Maoists in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district have struck fear in the hearts of 68 elected representatives of civic bodies, forcing them to put in their papers.
Eighteen of the 68 Panchayati Raj institutions’ representatives are heads of villages, 44 are Panchayat Samiti members and one is from the zilla parishad at Bhamragarh.
An embarrassed state administration is reportedly trying to convince them to take back their resignations.
The mass resignations are being seen a consequence of the killings by Maoists of several local leaders, which began during the recent panchayat samiti and zilla parishad elections.
Bahadurshah Alam, chairperson of the Bhamragad panchayat samiti, was killed on the last day of the filing of nomination papers in January for allegedly defying Maoists’ diktat to stay away from the poll process.
After the elections, at least five others were killed. Besides, 12 civilians were killed in April and May.
The fear of Maoists is so widespread in the district that several newly-appointed officers have allegedly refused a posting there.
An additional collector is yet to take up his posting, the order of which was issued last July. Ditto the case with a deputy collector, whose order passed in December last year.
Local activists feel that the 68 resignations are just the tip of the iceberg. They expect more panchayat samiti, zilla parishad and gram panchayat members to cave under Maoists’ pressure and quit their posts.
“Besides creating fear of themselves among the people, the Maoists have succeeded in convincing them that the government has failed to protect them.
No political leader has even condemned the killing of Alam, who was a popular leader in Bhamragarh. It has become very difficult for the administration to re-gain the confidence of people after such attacks,” explains an activist from the Maoist-hit district.
The home department, however, claims that the worry is much ado about nothing and that it has the situation at Gadchiroli under control.
“Most resignations are from a couple of villages in Dhanura and Korchi tehsils, which are largely Naxal-affected areas. After 77% of the voters turned up for the local body elections, the Maoists are on shaky ground,” says an official from the department.