Saturday, December 12, 2020

How Swabhiman Anchal, a former Maoist bastion, got back on the map


Farm workers take home bundles of harvested paddy in Malkangiri, OdishaFarm workers take home bundles of harvested paddy in Malkangiri, Odisha | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout
Satyasundar Barik12 DECEMBER 2020 16:00 IST

Forgotten by the government, marooned by a dam, claimed by Maoists, Swabhiman Anchal is now slowly being mainstreamed

On October 31, when Khara Chaitan, 70, a Paraja tribesman of Kusumput village in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, stepped out, he saw the tricolour fluttering outside a building in Gurasethu for the very first time. Had someone told Chaitan, even a few months ago, that formal government, as represented by the tricolour, would arrive so close to his home, he would have laughed it off.

The flag had been hoisted that morning by a posse of men from the Border Security Force (BSF) and Odisha Police, with a bunch of local officials in tow. Gurasethu is in the heart of what was until recently the Maoist bastion of Swabhiman Anchal, once known as the ‘Cut-Off’ area of Malkangiri, a well-established theatre of several bloody stand-offs between Maoist rebels and security forces.

In 2008, 39 security personnel, most of them belonging to Andhra Pradesh police’s elite Greyhound force, were killed in a Maoist ambush in the Balimela reservoir. In 2011, the then Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Krishna was abducted when he went to supervise development work. In 2012, four BSF personnel, including a commandant, were killed in a landmine blast because security personnel repainted a memorial erected in memory of Maoist central committee member Patel Sudhakar Reddy at Janbai, the gateway to Swabhiman Anchal.


Working model?

The flag that morning in Gurasethu was just one of several recent indicators that the area is slowly being reclaimed by the State government. Once littered with landmines, the area is gradually being mainstreamed in a manner that might well become the template for combating left-wing extremism in the country.

Before the security forces landed in Gurasethu, a red-painted, single-storey building used by Maoists, and a martyr’s memorial that commemorated their dead, were the two chief landmarks. The structures were symbols indicating that the sprawling hilly region in the Eastern Ghats on the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border was under ‘occupation’ by the outlawed outfit, CPI (Maoist). Swabhiman Anchal featured prominently on the Maoist map along with other areas such as the Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar and Narayanpur regions of Chhattisgarh.

Situated at the tri-junction of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, in some extremely inaccessible country, the law had very little presence in this area. The jungles and badlands offered any number of hiding places for Maoists.

BSF men check for landmines on a village road

BSF men check for landmines on a village road | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Malkangiri has been among India’s worst affected districts, recording 332 Maoist incidents between 2008 and 2020, with 101 civilian and 77 security personnel deaths. Of this, Swabhiman Anchal accounted for the deaths of 25 civilians and 49 security personnel. In 2016, in an encounter at Ramaguda in Swabhiman Anchal, some 30 Maoist ultras were killed.

Cut-off area

How did it become possible for such an inaccessible area to exist in a fairly well-connected modern nation? The answer is that for 50 years, the government forgot it had thousands of citizens living here, citizens left to fend for themselves in the hills and forests.

The ‘Cut-Off’ area was created when the Balimela Dam came into being. Construction work began in 1962-63 in what was then Koraput district, and the dam was competed in 1977. According to Bidyut Mohanty, a Koraput-based social activist, the project submerged 17,496 hectares of land, affecting 89 villages. In 1975, a plan was chalked out to rehabilitate 1,200 tribal families in 31 resettlement villages. Eventually, some 700 families were sent to 24 villages.

The reservoir, meanwhile, created a water channel, 60 km long, which encircled 151 villages from three sides. For three years, between 1975 and 1978, the water-locked people had no access to the mainland and were cut off from civilisation. This erased their existence from the nation’s memory. Later, the government started a steamer service, which became the only link to the mainland. Nobody ventured there, not even government authorities. The villages fell off the map and stayed that way for 40 years.

The turning point came in 2018, when a bridge was built over the Gurupriya river. One of the most heavily protected bridges in the country, it is now the only land link to the rest of the State. The bridge allowed administrators and security forces to reach 12 km into Swabhiman Anchal, but large parts of the interiors were still out of bounds, controlled by the ultras and with boats as the only means of access.

In December 2019, the government began laying three-metre-wide pedestrian roads in the interiors. Although the ultras strongly opposed any roads that could reach their bastions, they allowed these narrow roads because they calculated that security forces would not be able to use them for heavy vehicles. As it happened, the narrow roads helped the BSF ride in on motorbikes and reach Hantalguda, a Maoist stronghold, where they set up camp on a commanding ridge.

Human shield

Hantalguda was one of the spots where Maoists had constructed concrete houses and memorials, structures offered as examples of development in contrast to the government’s neglect. But now, with these new roads, the people saw the enormous mobility they offered and wanted them extended up to their villages. They began to shield road-workers from possible attacks by the ultras, slowly changing the power dynamics of the area.

