Banned ultra-Left outfit Communist Party of India (Maoist) has finally confirmed the death of Ravalu Srinivas alias Ramanna, a dreaded Naxal leader from Chhattisgarh, who died at the age of 59. The Chhattisgarh police have also reiterated the same.
Ramanna carried a cumulative prize of Rs 1.4 crore on his head across five states.
Five days after the death of Ramanna, Vikalp, the spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of the CPI (Maoist), issued an audio clip on Thursday evening stating that the leader of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) died after a prolonged illness on 7 December. He called up a few local journalists in Bastar and confirmed the news while sharing an official statement.
Though the news of Ramanna's death and his cremation had been doing the rounds for the last five days, it couldn't be officially confirmed. His cremation reportedly was attended by a large number of villagers and members of the Maoist cadre.
"We've corroborated the evidence on the ground, which confirms the death of Ravalu Srinivas alias Ramanna. Maoist spokesperson Vikalp also confirmed it by calling up a few local journalists through an audio clip. Ramanna had been operating in the Dandakaranya region of Bastar for the last 36 years and was involved in some of the major Maoist attacks," Inspector general (Bastar Range) of Chhattisgarh Police, P Sundar Raj told Firstpost.
In the audio clip, accessed by Firstpost, Maoist spokesperson Vikalp can be heard communicating with a local journalist of Bastar, prior to reading the official statement of the CPI (Maoist) on Ramanna's death.
In his statement, while hailing Ramanna as "martyr and a leader who sacrificed his life for the poor", the Maoist spokesperson didn't reveal the location of Ramanna's cremation, claiming that it wasn't possible due to "technical reasons".
Both the police and local sources on the ground have confirmed that Ramanna was cremated at a Naxal stronghold in the forest territory of Bijapur district which lies between Pamed, Basaguda and Jagargunda.
"It was a well-attended funeral, and slogans were raised, which confirmed that the deceased person was a leader of the Maoist cadre. The voice of spokesperson Vikalp has also been matched," a source in the Anti-Naxal Ops unit of Chhattisgarh Police said.
Reading out the party's official statement in the audio clip, Vikalp said, "CPI (Maoist) paid rich tributes to the great leader Comrade Ramanna, who staged war against the state by taking up the cause of the poor and the downtrodden. The CPI (Maoist) will continue the mass agitation programme that Comrade Ramanna had undertaken."
Ravalu Srinivas alias Ramanna hailed from Bekkal village in Maddur block of Siddipet district in undivided Andhra Pradesh (the area now falls in Telangana). He married Sodi Hidme, a fellow Naxal in the Maoist cadre in 1994, who's now secretary of the Kistaram Area Committee. They have a son Ranjit, who at present is an active Maoist.
The rise of Ramanna is an interesting one. He joined Maoist outfit People's War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh in the early 1980s and later shifted to Dandakaranya region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh (then in Madhya Pradesh) in the late 1980s. After the merger of PWG with Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and a few smaller groups, he gradually emerged as a leader of CPI (Maoist) in steps.
During his 36 years of operation, he had undertaken various roles. A decade ago, he took the reins of DKSZC " that handles Naxal activities like planning, armed strategising and attacks. Besides being a member of the Central Committee " the apex body of CPI (Maoist) " Ramanna was also a member of central region bureau and secretary of DKSZC, which he held till his death.
His reach was not limited to Chhattisgarh, but also in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected states on the Red Corridor.
Ramanna had been an enigma as hardly a few could meet or see him in person. Being one of the senior-most leaders in the Naxal cadre, he hardly came to the forefront and during the last few years, he had operated mostly as a military strategist of the PLGA at the backend.
"He was a big leader of the Maoist cadre in Bastar and controlled their operations in Dandakaranya region. He carried rewards on him across five states. There are 32 FIRs against him," Raj said.
Major cases of Naxal attacks against Ramanna
According to police, Ramanna had masterminded several attacks not only in Chhattisgarh but in the neighbouring states as well. The prominent ones in Chhattisgarh are:
March 2007, Rani Bodli: 55 police personnel got killed.
April 2010, Dantewada: 76 CRPF personnel were killed.
May 2013, Jhirum Ghati: Attack on a convoy, killed 27 people, including top Chhattisgarh Congress leaders.
April 2017, Burkapal in Sukma: Ambush on a troop killed 25 security personnel.
Ramanna carried rewards on his head in five states " Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Odisha.
"Various efforts to get hold of Ramanna were futile. He masterminded and led several attacks on security forces. His death will prove to be a big blow for the Maoist cadre and hit their morale," the anti-Naxal Ops source added.
It'll be interesting to see who replaces Ramanna as the secretary of DKSZC.