YSR wanted Greyhound experience to be replicated elsewhere

"It has worked well in the state and I think the time has come when the Greyhound experience must be replicated elsewhere. Strong policing with an effective socio-economic programme is the answer," Reddy, addressed commonly as YSR, had said in an interview in February 2008.

Reddy died after his helicopter crashed on Wednesday amid bad weather in the densely forested Nalla Mala Maoist stronghold.

"As far as I see it, things are more or less under control. Every now and then, they (Maoists) indulge in high-profile attacks but that is just to show their token presence," YSR maintained.

The Greyhounds, an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh that was raised in 1989, have been dealing effectively with Maoist extremist violence and the force acquired credibility in anti-extremist operations.

Only the best policemen of Andhra Pradesh make it to the Greyhound squad, which is one of the highest paid in the country - even better than the elite National Security Guard.

Ironically, the Greyhounds were also part of the search operations to track down Reddy's helicopter that went missing at 9.35 a.m. Wednesday soon after taking off from Hyderabad.

The state has been a long-time guerrilla hotbed but in the last two years, the elite force prowling the backcountry and supported by paid informants at the village level have managed to arrest or kill several top rebels.

The force, which numbers around 2,000, moves around in small bands of 15-25 commandos. They are specially trained for deep forest pursuit and combat.

Over the past two years, the rebel ranks have fallen from around 1,000 hardcore members to some 400 today, according to YSR.

"As I have been stressing, Naxal (Maoist) politics revolves around rural and land related issues. Hence, a streamlined strategy and a national agenda are also required to deal with the problem," he added.

In 2006, Maoist rebels killed high profile political leaders, including Telugu Desam Party leader T. Nageswar Rao and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) district committee leader Rupu Reddy Ravinder Reddy.

Last year, former chief minister N. Janardhan Reddy and his wife Rajyalakshmi escaped unhurt while three Congress workers were killed in a Maoist attack in Nellore district.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has on several occasions referred to the Maoist threat as the country's most serious internal security challenge. Home ministry reports indicate that armed Maoists numbering nearly 10,000 have a presence in 170 districts in 15 states of the country, as of now, and spreading far and wide.

YSR also pointed out that he would not want to initiate peace talks with the armed rebels as he had done in September 2004. "They refuse to lay down their arms. It won't work if I start another round," he added.

The Maoists are splintered into various armed factions, of which the biggest were the People's War Group and the Maoist Communist Centre. These merged and formed the Communist Party of India-Maoist in September 2004, even as YSR held abortive peace talks with local leaders.

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