Villagers began to sell the horses they had once used in the hilly outposts to buy motorbikes instead. “It heralded a new era for us. The roads brought us out from darkness,” says Ghasi Hantal of Hantalguda. Many villagers had never ridden in an auto-rickshaw before these three-wheelers arrived here. Some 31 roads, covering 231 km, and 24 small bridges are under construction now.

Until recently horses were a common mode of transport in Swabhiman Anchal

Until recently horses were a common mode of transport in Swabhiman Anchal | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Then, the first mobile towers came up and a critical balance was tipped in favour of the administration. While the motive might have been to facilitate intelligence tip-offs, phones inevitably connected people to the world outside. The government has now planned seven mobile towers in Swabhiman Anchal.

In July, the first passenger bus was introduced. The district administration has also started digging borewells. The idea is to demonstrate that the government is serious about development. The people of Swabhiman Anchal, who for decades have sourced drinking water from muddy streams, now have potable water in their backyards.

Making inroads

Even as Maoists continued to attack the BSF camp at Hantalguda, the security forces set their eyes on Jadambo, eight km away, which served as a sort of Maoist capital. In January this year, the administration was given five days to build a ghat road across the hilly terrain connecting the two places. More than 1,000 security personnel were deployed to plug every possible entry and exit route of the ultras. The ghat road was built, allowing the administration to reach Jadambo.

The watershed moment was possibly the night of January 25, when armed rebels came into Janturai, a village in Swabhiman Anchal, demanding to know why the villagers had allowed the road to be built. The question enraged the villagers, especially the women, who summoned the courage to ask why they should not be entitled to a road and to progress. The altercation grew, and some 200 tribal women reportedly besieged the ultras, pulling at their hair and landing blows while the men stood guard with bows and arrows.

This was an unprecedented fight back. The clash, which killed one Maoist and seriously injured another, sent the ultras fleeing but not before they burnt down several homes. The fact that three villages — Janturai, Sindhibadi and Jadambo — had fought against the Maoists generated confidence in the security forces. And on January 26 this year, they hoisted the flag for the 71st Republic Day celebrations. “The world has gone way ahead, surely nobody can prevent us from having a motorable road to our village. We could not have allowed this to go on,” says Chandrakala Sisa of Janturai.

After the incident, the former Malkangiri District Collector, Manish Agarwal, and the Superintendent of Police, Rishikesh Dnyandeo Khilari, visited the BSF camp at Hantalguda; this was the first time that top district officers had ventured so far into Swabhiman Anchal. The villagers whose huts were burnt down were given compensation. “We have ensured that not a single incident of police high-handedness spoils our achievements. The humane approach is our mantra to win hearts,” says Shefeen Ahamed, Deputy Inspector General of Police for the South West Range.

New citadel

For the Maoists, the next citadel to defend was Gurasethu, their ideological headquarters. This is where they conducted training sessions for their armed cadres. Being close to Andhra Pradesh, rebels would slip across the State border after carrying out attacks. The citadel fell.

The Maoists have since been fighting a guerrilla war. But the moment the state steps back on development, they will be able to stage a comeback; the administration knows this well, which is why it ensures that development and securing territory goes on in tandem.

There are other challenges. For instance, cannabis has for long been the illegal cash crop here. “It is important to wean people away from cannabis and towards turmeric, equally profitable. We have drawn up a plan to convert cannabis fields into turmeric farms. If things go as planned, we may soon see organic turmeric from Swabhiman Anchal,” says Agarwal.

The Balimela reservoir, originally responsible for the area’s isolation, is now being turned into a source of income, with the government planning to release five crore fingerlings into the reservoir for regenerative fishing.

The decades of seclusion have created generations of illiteracy. Madan Khara, a shopkeeper in Hantalguda, doesn’t even know basic maths, while Krushna Hantal’s Class VII-level schooling is the village’s highest. A residential complex for teachers is being built to revive schools here.

Health sub-centres are also being constructed; the Jadambo primary health centre is being run with the help of an NGO. Two doctors were recruited in Swabhiman Anchal for the first time in September this year. “In the last one year, people here have seen many firsts. What is promised is being delivered. Police stations function like civil administration,” says Khilari.

A young girl waits for the boat to return home to Swabhiman Anchal.

A young girl waits for the boat to return home to Swabhiman Anchal. | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Winning trust

Maoists have now retreated to Jantri, the extreme end of the reservoir. Two bridges are being planned to extend the road to Jantri. It is too early to say whether Swabhiman Aanchal has been fully reclaimed or if development will squeeze out the ultras. For a region with such a long history of neglect and injustice, winning people’s trust can be a long process.

