The men who run Dandakaranya

The deadly Naxal attack that claimed the lives of 76 security personnel on Tuesday occurred in an area where the writ of the Maoists' Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) prevails. The DKSZC, the notorious Maoist unit that controls the 'liberated zone' comprising southern Chhattisgarh, parts of Maharashtra, Andhra and Orissa, includes 10 members of the former People's War, including Mallojula Venugopal, Maoist leader Kishenji's brother.

Of the total 20 members, 16 are from Andhra Pradesh and are known for their ruthless guerilla warfare tactics and precision strikes that force a change in the operational plans of even a large force like the CRPF. This group has been responsible for 11 attacks on security forces in the last few years, including the one in Koraput, Orissa on April 4 in which 11 Special Operations Group personnel were killed.

Chief among them is Katakam Sudarshan, a bespectacled former teacher hailing from Adilabad district educated in Warangal, at the government polytechnic college. A weaver's son, he would teach schoolchildren to fund his higher education. He completed his studies in 1975, after which he joined the Naxal movement.

In Andhra, he was reported to be involved in 14 cases of murder, arson, raids on police stations and looting of arms and ammunition. In 1979, he went underground and probably moved to Chhattisgarh. A member of the CPI (Maoist) Central Committee and the rebels' Military Commission, he carries a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head.

He is said to be primarily responsible for training cadre in guerilla warfare and planning military precision strikes on security forces in the Chhattisgarh region. He is also in-charge of the Central Regional Bureau which covers the Andhra-Orissa border, north Telangana zone and Dandakaranya region of Chhattisgarh. His wife and comrade, Saadhana Rao, was killed by security forces a few years ago.

The other senior leaders from Andhra include Mallojula Venugopal, K Satyanarayana Reddy, T Tirupathi, Ramanna Rao, Pappa Rao and Ganesh. The Andhra police are sharing intelligence related to these Maoists as well as their photographs with security forces combing the Dantewada region.

Officials involved in anti-Naxal operations in the state said the attack on the CRPF had two motives: to establish that an operation by the security forces is really going on in Chhattisgarh in the face of the Centre's denial; and to serve as a warning to the Centre by displaying their control and fire power in their stronghold.

State officials suspect that the trap may not have been laid specifically for this company of CRPF jawans returning from a combing operation. "It is likely that they had planned this some days or probably weeks in advance when the combing operations started. As the Centre kept denying there was any 'Operation Green Hunt' they waited for an opportunity to inflict maximum damage and uproar," said an official.

According to officials, crude grenades, pressure mines and bombs used in the attack may have been sent across the Khammam border, and the supply was facilitated by Andhra's Maoist leaders hiding on the Andhra-Orissa border. A huge cache of similar arms and ammunition was found by the state police on March 16 at Tanuku in West Godavari district. Director General of Police (DGP) R R Girish Kumar said that based on that seizure they were assuming that more than 1,000 crude grenades and pressure mines had already been assembled and supplied across the border to Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

While the state security forces have intensified combing operations and vigil on the Andhra-Chhattisgarh and Andhra-Orissa borders, officials said Maoist leaders were unlikely to move into Andhra at this time. "They know they have proved their point that they now have total control of Dantewada and that they can engineer big strikes. It is unlikely that they will flee now. In fact, now that the security forces are on the defensive, they will want to consolidate their positions," an official said.

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