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Peoples' War Group (PWG)

Since 1980 clashes between police and Naxalite Maoist revolutionaries of the Peoples' War Group (PWG) have taken place in northwestern Andhra Pradesh. The PWG champions the cause of the landless and targets landlords, law enforcement personnel and other symbols of authority in the northeast, east central and southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa.

Naxalite Maoist revolutionaries of the Peoples' War Group have killed dozens of persons, declaring them "class enemies" or police informers. In June 1998, Naxalites attacked a tribal village in Andhra Pradesh's east Godavari district, where they killed the village chief and beat eight women and shot two men. On 22 February 1998, an Orissa policeman was killed by suspected PWG militants, who had entered the state from neighboring Andhra Pradesh. In areas under their control, Naxalites dispense summary justice in "People's Courts", which in some cases condemn to death suspected police informers, village headmen, and others deemed to be "class enemies" or "caste oppressors." Madhya Pradesh state transport minister Likhiram Kware was hacked to death on 16 December 1999. The Naxalites also extort money from businesses. Their victims, in addition to police and local government officials, include suspected police informers, village headmen, and landlords whom they accuse of oppressing scheduled caste members. The PWG also used land mines to kill police, and insurgents used bombs to kill government officials, police, and civilians.

The PWG intensified its attacks after three top commanders were killed 02 December 1999, in an encounter with police officers in Andhra Pradesh State and has been responsible for dozens of incidents of violence since then. On April 26, PWG guerrillas opened fire on a police search party at an unspecified location in Gonda District, Andhra Pradesh State. At least six guerrillas were killed in the ensuing firefight. On April 27, 2000, ten People's War Group guerrillas were killed in a six-hour firefight with police officers in Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh State, 100 miles from Hyderabad.

The spurt in Naxal violence in Andhra Pradesh has its echo in Bihar too, where the People's War Group has gone on rampage, blowing railways station and tracks and eliminating activities and supporters of its rival Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

Over the past few years, hundreds of policemen and suspected Naxalites have been killed, according to press reports and human rights organizations. According to local human rights groups, 174 persons were killed in police "encounters" in the first 8 months of 1998. Seventeen years of guerrilla-style conflict have led to serious human rights abuses by both sides. Human rights groups allege that "encounters" are usually faked by the police to cover up the torture and subsequent murder of Naxalite suspects, sympathizers, or informers. These groups cite as evidence the refusal of police to hand over the corpses of suspects killed in "encounters," which are often cremated before families can view the bodies. Villagers in PWG-dominated areas complain of regular harassment and arbitrary detention by police. Police officials rarely if ever are held accountable for human rights abuses. The Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Union documented more than 100 encounter killings by police that were not prosecuted.

The Disturbed Areas Act has been in force in a number of districts in Andhra Pradesh for more than a year. It gives police extraordinary powers of arrest and detention. Human rights groups allege that security forces have been able to operate with virtual impunity in parts of Andhra Pradesh under the act. They further allege that Andhra police have contributed to the establishment of an armed vigilante group known as the "Green Tigers," whose mission is to combat Naxalite groups in the state. The NHRC is investigating some 285 reported cases of so-called "fake encounter deaths" allegedly committed by the Andhra police in connection with anti-Naxalite operations. In its 1996-97 report (the latest available), the NHRC stated that the evidence on record did not show in any of the cases "that any prior attempt" was made by the police to arrest the deceased persons. The report observed that in "none of these encounters, did police personnel receive any injury", while one or more persons from the other side died. The Commission further observed that "no attempt whatsoever" was made to ascertain the identity of the police officers who fired the bullets that caused the deaths, and that no attempt was made to investigate the circumstances under which the police opened fire. "As this appeared to be the pattern of the procedure followed by the police", the report concluded, "the Commission felt it necessary to conclude that the procedure followed by them was opposed to law".

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