“For decades, the government neglected the region; there was no real development agenda. Force cannot be a tool to win back a region where the CPI (Maoist) established its presence by highlighting socio-economic issues. There has to be a human touch in every action of the government,” says Deepak Nayak, a researcher with the New Delhi-based Institute Conflict Management. “The government needs to make people partners in the development process before expecting any tangible change. Nobody questions the importance of the role of security forces in bringing back normalcy, but they cannot be the face to win back trust.”

Vijay Upadhyay, a rights activist in Malkangiri, says that many villagers still believe the new roads are meant for the movement of security forces. “The Maoists were never against development,” says Upadhyay. “In fact, they were quite supportive of education and development. While it’s true they opposed the Gurupriya bridge, it is because they said it would allow security forces to enter.” Nothing stopped the Odisha government from developing the area, says Upadhyay. “The administration has been entirely missing all these decades.”

Unless the government shows concrete action, the trust deficit will only continue. Development cannot be viewed from the prism of security alone; it means addressing jobs, drinking water, food, health and education issues. The NITI Aayog report of October 2020 shows that Malkangiri continues to languish in the bottom 10 of the Aspirational District Programme index. In health and nutrition, its performance is deteriorating.

At Chitrokonda, the boats still ply, ferrying people to their hamlets in Swabhiman Anchal. Damuni Karingia, 70, from Panaspadar village, says she has undertaken a four-hour boat journey to buy a kilo of salt and some jute bags. “The day my grandson or great-grandson can take me to the market or health centre in his gaadi from my doorstep, and I need not worry about tomorrow’s meal, I will say development has finally arrived,” says Karingia

Naxals planning to prepare base camp at Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh police need more trained security forces to face the new spurt in Naxalite activities in the state. The Naxals are planning to prepare their base camp at Kanha National Park.

In the neighbouring states — such as Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Odisha — the governments have started eliminating the Naxalite problems from their soil. As a result, these Naxals have started entering Madhya Pradesh, which is known as ‘Peace Island’.


According to intelligence inputs, the Naxals are preparing a corridor in the state, which will reach Amarkantak, and also a base camp at Kanha National Park.

To handle the Naxalite problem, the state currently has the Hawk force. The force comprises highly trained security personnel who are fully aware of jungle combat methods. The state government has proposed one more battalion dedicated to Naxal operations. This proposal is pending with the Government of India.
Madhya Pradesh: Two women Naxals killed in separate encounters in Balaghat

Both the Naxals gunned down in the recent combat with the security forces at Balaghat on Friday and Saturday are residents of Chhattisgarh state. The inputs claim that three different groups had planned to hold a meeting, but, after the encounter, the meeting has been postponed.

Luring youths

It is also claimed that the Naxals have started luring the villagers, especially the youths. They have also launched a ‘recruitment’ drive for their dalam, which is bad news for the security forces and also for the state government.

The authorities fear that, at a later stage, the Naxals will threaten the villagers to join them and, after that, they will be in a commanding position.

The ADG, Anti-Naxalite Operations, GP Singh, said that, since 1990, Naxal activities have been witnessed in the state. Currently, the two districts — Balaghat and Mandla — are affected by the Naxal problem. Singh added that the highly trained battalion of the CRPF, comprising 1,000 personnel, is scheduled to reach the state in February next year. He also said that one more battalion is needed to combat the Naxals in the state. Currently, very few Naxal groups are active in the state, but, as pressure mounts in the other states, these people have been coming to the state for shelter.

2 Naxal women shot by Hawk Force

 |  | Bhopal

On December 11, Superintendent of Police Balaghat dispatched Hawk Force team  to village Borvan Cheki under police station Kirnapur area where 10-12 persons were surrounded to capture them when they appeared. On seeing the police, Naxalites opened fired on the police. The police force warned to surround the Naxalites and surrender.

Despite the warning, the Naxalites ran away and opened fire on the police party. Naxalites fired several rounds on the police party. Taking advantage of the dark and dense forest, the Naxalites managed to escape towards the forest.

After the firing stopped, a search operation was carried out by the police force on the spot, in which the body of a uniformed Naxalite with a firearm whose was around 25 years old, was found. The female naxalite was identified as Sobha of Gadchiroli Maharashtra, member of Malanjkhand Area Committee. On her head Rs 3 lakh were declared by Madhya Pradesh government and Rs 5 lakh by the Chhattisgarh government, thus a reward of Rs 8 rupees was declared on the female Naxalites.

In the morning after darkness disappeared on Saturday, firing resumed by the Hawk Force and later firing stopped, intensive search was done and the body of another uniformed Naxalite with rifle was found. Female Naxalites were identified as Savitri resident Ganganur district Bijapur, member of the Kasa Area Committee.The  Madhya Pradesh government declared a Rs 3 lakh and Rs 8 lakh rupees by the Chhattisgarh government and a total of Rs 11 lakh was declared on this female naxalite.

