of operations. A massive recruiting drive has been reported in Malkangiri, Koraput, Kalahandi, and Nawarangpur. A safe corridor from Kalahandi-Nuapada and Bastar is also being attempted.
Maoists also use prominent days and periods such as, 'anti-repression week' from June 26 to July 2 or martyrs week in the end of July to mobilize the cadres. They are reported to have set up training centres, a research and development (R&D) unit, and explosives manufacturing units in Abujhmad forest, spread across about 4,000 sq km in Bastar. With absence of government officials in the area, this has given a free run to the Maoists to run their training programmes.
It is only with availability of helicopters and other mobile assets that the police has been foraying in Abujhmad forest. "Since the Maoists are running away to other areas, the police and the government feel it is the right time to carry out more attacks against the rebels," a source was reported explaining the move of the guerrillas to Malkangiri. "The rebels' decision to look for a new forested haven seems to be to avoid surprise raids on their bases in the Abujhmad forest by security forces," agreed an official.
There were very clear indications that the Orissa ' Andhra Pradesh ' Chattisgarh border was emerging as one of the hot spots in the country where the Naxals have gained substantial ground and therefore efforts to check mate them should have been undertaken, which has not been done resulting in Naxals gaining ascendancy.
The warning by the Maoists on the Andhra Orissa border areas is ominous and cannot be dismissed lightly as is generally the wont of the government in the state and the centre who always attempt to downplay threats. The situation may soon get out of hand in case the government is not able to counter the so called mobile warfare strategy of the naxals in the area.
A build up of forces is essential to comprehensively defeat the Naxal designs through sustained intelligence and offensive operations. The Orissa-Andhra border districts should be beefed up with security presence and free movement to the guerrillas denied. Any delay in doing so may hand over part of the area to Naxal control which would be another blow to the Indian state. We have been warned and in the Maoist lexicon, 'next few years' could even mean tomorrow.