Sunday, November 29, 2009

Caught in Police-Naxal crossfire, tribals take bus out of Dantewada

Sreenivas Janyala
Posted: Monday, Nov 30, 2009 at 2232 hrs IST
Updated: Monday, Nov 30, 2009 at 2232 hrs IST

Chintur, Khammam district: The rickety Dantewada bus normally arrives almost empty at Bhadrachalam, the temple town in Khammam district close to the Chhattisgarh-Orissa border. That it has few commuters is natural considering it makes its way through the most dangerous Maoist strongholds of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh and crosses the border into Andhra Pradesh’s Khammam district, another Maoist hotspot. But that’s no longer true.

Since about a month, the bus from Dantewada has been arriving full in Bhadrachalam. It’s full of tribals fleeing Dantewada, in fear of being caught in the crossfire between the police and the Maoists. “At least 300 tribals belonging to the Gothy Koya and Gond tribes from Dantewada arrive at Bhadrachalam every day. They either look for work here or, since Bhadrachalam connects to the rest of Andhra, they go towards Hyderabad in search of work,’’ says Sub-Divisional Police Officer Raghuram Reddy.

In all, at least 20,000 tribals fleeing from Dantewada have arrived in Khammam recently and many more are camping in the forests near Bhadrachalam. “If there is a police operation in which some Maoists are killed, their colleagues come and accuse us of having tipped them off. They go around the village, pick up a few people and execute them. On the other hand, the police accuse us of colluding with the Maoists. We don’t want to live on the edge anymore,’’ says Sukhna Puchapa who came from Dantewada and is staying in a temporary shelter at Chintur, 30 km from the Chattisgarh border.

The main worry for security agencies is that sympathisers of the Maoists among them may help local Maoists to strengthen their base again. “The Maoists have the sympathy of tribals who not only provide shelter but also information about movement and deployment of security forces” an official said.

Worried that the Maoists, who have been either eliminated or driven out of Khammam, may regroup in the area, the state government is planning to request the tribals to go back to Chhattisgarh.

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