Superintendent of Police Abhishek Tiwari, Assistant Fighter Ravi Dwivedi, Assistant Sub Inspector Rampadam Sharma and Jawan were involved in the entire operation

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Naxal in Bollywood

Before the shift to ‘urban Naxal’, Hindi film and TV were content with the narrative of Adivasis living in green forests. Can a new show, 'Naxalbari', change the conversation?

A still from the ZEE5 series 'Naxalbari'
A still from the ZEE5 series 'Naxalbari'

By Aditya Mani Jha

LAST UPDATED11.12.2020  |  09:45 AM IST

About halfway through the fourth episode of Partho Mitra’s new ZEE5 series Naxalbari, a revenge drama set against the backdrop of the Naxalite movement in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, the writers do something cynical with a hitherto interesting character, an activist called Sudha (Narayani Shastri). Until this point, Sudha is the only character who speaks up on behalf of the Naxalites without condemning violence. On a TV panel debate, we see her urging the audience to think about the systemic injustice that leads people to armed resistance in the first place, about the countless ways in which India has failed its Adivasi populace. This is a line of thought unlikely to come from the story’s designated “super-soldier with a conscience”, Special Task Force agent Raghav Joshi (Rajeev Khandelwal), or the villainous tycoon Keswani (Aamir Ali), whose billion-dollar infrastructure project is being questioned by Sudha on environmental grounds.

In the fourth episode, however, we see that Sudha, who had previously convinced the environment minister to go against the party line and block Keswani’s project, is trending on Twitter. Keswani leaks a video of her wining and dining businessmen from China who stood to benefit from FICA (an industrial consortium represented by Keswani) losing the project. Soon, #UrbanNaxalSudha and #SudhaAntiNational take over the internet.


The speed and writerly confidence with which this sequence of events happens tells us the recall value of the phrase “urban Naxal”, a one-size-fits-all neologism deployed in recent times to target political dissent in India. Bollywood has engaged with this trope, directly or indirectly, for over a decade now, in films like Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005), Kabeer Kaushik’s Chamku (2008), Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh (2012) and several others. Perhaps the first mainstream Hindi film in this space was The Naxalites (1980), directed by K.A. Abbas and starring Mithun Chakraborty alongside Smita Patil, Dina Pathak and Jalal Agha.

Film-maker Vivek Agnihotri is generally credited with popularising the phrase, and his 2016 film Buddha In A Traffic Jam is an often unintentionally funny extension of this paranoia—in Agnihotri’s world, “urban Naxals” are hidden in plain sight everywhere, a loose (but somehow super-organised at the same time) group of journalists, students, professors, artists, activists and so on. This film would have you believe that urban Naxals are supremely influential at every level of society and yet somehow, they have made barely a dent in the state they profess to be fighting. Naxalbari seems to build on this ridiculous premise; it has a professor who appears to have radicalised his city-slicker students. And by collaring Sudha, the show’s writers double down on their “everyone’s in on it together” conspiracy theory—just about every major player, whether journalist, activist, politician, police officer or local busybody has malafide intentions.


It wasn’t always this way, however. Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (set in the 1970s, at the height of the Naxalbari movement) is an example of a story that humanises its college-students-turned-Naxal-ideologues without ever glorifying their violence. Mishra retains a wry sense of humour even in intense situations, like the opening scene of the movie where the charismatic Siddharth Tyabji (Kay Kay Menon) is exhorting his fellow students to join the revolution. He appeals to their love of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix by reminding them that they, too, spoke up for the oppressed; it’s a cute way of communicating both ideology and youthful naiveté.

Before the shift to “urban Naxal”, Bollywood was content with the narrative of Adivasis living in the verdant forest. In The Naxalites, Chakraborty’s character, Amor Kal, is introduced as a traumatized youngster found by local authorities, with only one word on his lips—the name of his village, Naxalbari.

When Amor Kal is finally aboard a homebound train and the train enters Naxalbari, all we see in the frame is a sea of ridiculously bright green. And suddenly, the traumatised boy perks up and exclaims with pleasure, “Itnaa haraa (So green)!” In Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, cinematographer Santosh Sivan’s camera paints so many relentlessly aesthetic frames in green that Apocalypse Now feels like a home video in comparison.


The centrality of the urban-dwelling Naxal, however, has changed this equation forever as far as Bollywood is concerned. Naxalbari, for instance, has a Mission Kashmir-esque twist wherein we discover that Raghav’s real parents hanged themselves in Gadchiroli (the same place where Raghav is fighting the Naxalites now). We also learn that his (step) dad, a veteran cop, was indirectly responsible for their death. Raghav’s status as the outsider entering the heart of darkness is thus forever altered.

