Odisha steps up combing operation against Maoists

Determined to stamp out the problem of left wing extremism from the state in the wake of the recent hostage crisis, the Odisha government on Sunday stepped up combing operation against Maoist rebels across the state barring the stretch of Malkangiri district bordering Chhattisgarh.

“There is no operation close to Chhatisgarh border in view of the kidnapping of a district collector by the rebels in the neighbouring state but security forces are ready to strike against the Maoists in full force in all other areas,” said a senior officer leading Odisha’s anti-Maoist drive.

Official sources here said that the state government, which had already revised its incentive package for the surrendering Maoists in a bid to make it more attractive, was likely to launch a political offensive to induce surrenders. “This would be something like what once Vinoba Bhave did to persuade dacoits to lay down arms,” said an official without disclosing the details.

Sources said that the focus of the renewed operation against the Maoists was on forcing them to give up arms by narrowing down their options. The CRPF and Special Operations Group (SOG) jawans of Odisha government moved deeper into the forests of Kandhmal and Rayagada districts where CPI (Maoist) state organising secretary, Sabyasachi Panda, who had kidnapped two Italian nationals a few months ago, had been holed up for past sometime.

Reports from ground zero said that the security forces have been successful in arresting two women cadres working for Panda who is getting increasingly isolated because of his growing differences with the Maoist leaders of Andhra Pradesh who control the organisation in large parts of southern Odisha.

“The women were nabbed while returning to their base camp in Kandhmal forests with some eating material and a generator. We hope to extract
from them valuable information about Panda,” said a senior police officer who insisted that division in the Maoists ranks has weakened the organisation. Citing the surrender of a woman Maoist in southern Odisha two days ago, he said they expected more rebels to give up arms.

Though the operation against the Maoists has been intensified throughout the state, its main focus is on Kandhmal, Rayagada, Koraput and Sundergarh districts where top rebel leaders operate and which have been treated as Naxal bastions for past sometime.

“We want to go deeper into Kandhmal because this is the right time to strike at Panda who is fast losing friends and cadres. We have also come to  know that he is under pressure from his family to surrender ever since the release of his wife from jail last month,” said an officer.

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