Monday, February 08, 2010

Maoists carve out sanctuary exit route

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Cuttack, Feb. 8: The failure of an 11-hour combing operation in Narsinghpur forests of Cuttack district, following reports of Naxalite presence in a nearby village on Sunday, has exposed the vulnerability of the Satkosia wildlife sanctuary that’s being used as an escape route by the Maoists.

That the armed rebels went across the tribal village for a meal is symbolic of an expanding red corridor and shows that the dense forests in this route are being used more frequently.

Deployment of armed police force had to be intensified twice within a fortnight in Narsinghpur area in August last year after Maoist posters first threatened to blow up a police station in the area as “innocent and poor were being harassed” and later declared death sentence for “corrupt politicians and government employees”.

On Saturday, intelligence reports had indicated that the rebels, after a reconnaissance mission, had entered Satkosia from Nayagarh and were moving under dense forest cover to Angul region via Narsinghpur. “Yesterday’s combing operation in the Narsinghpur forests contiguous to Munda Sahi was launched after four persons with sophisticated firearms were reported to have entered the tribal hamlet in a car and offered money for supply of cooked food for 30 persons,” Cuttack (rural) superintendent of police R.K. Mishra said today.

“But the combing operation — involving six platoons of armed police from 7am to 6pm — proved to be inconsequential,” he conceded.

A police officer said Satkosia via Narsinghpur forest has been a matter of concern in recent years as it “provides a safe corridor” from Nayagarh forests to Rairakhol and Deogarh forests (en route Angul) and further north to Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and vice versa.

The Sidhanala bridge connecting Kantilo in Nayagarh district with Narsinghpur apparently provides a “gateway to the Satkosia”, he said.

The Satkosia sanctuary, through which the Mahanadi meanders, spread over 800sq km of overlapping forests and hills and encompasses Nayagarh, Cuttack, Angul and Boudh. It is home to the Gond tribals, who reside in and around the sanctuary.

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