A better show than Naxalbari would have acknowledged that Raghav’s parentage might lead him to question whether his unshakeable cop ethics are largely propaganda fed to him since childhood. The “performative” aspect of the anti-Naxal soldier was central to Chakravyuh too—Abhay Deol’s character Kabir, a city-dwelling engineering graduate, infiltrates a Naxalite group to help his injured super-cop friend Adil (Arjun Rampal). Through the course of the film, however, he “becomes” Comrade Azad, now fully identifying as part of a group whose colonisation he set out to hasten. In other words, he goes full Avatar.

Of course, this also has to do with the fact that Bollywood has no Adivasi representation to speak of. How can it be expected to produce stories that centre the Adivasi experience when it refuses to engage with any actual Adivasi? Instead, the locus of oppression that Bollywood seeks to sketch with shows like Naxalbari has now travelled to the city. At one point in Naxalbari, the commander of the Naxal militia even admits to his colleague, “You know as well as I do that the one who sits in the city orders, and we obey.”


It’s classic Bollywood condescension: Not only is your revolution second-hand, we were controlling it from our ivory towers all along.

Aditya Mani Jha is a Delhi-based writer

Maoist courier arrested, explosive material seized in Kothagudem

Bhadrachalam ASP Vineeth G informed the media on Thursday that the arrested courier was identified as Podium Jayaram alias Guruji of Kodivai village in Cherla mandal in Kothagudem district.

By Author  |  Published: 10th Dec 2020  6:17 pmUpdated: 10th Dec 2020  7:59 pm

Kothagudem: Police arrested a Maoist courier and seized explosive material from his possession in Chintaguppa-Bodanelli forests in the district on Wednesday.

Bhadrachalam ASP Vineeth G informed the media on Thursday that the arrested courier was identified as Podium Jayaram alias Guruji of Kodivai village in Cherla mandal in Kothagudem district.

The arrested man had served as a Maoist militia member and area committee member since 2006 and was currently serving as courier for Maoist Telangana State Committee secretary Haribhushan and BK-EG division secretary Azad.

Jayaram was accused in 50 criminal cases in Telangana and was involved in many cases in Chhattisgarh. Many of the crimes he committed attract the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The ASP informed that the Maoists had planned to trigger blasts targetting police parties engaged in combing operations, marking the just concluded PLGA Week. The police seized 10 gelatin sticks, two detonators, two batteries and electric wire along with a tiffin box.

Vineeth stated that the youth in the agency villages were aspiring for development and were not ready to work with the Maoists. He called upon the underground Maoists to quit the arms and join the mainstream life. The government would extend support to them to live a normal life.

Why the Maoists are killing civilians in Chhattisgarh

 |India Today Insight

As security forces close in on their strongholds, Maoists become ruthless with suspected informers 

Maoists watch as villagers dance in a forested area of Bijapur district in Chhattisgarh (Noah Seelam/AFP)

In a worrying trend, Chhattisgarh’s Maoist insurgency has seen a spurt in the killing of civilians by the rebels. In the past three months, around 25 civilians have been killed after being accused of being police informers or supporters (whereas the first eight months of the year saw the death of only 20 civilians).

Intelligence reports suggest that after the tactical counter-offensive campaign (TCOC), an annual summer muscle-flexing exercise of the Maoists, a review meeting was held in July. Many of the top Maoist cadre could not reach the venue as the Indrawati river was in spate but the general consensus at the meeting was to come down heavily on police informers. The leaders came to the conclusion that they were unable to carry out effective ops against forces because the cadre had been infiltrated. A zero-tolerance policy was adopted after which the death penalty has been handed out for even small infractions.

Most of the civilians killed so far have been tribal village folk suspected of being police informers. Maoists also killed one of their own senior operatives, Modiyami Vijja, a divisional committee member (DVCM), and four others after they were suspected of passing on wireless coordinates to forces.

Security forces claim that the spike in civilian killings is a result of pressure on the Maoists as forces are now moving into the previously rebel-held territory for what they call “the final battle”. The ‘liberated’ area, as of now, ranges from 3,000 to 10,000 sq. km, mostly in the Narayanpur, Bijapur and Sukma districts. Of these areas, around 3,000 sq. km is totally out of the control of the government, while the rest of the area has varying degrees of control; for example, food and medicines can go in, teachers can go in, but the forest department and police etc. can’t.

Civilians are regarded as vital for the survival of Maoists who operate in the forests of South Chhattisgarh as they provide food and shelter, and are aware of jungle paths and are the eyes and ears of the rebels. What then explains this reign of terror?

The lockdown period in the summer months had witnessed a fresh offensive by the Maoists against the security forces. During the total lockdown (mid-March to May 31), 17 security personnel from the state’s district reserve guard (DRG) were killed in an attack on March 23 by Maoists in Sukma district--the biggest death toll among the forces in the past three years. There was a lull in attacks on civilians during the lockdown but from September on the situation rapidly worsened. In September alone, 10 civilians were killed while another 15 have been killed in the last two months.

