Malkangiri,Oct24: Nineteen members of the banned CPI (Maoist) were killed in an encounter with a combined team of AP and Odisha police near Jantri in Malkangiri district of Odisha, a few km away from the border with AP, in the early hours of Monday. Superintendent of Police Rahul Dev Sharma told The Hindu that it was a joint operation between the Greyhounds (special anti-naxalite force of Andhra Pradesh) of AP and Odisha police. A few top leaders of the Maoist party might be among the dead, but it would take some time to confirm the same, Mr. Sharma said. Two constables were injured in the encounter.
Four AK47 rifles, three Self Loading Rifles (SLR), and some other guns were among the goods seized from the spot of encounter. According to police sources, this exchange of fire occurred at Bejing jungle between Panasput and Ramgarh of this cut off area. The bodies of the deceased Maoists are likely to be shifted to Chitrakonda in Odisha on Andhra border for post mortem.
“The exchange of fire was a joint operation by Andhra and Odisha police parties. The incident occurred near Balimela reservoir in Odisha State,” Director General of Police (DGP) N. Sambasiva Rao, told The Hindu on Monday.
The DGP said the combing party police from the two states noticed the Maoists moving in forests in Malkanagiri area and both the parties exchanged fire for more than an hour killing about 19 naxalites.
“We suspect that Maoists of Odisha and AP assembled in forests for a plenary in the forests as many weapons were seized from the spot. Some top Maoist leaders were killed and a few most wanted extremists escaped from the scene. Police can give exact number of deaths later,” said Mr. Sambasiva Rao. The injured Greyhounds constables are being shifted to King George Hospital at Visakhapatnam, by helicopters.
“We have intensified combing in Andhra Odisha Border forests. The injured constables are out of danger,” the DGP said.
Basing on intelligence reports that a group of around 100 Maoist cadres had gathered up in this remote area of Malkangiri district bordering Andhra Pradesh, this joint operation had been planned up by Odisha and Andhra Pradesh police. The Maoist group was part of Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) led by top Maoist leader Ramkrishna alias RK. Top Maoist leader RK was reportedly among those present and he has reportedly escaped.
Second major encounter
This is the second major encounter and the biggest in Malkangiri district of Odisha and one of the major incidents in the Andhra-Odisha border area. Thirteen Maoists were killed in an encounter with the police in September 2013 in Podia block in Malkangiri district.
This operation is a major success of security forces in Malkangiri district of Odisha as this district happens to be a major transit zone of Maoists as it borders naxalite-infested areas of Andhra and Chhatisgarh. During the past one year, the strength of Maoists and their support base in Malkangiri had dwindled due to surrender of hundreds of Maoist supporters including militias. It is suspected that the Maoists had gathered up in a cut-off area of Malkangiri district to re-strengthen their base in the area.
Chitrakonda Reservoir: a Maoist stronghold
On October 1, the Maoists had hijacked boats meant for public transport across the Chitrakonda Reservoir to force inhabitants of cut off area of the reservoir to travel to a meeting organised by the extremists at Jantri village to re-strengthen their dwindling base.
The Chitrakonda Reservoir happens to be a major Maoist stronghold in Odisha due to its inaccessibility. Maoist opposition has delayed construction of the Gurupriya Bridge that could provide direct road communication to over 150 villages in this cut off area of the reservoir. At present construction of the bridge is in full swing under tight security and Maoists are much worried about it and under leadership of RK are trying hard to reclaim their clout of terror in the area and continue to use it as safe transit zone. On June 29, 2008, Maoists had ambushed a boat carrying Greyhound jawans in Chitrakonda Reservoir at Alampaka. Thirty eight persons including 35 Greyhound jawans from Andhra Pradesh had died in this Maoist attack