As Telangana undergoes another round of elections, the shadow of Naxalites is notably missing this poll season. The Maoist insurgency that once plagued parts of undivided Andhra Pradesh seems to be a fading memory in India’s youngest state. Voters are more preoccupied with unemployment woes and farmer distress rather than terrorist threats in one of the country’s most peaceful recent elections.
Naxalism’s Violent Legacy Still Looms Large
Telangana sprouted out of Andhra Pradesh just under a decade ago, a state where Naxalism had taken violent root in the latter half of the 20th century. The seeds were sown by the radical People’s War Group (PWG), now assimilated into the larger banned CPI (Maoist) insurgency still raging across parts of central India.
The PWG tapped into deep resentment against wealthy landlords and bitter memories of repressive Nizam rule in these parts of Andhra. It cultivated a fertile breeding ground among poor peasants and landless labourers. By the 1990s, Naxalite violence had reached a bloody crescendo, with hundreds dying in the state each year.
Of Andhra’s 23 districts, 21 were afflicted at the peak, including 7 districts now located in Telangana. This formed part of the notorious ‘Red Corridor’ stretching across central India, through Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, all the way to Odisha.
Sustained Efforts Vitiate Once Powerful Naxalite Movement
Come 2011 however, the Naxalite threat had largely waned in Andhra Pradesh thanks to years of concerted counterinsurgency and socio-economic efforts across party lines. That year marked a watershed, with the lowest civilian and police casualties recorded since 1980.
This collapse of a once formidable Maoist revolution provided the backdrop for Telangana’s birth only a few years later in 2014. With Naxal violence on the decline, smaller states were carved out for better administration and political representation.
Maoist Troubles Mostly Absent Around 2022 Polls
Unlike previous elections, this year’s Telangana polls show scarcely any mark of Naxal intimidation. There are no threatening posters popping up or extortion letters from Maoists asking parties not to exploit tribals.
Gone are warnings to halt mining projects and other industrial activity. Even the number of constituencies officially deemed vulnerable to Naxal interference has dropped.
In 2018, 17 constituencies were designated as Naxal-affected. This year, only 13 constituencies made the list, mainly bordering the remaining Maoist hotbeds of Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra where risks understandably linger.
But security forces are taking no chances, despite the State DGP asserting “There is no (Naxal) threat or activity this time.” Heightened vigilance and early poll closing times continue in these pockets as a precautionary measure.
Last Major Attack and Encounter Dates Back to 2018-21
The last deadly Naxal assault targeting political leaders occurred in September 2018, just before the previous Telangana polls. But the location of attack is telling – Visakhapatnam district in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.
Kidari Sarveswara Rao, a TDP MLA, and ex-MLA Siveri Soma fell to a Maoist bullet in Araku valley, launched by the notorious Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee brigade.
Meanwhile, the last major skirmish between Naxals and security forces in Telangana itself took place as recently as December 2021. A deadly gun battle along the state’s restive border with Chhattisgarh resulted in 6 Maoist casualties, including 4 women combatants.
So while risks remain in pockets abutting active Maoist zones in other states, Telangana itself has not witnessed Naxal bloodshed in close to five years – a marked shift from past trends.
From Radicals to Mainstream Politicians
Proof that Naxalism has lost much steam in Telangana lies in the candidacy of politicians who once championed or sympathized with the movement. Now firmly in the mainstream, these former extremists face off in the very same electoral arena they once reviled as hypocritical and exploitative.
The electoral battle in Mulugu constituency is most striking, featuring two former associates of the Naxalite cause. Congress MLA Dansari Anasuya, better known as Seethakka, is up against BRS’s Bade Nagajyoti.
Nagajyoti’s father was a Maoist commander eliminated in battle. But he and his rival both dismiss any lingering Naxalite influence in Mulugu or adjoining areas today.
Indeed, several senior BRS and BJP leaders also have former Naxal ties, indicating these groups have successfully co-opted fiery radicals into democratic politics over the years.
Public Support and State Pressure Crushes Insurgency
Experts attribute receding Naxalite influence to several factors. Most crucially, the lack of ideological support among the wider desperate populace that once sustained the extremist movement. Attitudes have moved on from the heady revolutionary zeal of the 1970s.
Sustained pressure through coordinated security campaigns have also severely mauled insurgent capacities and sanctuaries. Quiet surrender and rehabilitation efforts have also weaned away many former comrades.
With its leadership decimated and support base enervated, the once intimidating Naxalite spectre has simply faded over time. textbooks may refer to this region as a former hotbed. But today’s Telangana bears few marks of the radical left-wing extremism that haunts other Indian states.
Focus Shifts to Governance and Development
As Maoist concerns fade, the 2022 election has emerged as one of Telangana’s most hotly contested – yet peaceful – polls yet. Voters are focused more on tackling unemployment, agrarian distress and other governance issues impacting livelihoods.
With Naxal violence largely neutralized, Telangana’s political landscape highlights an encouraging shift. Competitive politics now focuses more on bringing stability, growth and public welfare rather than extremist threats.
For Telangana’s electorate and political class alike, these polls mark a milestone. Development and democracy have firmly displaced violent extremes in this former Naxal hotbed after decades of bloodshed. Its newest chapter beckons optimism and continued peace.