One possible reason for the Maoists turning up the heat on civilians is the setting up of new camps by the security forces in areas that were considered ‘liberated’ zones. As many as 19 new camps have been set up in the last two years. The new Congress government in Chhattisgarh that took over in December 2018 had unofficially attempted to reduce hostilities with the Maoists. There were verbal instructions to officers on the ground to not target the ‘small-time Maoists’, the kind that contributed the biggest numbers to the kill lists of the forces in most years. But the kid gloves came off after the March attack on the DRG (District Reserve Guard) personnel. Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel asked the Union government for 7 fresh battalions (7,000 men in all) of the Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs). The Union government has approved 5 new battalions for Chhattisgarh and deployment of two battalions has already commenced in Bijapur and Sukma. Since these battalions are being deployed in ‘liberated’ areas, a conflict with Maoists seems imminent.

It’s also true that a few officers of the Chhattisgarh police, deployed in South Bastar for many years, have developed strong informer networks. Maoist pamphlets have in fact called out the informers, dividing them into three categories--one group they refer to as active workers who get Rs 12,000 a month salary, covert operators who live in the villages, and informers who provide information to the police as and when possible. For the first time, relatives of police personnel who live in the villages have also been chased out by the Maoists. Police sources said that earlier Maoists followed a system of graded punishments whereby those found guilty were thrashed or tortured and then released. In the last few months, however, the death penalty is being awarded with impunity by these kangaroo courts. Reports coming in from the Maoist-controlled areas are that the number of dead civilians is much higher. Deaths are not being reported owing to the fear of reprisals.

The success of a ‘surrender programme’ in Dantewada district in the monsoon season also seems to have angered the Maoists. Across the state, a total of 583 Maoists have surrendered in 2019 and 2020 in what is called a homecoming or ‘lon varratu’ in Gondi. Another theory is that since the bulk of civilian executions have been around the Gangalur axis, the Maoists want to attain the twin objectives of preventing the setting up of camps and also to terrorise the mine operators as this is a deposit rich area.

“The local population is not extending support to the Maoists. The Naxals are killing locals to teach them a lesson. They want to spread terror among the civilians; it’s a clear sign that our three-pronged strategy of vishwas-vikas- suraksha (trust, progress, security) is working,” says Sunder Raj P., IG, Bastar.

It is also believed that the spurt in violence could be a direct outcome of the Maoist leadership in South Bastar now being in the hands of leaders with a military background. Basavaraju, the present secretary of the central committee, is from a military background among the Maoists. Hidma, commander of the dreaded 1 Battalion and member of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee, also has a military background. The absence of the ideological anchors, it seems, has led to the increased use of violence as a solution provider.

The coming months are likely to see a renewed push by the forces and counterattacks by the Maoists. Caught in the crossfire are the civilians who cannot be seen to be identifying with any one side. It’s a tightrope walk for them; one wrong move could mean death.

Civilian Killings

Year ------------------------------ Deaths

2016-------------------------------- 57

2017-------------------------------- 50

2018-------------------------------- 79

2019------------------------------ 46

2020 (till December 5)----------- 44

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Rattled By Naxal Violence, Odisha Villagers Fight Back

With unending violence rattling their everyday peace, villagers decide to fight back. These villagers belong to the Swabhiman Anchal under Malkangiri district. Living in the Maoist hotbed, these villagers have remained terror-stricken for long. Finally, these villagers, mainly from the Panasput and Jodamba villages have decided to take matters in their own hands. Armed with traditional weapons like bows & arrows, axes, daggers and sticks, hundreds of tribals have geared up to safeguard their villages from the threat of Maoists.

Maoists release music videos to counter security forces

Soumitra Bose | TNN | Dec 8, 2020, 13:25 IST
Picture used for representational purpose only

RAIPUR: Maoists have made a short musical documentary on the life & achievements of Ravula Srinivas alias Ramanna, who was one of the most prominent rebels of Chhattisgarh.

The Maoists have released two music videos, prepared by their cultural wing Chetna Natya Manch (CNM), to mark the 20th anniversary of the Peoples’ Liberation of Guerrilla Army (PLGA). The security agencies are viewing the latest propaganda as a part of ‘psychological warfare’ of rebels against the forces.

Few weeks ago, the Central Military Commission of the Maoists had released a data stating that the rebels lost 4,483 cadres, including 839 women, in the last 20 years in their fight against security forces in the affected states. Such detailed statistical analysis of the Maoists’ military wing, also released on 20th anniversary of the PLGA, was an unprecedented move.

In the last couple of days, the Maoists have distributed pamphlets and erected banners in support of the PLGA anniversary and the ongoing PLGA week being observed between December 2 and 8 to garner support and boost recruitment.

