The Vigilante groups: Of the tigers and cobras
With the intensification of the conflict between the Naxalites and the Government, a large number of vigilante groups have emerged in Andhra Pradesh during the last one decade. Some of these vigilante groups are Fear Vikas, Green Tigers, Nalladandu, Red Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Palnadu Tigers, Kakatiya Cobras, Narsa Cobras, Nallamalla Nallatrachu (Cobras) and Kranthi Sena. The security forces reportedly created these organizations comprising of the renegades against naxalite sympathizers against the rebels and the mass organizations.
In the past one-decade, several gangs, which identify themselves Green Tigers, Tirumala Tigers, Nalla Dandu and Fear Vikas, have been issuing death threats to supporters of Naxalite movement. In 1997, balladeer Gadar escaped narrowly when Green Tigers shot him from close range. Rights activist Balagopal was kidnapped while he was traveling in a bus and later released. Civil liberties activists Lalitha and Purushottam were brutally axed to death by the Nayeem gang in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
On 24 August 2005, alleged members of the self-styled “Narsi Cobras” gang killed a rights activist Kanakachari in Mahbubnagar district. Kanakachari, a teacher at a local school, was axed to death after being kidnapped by unidentified persons. It was considered as an act of revenge to the killing Congress MLA Narsa Reddy by the Naxals.
In the last week of November 2005, unknown persons attacked the house of Prof S. Seshaiah, General Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) and one of the mediators in the talks between the Maoists and the state government, in Anantapur in Anantapur district. The house was set on fire.
On the night of 6 December 2006, Gandla Venkatarao, state vice-president of APCLC was targeted by unidentified persons in Ongole town in Prakasam district. He reportedly found a two-wheeler was parked in front of the gate of his house in Ongole on which a cardboard box was placed with the warning “Beware of bombs”. The box also carried the human skull-and-bones sign of danger.
However, upon opening the box, the police bomb disposal squad found only a dozen pencil-sized detonators connected to a wire. Although no organisation claimed responsibility for the mischief, human rights activists suspected that vigilante groups like Nallamalla Cobras and Rayalaseema Tigers have been issuing these threats.