NAGPUR: The red rebels are continuing their violent trail in Gadchiroli. On Sunday, the Naxalites shot dead a remote village’s sarpanch, also an active leader of Nationalist Congress Party, near the Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border. A day later, they thrashed some forest employees and set their vehicle on fire.
Sources in the district informed that Chamru Kulle Joi, sarpanch of Gardewada village, was whisked away from his residence on Saturday night while he was eating. Joi was taken to another village Mardakuhi, around four kilometers away, where he was shot dead in full view of villagers. It is learnt the Naxals had also assembled villagers from Gardewada village too to witness his ‘trial’. The security forces retrieved Joi’s body a day later when it had already started decomposing in heat and rain.
Police said Joi, a third term sarpanch, was asked by the Naxals not to take up the post repeatedly for reasons best known to them. Joi still went ahead and contested the election in February earning the rebels’ wrath. Senior police officials said Gardewada-Mardakuhi villages had participated in the election. There was around 55% voting from these pockets despite Naxals’call to boycott the polls.
“The overwhelming response in the election and massive success of police and government sponsored programmes like jan jagaran melawa in Etapalli seems to have upset the Naxals. They wanted to retain their fearful presence in the region,” said sub-divisional police officer, Etapalli, Vivek Masal. He said such villages were not under mobile coverage and so there was no question of anybody being a police informer there. “The Naxals cannot label the sarpanch police informer,” he said.
Security sources also said the Naxals’ targeting the NCP leaders may be part of their strategy of opposing the state home minister and guardian minister RR Patil, who belongs to NCP. Naxals had eliminated Kewal Saokar Atkemwar, another NCP leader, earlier this month.
In another incident, the Naxals targeted forest department employees after setting their mini-truck on fire in the jungle around 12 kms from Talwada village on Bhamragarh-Allapalli road. The Naxals also left a pamphlet at the site urging the forest employees and the labourers to discontinue their work of clearing and cutting the jungle or face dreadful consequences. Around 25 forest labourers were learnt to have faced the Naxal wrath.
Superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, S Vireesh Prabhu said that operations have been initiated and security forces have fanned out in different parts of the district to counter the Naxals. “We are hot on their trail,” he said.