The music videos are likely to have been shot in Sukma in Chhattisgarh and circulated across Central India. The videos feature tribal dance groups and the lyrics are in Gondi language used by the bulk of the population in Central India’s hinterland having sizeable support base for Maoists.

Maoists have circulated propaganda videos earlier too in parts of Central India spanning Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Odisha and Telangana, which they tag as ‘Dandakaranya’ or the forests of punishments. But this time, the security agencies are stunned by the professional quality of the audio-visual message.

“The videos also have shots and images of large gathering of tribals dancing to songs eulogizing PLGA and appealing masses, especially youngsters to join the armed rebellion. This is a deliberate move claiming mass support to counter security agencies which are stating that rebels are fast losing popularity in their own backyard,” said a senior security agency personnel on the condition of anonymity.

“The videos also show that the Maoists are trying to use social media as their next major platform for publicity,” said the personnel.

In one of the videos, the Maoists have made a short musical documentary on the life and achievements of Ravula Srinivas alias Kunta alias Ramanna, who was one of the most prominent rebels of Chhattisgarh. Ramanna had boosted the movement in Central India before dying of cardiac arrest in 2019. Another video highlights the various military achievements of Maoists in Chhatti

Maoist arrested in Mahabubabad

By Author  |  Published: 7th Dec 2020  8:03 pm
Maoist arrested in Mahabubabad

Mahabubabad: Police arrested a Maoist party member at Kothaguda mandal centre in the district on Monday. The arrested Maoist, who has been identified as Sangepu Mahesh alias Ranjit of Patimidigumpu hamlet of Gajulagattu Village in  Gudur mandal, was a member of the outlawed CPI-Maoist Party’s Manuguru Area Dalam for several months.

Disclosing details at Kothaguda police on Monday, SP N Koti Reddy said the police seized several Maoists pamphlets and 20 rounds of SLR gun from the accused. “While Kothaguda police were checking vehicles at Polaram Cross Road near Kottaguda mandal, a man was seen walking towards the police from Battulapalli village. But he ran away after seeing the police. The police, however, chased and nabbed him. On questioning, he said that he was working for the Maoist party for some time now,” the SP said, adding that Mahesh was arrested in several cases in the past.

“He was accused in the murder of Guguloth Daspa and Guguloth Raju of Bodigonda village. He was also arrested in 2018 for threatening a road contractor in Bayaram for money. He was also accused in a case of shooting at police in Kistarampadu village of Cherla mandal and some other cases,” the SP and added that Mahesh worked for the CPI ML (New Democracy) from 2011 to 2019.

Koti Reddy appreciated Kothaguda SI SK Taher Baba and his staff along with the CRPF personnel for nabbing the Maoist party member. DSP Naresh Kumar and CI Raji Reddy were present at the press meet

Monday, December 07, 2020

Chandra Boe: Balangir Braveheart who defies pain to keep Maoists away

By Sanjay Kumar Mishra| Express News Service | Published: 06th December 2020 04:09 AM
Image of Naxals used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

BALANGIR: Once a soldier, always a soldier, goes the adage. Chandra Boe, a Special Security Battalion jawan posted at the Turekela police station in the Maoist-prone Balangir district, proves it right every day. 

An exchange of fire with the Maoists in 2017 left him partially handicapped for life, yet, Chandra continues to stand tall in the harshest of conditions and contribute his mite towards keeping the district safe from the Red rebels. 

Chandra Boe during a patrolling exercise
in the forests of Balangir | Express

The 35-year-old jawan is currently deployed in the intelligence wing and collects information on Maoist camps and movement in the district.

Despite the excruciating pain due to femoral nerve injury, Chandra covers a distance of 50 km every day to gather intelligence.

What helps him in the task is his strong network and support from locals.

Chandra along with his team members was combing in the Mahakhanda reserve forest here on December 5, 2017, when they came across a group of Maoists and an exchange of fire ensued.  

He suffered a bullet injury in his waist.

The jawan was airlifted to a hospital in Visakhapatnam where he was detected with a severe femoral nerve injury. After two surgeries, he survived but the injury left him partially handicapped.  

According to his medical report, the bullet injured Chandra’s pelvis, femoral artery and left him 35 per cent disabled. 

He has been unable to walk properly after the incident, but a steely resolve to fight back has helped him join work almost immediately after recovery. He, though, continues to suffer from agonising pain while walking for long distances. 

“During our training, we were told ‘muskil waqt, commando shakt’ (when the going gets tough, a commando gets going). This has been my mantra ever since I joined the force. Duty always comes first”, said Chandra, who has earned a lot of appreciation from his seniors for his dedication towards work. 

During the lockdown, the jawan helped the Turekela police organise food camps for the poor and migrants for two months.

