Friday, June 23, 2017  
17 December, 2011 at 12:50 PM
On The Road
Drive to Inchampally Forest in India
Tata Sumo Grande in forest
Inchampally forest, located over 300 km away from Hyderabad, capital city of south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is a remotest place I have ever visited. Situated along the bank of Godavari, a sacred river for Hindus, the forest is the border point for the state. The opposite bank of the river falls under the newly created Chattisgarh state.

I tried in vain to find why the place is called with that name. The area might have derived its name from a multi-purpose irrigation dam called Inchampally project which was planned on the river inside the forest over 60 years back. Even construction work began and was stopped for unknown reasons. Incomplete bridges on the streams in the forest, ruins of guest houses built for officers and an intact wall in the river bed bear testimony for the efforts made more than half-a-century ago.

Legend has it that engineers and workers who descended on the dense forest to carry out the construction work, ran away from the place after some of them died due to a mysterious disease. Some people say it was plague. Others claim it was an unknown disease. Whatever might be the reason, the proposal was shelved and forest was saved.

The dense forest is now a hotbed for activists of Communist Part of India (Maoist) that claims to be waging an armed struggle for downtrodden and oppressed sections of the society. Called Annulu (brothers) in Telugu language, Naxalites or Maoists, they move in groups called dalams (group). Each group consists of 10 to 20 people armed with sophisticated weapons and is given a designated area to operate. The dalam derives its name from a famous place or name of a big village in its area. So the Inchampally forest falls under Mahadevpur dalam.
Mahadevpur is a big village where local government offices are located and is the only place connected to the outside world through an asphalt road. It is surrounded on three sides by dense forest through which the road passes.

The Naxalite movement has a long history in Andhra Pradesh, but it became active in the State after a revolutionary communist leader named Kondapalli Seetharamaiah founded Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) People’s War Group (PWG) in 1980. Armed with weapons and singing revolutionary songs, Naxalites, most of them unemployed youth though some of them educated, moved among people living in interior rural areas inaccessible by road and devoid of development, and fought against feudal system then prevalent in villages of Telangana region. Practicing a kind of nocturnal lifestyle – Naxalites sleep in forests during daytime and carry out activities in the night- to avoid confrontation with police, they ran a parallel government in some of the villages located near forest. Experts in guerilla warfare, they killed scores of policemen in landmines, shot dead a number of civilians branding them as police informers over the years. Police retaliated by killing hundreds of naxalites in encounters. Andhra Pradesh government even formed a special police force called Greyhounds to eliminate the movement from the state.

Though the founder had died in 2002, PWG continued to extend its network and spread its activities to neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharahstra, Chattisgarh and Orissa. The PWG became pan Indian phenomenon after its merger with Bihar-based Maoist Communist Centre of India to form Communist Part of India (Maoist). Now these activists are called Maoists throughout India.

Thanks to concerted efforts and continued pressure of Greyhounds police force, influence of Maoists is on the decline in Andhra Pradesh and most of the activists moved into Chattisgarh which has vast stretches of dense jungles to protect them from police.

My plan was to drive into the Inchampally forest and visit the abandoned project site. My enquiries with police and old contacts in Hyderabad revealed that Inchampally area is more or less safe now for as most of Naxalites moved either into Chattisgarh across the Godavari river or to any other safe place. Moreover, Naxalites take a break and retreat to safe areas during summer to escape from police who can easily comb forest during the dry season.

With the Tata Sumo Grande at my disposal and positive signals from police, I was confident that my drive would go without any hitch. Tata Sumo is very popular as an off-road vehicle in the country and Grande being its latest incarnation, I was looking forward to an exciting drive.

My contact at Tata dealership in Hyderabad informed me that a brand new Grande would be sent to my home at around 9.30 am. It was Tuesday in the first week of May this year. Knowing very well that Indians (me included!) would never be on time, I was still in the bed reading a newspaper when my mobile ringed. It was the driver from Tata dealership who brought the vehicle and was waiting for me at the nearby school, a landmark I gave to them. He was bang on time!

After giving the driver all the directions required reaching my home, I hurriedly gathered all the things needed for the journey. It was me who was late on that day as we could only hit the road at around 11 am. Tata people insisted that I take their driver along with me since I am venturing into forest alone.

As summer peaks and temperatures soar to highest levels in May in this part of the world, ours was rather late start for a journey like this. Undeterred, I entered into chaotic Hyderabad traffic, negotiating my way towards a state highway that would take us to Warangal, the second biggest city in this part of Andhra Pradesh known as Telangana region, located 144 km away.

It took us a shade over 30 minutes to cross the Hyderabad city limits. It is really fun to drive on the Hyderabad roads, though one has to battle for space at every passing second. It is better if we call the roads here a battleground as cycles, autorikshaws, buses, cars, trucks and all other sorts of vehicles vie for the little available space on the road.

I heaved a big sigh of relief once our majestic Grande crossed the city limits. Our solitary stop on our way to Warangal was in scenic agriculture fields, about 70 km from Hyderabad. The purpose of our stop was to take photographs of the Grande with the backdrop of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple located on the picturesque Yadagirgutta (Yadagiri hillock), just 7 km away from the highway.

We reached Warangal at around 2 pm. Capital of erstwhile Kakatiya Dynasty that ruled Telugu people for nearly 240 years between 1083 to 1323 CE, Warangal is now a robust city with a population of over 1.3 million.

After a sumptuous lunch at a hotel, we drove to Thousand Pillars temple, a famous landmark in the city. Built in 1163 by one of the Kakatiya rulers, Rudra Deva, the temple is one of the finest example of the ancient dynasty’s architecture and sculpture. After spending sometime in the temple premises, we hit the road again and reached Mahadevpur, located at a distance of 100 Km from Warangal, at around 5.30 pm. Since it is dangerous to venture into the forest in the dark, we decided to spend the night in the village.

Read More On : Inchampally , Inchampally Forest , Tata Sumo Grande , PWG , Maoist , naxalite , on the road , long drive
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