Under Naxal threat, political activists resign in Bhamragarh

NAGPUR: From instilling fear among the tribal villagers, the Naxals are going all-out to dent the democratic set up in Gadchiroli. Due to threats issued by them, the political leaders and workers quit their parties in Bhamragarh tehsil in South Gadchiroli on Thursday. And now, the elected representatives have been asked to quit local bodies on May 1.

Naxalites, who have started targeting political leaders in Gadchiroli, have reportedly issued a warning to rural office-bearers in local bodies to resign. The threat seems to be spreading across the political parties in other tehsil places too. Now, political workers and activists from Etapalli and Korchi may follow suit. The increasing influence of Naxals, sources said, has put the district and police administration on the back foot.

The Naxalites have so far killed six civilians in this month alone in Gadchiroli, of which four had affiliation to political parties. On April 13, ex-zilla parishad member Kewal Atkamwar was killed in Etapalli. A week later Pawankumar Bhalavi, former Naxalite and husband of ex-Panchayat Samiti chairperson in Arewada village was killed on April 20. Two days later, on April 22, the Maoists killed Gardewada gram panchayat sarpanch Chamru Joi. On April 24, deputy sarpanch of Wangeturi gram panchayat Rainu Juru Kowse, was murdered.

In February, the Naxals eliminated Congress block president and panchayat Samiti chairman a few days before the civic election.

After a spate of killings and kidnapping scare, the Naxals are trying to stamp their authority in their strongholds. They had set April 26 as deadline for leaders holding key posts in political parties and civic bodies to tender resignations. The deadline is now extended to May 1 (Maharashtra Day).

If leaders and office-bearers of zilla parishad, panchayat samiti and gram panchayats give in to the Naxal threat to quit on Maharashtra Day, then it may cause a huge embarrassment for the district administration and security forces. The new ZP and PS bodies were elected only in February.

The Naxal strategy points to the fact that members of national parties are their prime targets, local outfits like the Nag-Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, too buckle under Naxal pressure. The local BJP and NCP leaders cite poor show of their parties in the February local polls as a reason to quit the party. “But the reason is obvious in Naxal-dominated region,” the source said.

A top leader said political leaders are facing a threat to their lives from Naxals. The district police has warned leaders against visiting remote areas. “The rebels are calling the shots here and they can strike at will,” he said.

Congress MP from Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency Marotrao Kowase said that the ministers and government officials are committing a major mistake by not taking the locals into confidence. “The talks are on at a higher-level in the government to tackle the situation. The approach needs to change. The government and ministers should engage local leaders, respected members of the society and people’s representatives from the grassroots-level to find a solution which is not happening,” he said.

Former MLA and NCP district chief Dharmarao Baba Atram sounded clueless. When TOI enquired whether he had any discussion about the ongoing violence in the district with State home minister and the guardian minister RR Patil, who is also from his party, the NCP leader replied in the negative.

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