Balangir SP Madkar Sandeep Sampad said jawans like Chandra are assets for the force. “For people like him, the motherland is above everything”, he said

Maoists losing grip over Vizag Agency?

Express News Service | Published: 06th December 2020 07:49 AM
Arms and ammunition recovered from Maoists on display | Express

VISAKHAPATNAM: Of late, villagers in Vizag Agency have become disillusioned with the Maoist ideology and are announcing that they would not associate with the Maoists. There is a paradigm shift in the people’s mindset. They are now supporting development.

These villages have been Maoist strongholds and important crossing points for them. Surrender of the militia from these areas, particularly during PLGA Week, is an indication of the diminishing strength of Maoists in Chintapalli subdivision. In the subdivision, 13 militia members surrendered in Chintapalli in November and during the first week of December, 12 have surrendered.

About 12 active militia members surrendered before Chintapalli ASP Vidya Sagar Naidu at Chintapalli on Saturday. The surrendered militia members belonged to Pathrudigunta of Galikonda, Panasala banda , Akuluru and Ramagadda. Naidu said the people have become vexed with the barbaric acts of Maoists such as branding innocents as informers and killing them.

Also, he said the militia and people have become aware of what they have missed due to the Maoists. Two tribals have been killed by landmines planted by Maoists in Chintala Veedhi recently. Though the Maoists regretted the deaths, they continued planting landmines, Superintendent of Police B Krishna Rao said.

Actually the Maoists were targeting the police personnel, but the villagers for no fault of theirs fell prey to them. Maoists are continuing to plant mines in Injari, Jamiguda and Busiput Panchayats in Pedabayalu and Munchingput mandals, Krishna Rao said

12 Maoist militia surrender in a blow to Galikonda committee


Sumit BhattacharjeeVISAKHAPATNAM 06 DECEMBER 2020 00:00 IST

25 members gave up in the last 30 days

In a significant development during the PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerilla Army) week that is currently being observed by the banned CPI (Maoist), 12 militia members of the Galikonda area committee surrendered before the ASP of Chintapalli Vidya Sagar Naidu, here on Saturday.

The militia members are from interior villages of Patrunigunta, Ramagadda, Pansalabandha and Aakuluru.

“Normally, during the PLGA week, the Maoists organise meetings to spread their ideology and use the platform to recruit fresh cadres and militia members. Most of the meetings are organised by the militia, and their surrender during the week is a significant development for us and a big blow to the Maoist movement in the Visakha agency,” said Mr. Naidu.



In the last 30 days, about 25 militia members had surrendered to the District Police, and this apparently has caused a big setback to the Maoists.

“In November, we had about 13 surrenders and now we have 12. This has further weakened the Galikonda area committee,” said Superintendent of Police B. Krishna Rao.

Key role

Militia members are considered to be the backbone of the Maoist movement, as it is they who organise meetings, provide logistical support, supply food, medicines and other essentials, do the recce for them and give information on the movement of security forces.

Galikonda area, which comprises mandals such as Chintapalli, GK Veedhi and parts of Koyyuru, has always been a Maoist hotbed but since 2016 it has been suffering serious setbacks and their presence has weakened considerably.

The downfall started with the killing of Gopal alias Azad in an alleged exchange of fire with security forces in May 2016 in Marripakala in Koyyuru mandal. Azad was then the DCM and was leading the movement. His successor Jambri was also killed in an alleged encounter in February 2017 near Annavaram village under Mampa police limits in Koyyuru. Following this, Naveen was elevated as DCM but he surrendered within a year in 2019.

This year Gemmeli Kamesh alias Hari, the successor of Jambri, was arrested by the police in October and since then there have been over 30 surrenders, including 25 in the last 30 days.

It is estimated that there are about 150 militia members in the region and the movement is now being led by Kora Nageswara Rao with a squad of about 7 to 10 hardcore cadres.

Assistant Commandant of CRPF, GK Veedhi, Devendra Naidu, Assistant Commandant of Pedavalasa Paparao, Assistant Commandant of CRPF, Sileru, M.L. Naidu, CI of GK Veedhi Murali and SI of GK Veedhi Aneesh were present

Know What The Maoists Do To Entice Youths To Join The Guerrilla Fold During PLGA Week

Nabarangpur: Even though the outlawed CPI (Maoist) is pushed on a back-foot by security forces with scores of Maoists shunning violence and joining mainstreams, the Left Wing Extremists (LWE) have braced up once again to revamp the organisation and regain their footing by luring youths and young women into the extremists’ fold.

During the ongoing People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) week of the ultras, a number of posters and banners of the rebels were found pasted at different locations in Baghabeda area under Raighar police limits in the district on Sunday. Through the posters, they appealed to the youth mass to join the Maoist camp and fight against the BJD-led Odisha government.  The posters and banners have reportedly been released by the Menpur-Sunabeda division of the left wing extremists