Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A year State police would like to forget

Siba MohantyFirst Published : 30 Dec 2008 09:48:00 AM ISTLast Updated : 30 Dec 2008 01:23:43 PM IST

BHUBANESWAR: In the last conference of DGPs, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Naxalism as the ‘most serious internal security threat to India’ a day after the then Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had described it as a situation blown out of proportion by some.

The fact is the year 2008 did not provide scope for any such confusion. Not in India and not the least in Orissa which graduated from being one of those relatively-affected states to be amongst the most-hit ones like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.

If Home Ministry figures are to be believed, while states like Chhattisgarh and AP have shown about 40 per cent drop in Naxal incidents, Orissa has shown a rise. Such was the alarming ferocity with which the Red radicals targetted Orissa during 2008, a year Orissa Police would like to forget.

On a cool February 15 night, a sleepy Nayagarh town woke up to the deadliest attack carried out by outlawed CPI (Maoist) in Orissa. Holding the entire town to ranson, several hundred Naxalites gunned down in cold blood over one dozen policemen during simultaneous raids on Town Police Station, District Armoury, Police Training School, stations at Nuagaon, Daspalla, Mahipur and Tarsingh.

The death count stood at 14 cops and a civilian.

On their way back, away with large quantities of arms, ammunition including sophisticated ones.

What followed was one of the biggest anti-Naxal flushing-out operations launched in India ever. Although the security forces faced further fatalities in the operation, it managed to salvage large quantities of looted arms. ‘Operation Ropeway,’ as it was christened by the radicals, did dent confidence of State Police force.

Such was the impact that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik even declared to hold talks with the Naxals to buy peace.

But that was not to be. On June 29, a convoy of Andhra Pradesh Grey Hounds, was sunk in Chitrakonda reservoir by the Maoists who exposed the weakness of security forces in water warfare. A launch carrying over 60 securitymen was targetted while passing through a narrow point in Alempakka. The Naxals were waiting to take them by surprise.

While 29 managed to swim to safety, the rest met a watery grave. The vessel and the bodies remained trapped in the bottom of the reservoir and an imported ballon technology used by Indian Navy divers managed to bring it up seven days after the incident.

A fortnight later, more bloodshed was waiting to occur. A contingent of the Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel were killed when the mine protected vehicle they were travelling in to MV 79 was blown up by Naxals using RDX on July 16. Seventeen security personnel paid with their lives.

These major incidents apart, during April, they killed at least four village heads in Malkangiri suspecting them to be police informers. In December, two more in Keonjhar and Koraput districts were brutally killed by the Maoists.

The biggest surprise by Maoists, if one actually went by their claims, was gunning down of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his associates in Kandhamal which triggered an unprecedented wave of communal violence not just in the district but also in other parts. Occurring on August 23, its ripple effect is still being felt as the violence drew international attention

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