This is as per a finding of an internal assessment by the Special Branch police of Andhra Pradesh carried out after killing of a TDP MLA and ex-legislator.

 

Most of the gunmen surrounding VIPs in Maoist affected areas of Andhra Pradesh are just ornamental as they cannot open fire in times of emergency. This is the finding of an internal assessment by the Special Branch (SB) police of Andhra Pradesh in the aftermath of the Maoists’ killing of a TDP MLA K. Sarveswara Rao and an ex-MLA Saveri Soma in Araku valley on 23 September.

As a result of this assessment, the top brass of the police department has decided to call all gunmen on security duty of VVIPs and VIPs for a crash course on protecting their leaders. A senior official in the SB wing told The Sunday Guardian that there are around 3,000 gunmen from the department on VIP security duties in Andhra Pradesh. Plans are afoot to train them all in three or four phases.

The top brass of Andhra police reviewed the gross failure of the security provided to the two leaders when a group of 30 gun-trotting Maoists waylaid them on a state highway just 13 km from a nearby police station in Araku Valley of Visakhapatnam district. As many as four gunmen posted on security of the MLA and former MLA had just given up and remained mute witnesses to the killings.

In an enquiry by the SB wing, it was found that the gunmen who were on the scene could have saved the legislators, had they displayed some amount of courage and alacrity, according to sources in the Director General of Police (DGP) in Vijayawada. “It was ages since they opened fire on any target,” an SB official said, talking to this newspaper. The gunmen of the two killed gave up without any resistance.

Like everywhere in the country, the cops who are posted on VIP security rarely attend the usual physical and weaponry drills and skip them on recommendations from their protected leaders. The two gunmen posted on security of Sarveswara Rao, too, are used by the late MLA and his family for non-security duties like carrying bags etc. The gunmen of Rao and Soma were recalled and kept under watch.

The inaction of gunmen of MPs, MLAs and ministers has become a matter of concern to the higher ups of the police, as VIP security mostly rests with them. The Greyhounds or Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel will combat with the Maoists in the forests, but the responsibility of protecting the MLAs or ministers rests with the gunmen guarding them, and their failure would cause major losses, the official pointed out.

The meek surrender of the gunmen as well as the failure of the police to track down a hug squad of Maoists, of around 60 militants, even two weeks after the incident is worrying the AP police department, which only recently got an appreciation from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for successfully tackling the Maoist issue on the Andhra-Orissa border for the last four years.

The Maoists, after killing the MLA and his associate in the open fields alongside a road, walked away into jungles, barely21 km, from the Orissa borders. The massive hunt launched by AP cops from the next day onwards has yielded no results till now. There was also no information from the Orissa police on entry or movements of Maoists on their borders.

Andhra Pradesh DGP R.P. Thakur visited Bhubaneswar on Thursday and held discussions with his Orissa counterpart Rajendra Prasad Sharma on the urgency to take on the Maoists who turned aggressive recently. Thakur sought the cooperation of the Orissa police in tracking down the Maoists who must be taking shelter in the jungles along the Mahendra Tanaya river.

Sources in the DGP office said that Thakur made a proposal to set up a joint patrolling and command control unit, comprising police forces from Andhra, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Telangana for effectively taking on the Maoists. A proposal to this effect was considered long ago, but it was buried due to lack of interest from Orissa and Chhattisgarh, said an officer from AP.

Now that the Maoists have reared their heads inside Andhra and issued threats to political leaders on the eve of elections next year, there was a need to launch hunt and combat operations against the terrorists, suggested the AP DGP to his Orissa counterpart. It is not known whether Orissa would be ready to join such a joint command control, but Andhra would go ahead with its own operations.

So far, the Visakhapatnam police has rounded up around 60 villagers, mostly tribal people in Araku valley, on the suspicion of providing them shelter before and after the 23 September attack.

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