Security increased in Chhattisgarh as Naxals commemorate slain leaders
Raipur: Security has been increased across Chhattisgarh as the Maoists are observing ‘Peoples’ Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Week’ to honour their leaders who have been killed by security forces, from Monday. No violence has been reported so far, but Naxal pamphlets and posters were seen at some places in Narayanpur and Bijapur districts of Bastar region, appealing the cadres to observe the week.
Security has been especially beefed up in the forest interiors of seven districts of Bastar division (Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Sukma and Kanker), senior police officials said. According to police, Naxals may hold meetings and gatherings during the week to spread their propaganda, besides recruiting youths. Bus operators refrained from plying in the interior parts today. Railways too have decided not to run the passenger train between Vishakhapatnam and Kirandul beyond Jagdalpur due to fear of Maoist attack. The freight train will run up to Kirandul, but only in daytime. The outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) is observing the week in honour of its leaders who got killed at the hands of security forces. PTI
State police sound Red alert
RANCHI: The Jharkhand police have sounded an alert after the Maoist attack on Sahebganj-Patna-Intercity-Express in Bihar’s Munger district killing three railway policemen and injuring two. A large portion of the railway tracks in Jharkhand pass through the Red-hit areas where rebels frequently blow up tracks, attack trains and also hijack them. ADGP railway police A K Sinha said all railway police officers have been asked to follow the security procedure laid down for passengers’ safety.
“Apart from it, we have also sounded a special alert across all railway police stations,” said Sinha. The state police have also asked police to tighten security in the districts where Maoists have their presence. Almost all 24 districts in Jharkhand are hit by left-wing extremism with 18 of them vulnerable to the violence perpetrated by the rebels. DGP Rajiv Kumar said a general alert has been sounded in all districts and the police have been asked to maintain vigil.
Seven policemen, 21 Maoists killed in Odisha in 2013
Bhubaneswar: At least seven security personnel and 21 left wing extremists (LWEs) have been killed and 87 of them surrendered before police in 2013 till November end, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Monday. Patnaik told the Assembly that the highest number of four BSF personnel were killed in an ambush in Koraput district, while 13 Maoists were gunned down in Malkangiri district. Besides Malkangiri, Maoists were also killed in five other districts.
Four of them were gunned down in Rayagada district and one each were killed in Koraput, Bolangir, Baragarh and Gajapati districts. Of the 87 ultras who surrendered this year, 65 came from Malkangiri district, followed by 9 in Koraput district and five in Rayagada district, Patnaik said. Two others surrendered in Nabarangpur, while one each surrendered in Kandhamal, Gajapati, Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Sambalpur and Dhenkanal. Only Nayagarh, Jajpur and Dhenkanal had remained free from Maoist violence and influence this year, said Patnaik, who also holds the Home portfolio, adding that six other districts – Gajapati, Ganjam, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Deogarh and Sundergarh- were not considered as free from the menace in view of movement and activities of the ultras.
Naxals on the comeback trail?
Menasinahadya (Chikmagalur district): Menasinahadya, a tiny village of 400 people, nestling in the Western Ghats, is so remote that the sick travel 25 kms to reach a hospital, 15 kms to find a grocery store and about 8 kms to catch a bus which makes only two trips a day to this part of the hills. Its serenity, however, was shattered by gunfire that left an elderly woman injured over a decade ago, giving the state its first wake-up call to Maoist activity in the Malnad. Soon more violent events unfolded with top Naxal A. Saketh Rajan being killed in these parts by the police, and the ultras responding in kind.
The Maoists who found the village, strategically situated between Sringeri and Moodigere taluks, a safe route to take owing to its remoteness, however, began to desert it as the authorities became more alert to their movements and Menasinahadya, once a hub of Naxal activity, fell silent about two years ago. But now all indications are that the red brigade is trying to make a comeback in these parts, smelling an opportunity in the eviction of forest dwellers and tribals from the Western Ghats under the National Park Act and the government’s move to implement the Kasturirangan report on conservation of the ghats.
To the dismay of the authorities who had boldly declared the Naxals of the Western Ghats were in retreat, they appear to be back in action and this time in a more aggressive mode if the vandalism of a forest checkpost and the burning of vehicles belonging to an employee of an NGO working for the rehabilitation of forest dwellers are anything to go by. Even more worryingly, some Naxal sympathisers claim these attacks are a ‘dry run’ for bigger attacks to come as the Maoists are regrouping and gearing up to make their presence felt more tellingly in the near future. A fresh team of Naxals is said to have arrived in the area after the required training and prepared a different safe route in the Malnad.
The new recruits are reportedly locals as well as youth from Hassan and Mandya, who are being guided by more experienced Maoists from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. While their past strongholds were patches of the Western Ghats in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Shimoga, they are taking no chances this time and are reportedly keeping to the dense forests rather than showing themselves in villages and remaining in touch only with their sympathizers for fear of the police. “The Naxals visit the homes of their sympathisers only for food and shelter while also trying in secret to influence other families who could sympathise with their cause,” say sources.
Despite the Naxals’ renewed attempts to infiltrate the Malnad, the government seems to be in denial yet again and continues to downplay their numbers in the region. While it claims there are a mere 25 to 30 ultras still in the Malnad, Naxal sympathisers, surrendered Maoists and police sources place their number at at least thrice that. Recalling that the red brigade had cashed in on the eviction of tribals and villagers from forests in the Malnad when the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) was created in early 2000 , they say they have been presented with such an opportunity again. “Eviction of forest dwellers and tribals had given Naxals the opportunity to appear as champions of their cause and paint the government as the villain of the piece in the past and now they are preparing to do the same,” says Ganapathy Gowda (name changed) who was closely associated with the movement in its early days in the region.
“The government said it would not coerce anyone to leave the forest, but the lives of the villagers became pathetic after it brought in restrictions on their means of earning a livelihood. For instance people of Karle village could not continue fishing after it was banned in the area for ecological reasons. Such villagers offered easy pickings for Maoists,” recalls another villager. Unfortunately, Maoists who are now preparing to take advantage of similar restrictions in the offing in the ghats, seem more dangerous than before. “Every Maoist now carries a gun, even an AK 47 at times, grenades and ammunition besides a 15 to 20 kg bag with all necessary supplies,” reveal sources, adding that the Naxals of the Malnad have been told to make their own arrangements for arms and supplies by their central unit “As the local Naxals have to become self-reliant they are likely to become more violent too,” they add.
While the ultras seem intent on making a return, the Ani-Naxal Force( ANF) and the ciivil police are still not working in tandem as required. ANF commander Seemanath Kumar Singh , however doesn’t seem worried and even denies the Maoists are returning yo the Malnad. “We have no such information,” he said, when contacted, asserting that the ANF was capable of dealing with them even if they were. “As the commander of the ANF I can assure you that we have dedicated teams and full striking power , if necessary,” he maintained.