Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Spike in killings by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar raises questions

An IPS officer posted in one of seven districts of Bastar region said that Maoists are now not afraid of any public outcry over killings of civilians.

Updated: Sep 23, 2020 19:50 IST

By Ritesh Mishra, Hindustan Times Raipur

In the last one month, 16 people, including eleven villagers, four security personnel and one forest guard were killed by Maoists in the districts of Bastar division. Bijapur witnessed 10 killings, including six civilians. These killings are a matter of serious concern for both the senior police officials and human rights activists working in the Maoist-hit region.

On Wednesday, a 22-year-old villager was killed by Maoists on suspicion of being a police informer in Jagargonda area of Sukma district. Similarly, a villager was killed in Bijapur on Tuesday for the same reason.

Police officers posted in the region said that there are several reasons for the increase in killings by the Maoist cadres.

“The state policy of going soft on frontal organisations of Maoists in the past one year has emboldened militia commanders. Second, the Maoists have realised that they have suffered heavy casualties in past few years due intelligence-based operations conducted by security forces. The intelligence is mainly human intelligence, so Maoists have started a brutal campaign to eliminate civilians,” said a senior intelligence officer.

An IPS officer posted in one of seven districts of Bastar region said that Maoists are now not afraid of any public outcry over killings of civilians.

“Maoists want to create an environment of fear among villagers which can help them increase recruitment. There has been a decrease in recruitment of sentries in 2017-18. The other very important factor behind the killings is that there is total indiscipline in ranks of Maoists, with local cadres now doing mass executions without even taking approval of senior cadres. And lastly, there is total ideological disarray with movement becoming an armed war with no ethics,” the officer added.

Sunderaj P, Inspector General of Police ( Bastar range ), said that as a result of conducting an effective campaign against Maoists, many of their camps were demolished.

“Realising that there is no future in Maoism, a large number of Maoists have also surrendered due to which the Maoists are frustrated and are trying to terrorise by killing and beating innocent villagers,” said the IG.

He further said that roads, bridges, culverts and other basic facilities have been provided to the villagers in the Bastar region in the last few years even in situations of lockdown and floods, which has increased the confidence of the villagers in governance, administration and security forces.

“They panicked after losing the confidence of the villagers and they are killing them,” said the IG.

Another IPS officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that for Maoists this is part of their extreme terror strategy.

“The present government is not that aggressive in comparison to the earlier one towards Maoists. Hence in 2016-17, the recruitment almost stopped. Now due to government policies, many lower cadres are surrendering and villagers are supporting the government which is rattling them,” said the officer.

What activists and tribal leaders say about the increase in killing?

Human Right Activist Bela Bhatia said the killings going on in Bastar should be condemned.

“Maoist killings of ‘police informers’ must also be condemned. Most of those who get implicated are also from the same villages or area, often the same ethnicity and class. The police put a lot of pressure on locals for information and some people do succumb. The question is whether these villagers have a choice in the matter. Can they say ‘No’ to the police? or the Maoists?,” Bhatia said.

Soni Sori, the tribal leader of Bastar division, also said that Maoists should be condemned for the killing.

“I don’t know why Maoists are killing villagers but this should be stopped. If Maoists claim they are here for tribals why are they killing them? Maoist should answer this question? Second, most of the killings took place in Bijapur district from where I am getting information that local police, specifically district reserve guard ( DRG) are beating common villagers which should also be condemned,” said Sori

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