Dramatic civilian sting broke open Maoist network
New Delhi/Chennai, Nov 5 (IANS) The formal surrender Saturday of a Maoist couple who regularly supplied rockets and rocket launchers to the guerillas in the forests of Andhra Pradesh had its origins in a remarkable undercover operation the Tamil Nadu Police mounted shortly after the existence of the arms supplying network came to light.
It was on Sep 8 this year that the Andhra Pradesh Police made India's biggest haul of 875 rockets, 27 rocket launchers, 70 gelatine sticks and other explosives belonging to the Communist Party of India-Maoist from Mahabubnagar and Prakasam districts. One seizure was made in a village and another in a godown in Giddalur town of the Chennai-based Kranti Transport Company.
Initial investigations revealed that the rockets and launchers were made in the sprawling industrial suburb of Ambattur in Chennai that is home to hundreds of thousands of small and big manufacturing units.
As police in Chennai searched the city office of the cargo mover and recovered telltale documents including a diary in Telugu, it became clear that looking for factories where the weapons might have been manufactured would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. The case was moved to the Tamil Nadu Police Q Branch, which is in charge of Maoist activities.
Fearing that industrialists as well as owners and workers of factories may not reveal the truth to law enforcing authorities, the Tamil Nadu Police put together a team of civilians, each of who was given a part of the seized rockets and rocket launchers and asked to go around Ambattur and find out if anyone was willing to make a replica of the same.
It was a simple and indigenous sting operation, according to information pieced together from various sources by IANS. But the task was painful, talking to industrialist after industrialist, factory owner after factory owner, worker after worker, asking each and everyone if they could produce or knew someone who could make something similar to what they had.
But luck was on their side. The undercover civilian army made a valuable breakthrough in just 48 hours.
One man gave a good glance at the material displayed to him and asked one of the civilian operatives in surprise: "Where did you get this? Someone called Raghu had come here, showed us pictures and wanted this manufactured. He said it was to be a farming implement."
This was the break the Q Branch that was camping in Ambattur was waiting for. Within four hours, a total of seven men were picked up for questioning including the one who inadvertently spilled the beans. The Andhra Pradesh Police were alerted about the arrests. The home ministry in New Delhi was informed of the developments.
In no time the two police forces had a much better picture of the man who was at the heart of it all. The suspect who wanted rockets and launchers made in the name of farm equipment was none other than Srinivasa Reddy alias Raghu alias Tech Madhu, a key operative of the Maoists' technical wing who worked with his comrade-wife, Sudharani alias Vasanta.
But Tech Madhu and Sudharani, who had made Chennai their home four years ago, had fled - a day after the weapons seizure in Andhra Pradesh.
Using seven industrial units in Chennai, including one of his own, Tech Madhu, a staunch Maoist who had left his home in Andhra Pradesh way back in 1989 for the cause of the revolution, got made rocket and rocket launcher parts in different factories, collected them, and dispatched them to his contacts in Andhra Pradesh from where they found their way to the guerrillas seeking to attack the security forces.
Police officers learnt that Tech Madhu was no ordinary rebel. Now in his mid-30s, he was a member of the Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist and reported to a senior party leader, Ramakrishna. In Hyderabad, where the police maintain a dossier on all Maoist leaders, one officer was to say: "Technologically he was very good. All his jobs were very, very well done."
Indeed, the rockets seized Sep 8 showed a marked improvement in quality. They could be shoulder fired, had manual triggering systems, and the warheads, propellant shells, fin covers, trigger guards and percussion caps were finely chiseled on high-precision lathe machines.
Tech Madhu's arrest with his wife (they surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh Police, and appeared at a media conference Saturday in Warangal town) is no doubt a major blow to the Communist Party of India-Maoist. The guerrillas might produce another Tech Madhu but that won't be easy, not at a time when recruitment from the educated class for Maoist cause has virtually dried up.