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Sarada Lahangir

The Government’s claims of completely uprooting the Maoists from the affected states proved hollow and meaningless when 22 security personnel were killed and 33 injured on Saturday night in one of the deadliest Maoist ambushes in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar. On Friday, 2059 security personnel from CRPF, District Reserve Guard, Special Task Force and Cobra Battalion who had left for anti-Naxal operations from different areas of Sukma and Bijapur were caught in a trap of Maoist ambush and 22 of them lost their lives. The Maoist stronghold is getting stronger day by day. If one looks at the figures in the last 10 years, till now 489 security personnel have been martyred in Chhattisgarh alone. In these ten years, the security forces have faced more than two thousand of attacks. The latest case is of Bijapur where 22 soldiers were martyred. Last month, five to six Maoist incidents took place and 9 security Personnel along with a member of the district Panchayat had been killed.

Maoist Territory

Undivided Bastar region of Chhattishgarh that was later divided into seven districts: Kanker, Narayanpur, Kondagaon, Bijapur, Dantewada, Jagdalpur and Sukma are spread over area of almost 40 thousand square kilometers. Out of that in 15 thousands square kms Maoist have made their territory. Bijapur and Sukma are two among those seven districts in Chhattisgarh which are at the extreme end of the state and these two districts are located on the outskirts of Teklaguda village where encounters between police and Maoists continued for several hours on Saturday afternoon. Bastar is covered by dense forest and hilly terrains and mountains. Naxals have chosen this place deliberately for strategic advantages. Like if something happens in Sukma, they would go to Malkangiri (Odisha) and if something happens in Bijapur, they would go to Maharashtra. Since 1960 their main headquarter was initially in Bengal then shifted to Andhra Pradesh .They realized that they could not win in direct face to face fight with the huge security establishments so resorted to guerilla warfare. After 1980s they have decided that they will fight in jungle terrains and Bastar region of Chattishgarh provided an ideal location for them. In Bastar the government has not been able to penetrate in the 15 thousand square kms area which is known as complete Red zone.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel admitted the fact in a media briefing just after the incident and said “This is the first time that our soldiers have entered into the Maoist’s bastion, which has led the ultras retaliate like this. We will neither scare of them nor do we stop chasing them and uproot them completely from our land.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “Our morale cannot be down by these attacks, Mao operation is not going to stop any way, rather we will intensify this and will take this fight till the end”.

How Is The Stronghold Of Maoist Becoming Stronger

Security personnel, who have been living in these areas for 15 consecutive years and giving a befitting response to Maoist attacks, still face difficulties in conducting operations in these areas to stop major Maoist operations and taking strict action. This is a cause of great concern. The biggest reason for this is the far-flung forest locations. Government officials ignore these areas and lack of political will adds to the factors resulting in strengthening the Maoist presence in these areas. There bordering areas in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha which have also Maoist presence makes it easy to cross borders under dense forest cover. They can easily cross the borders following any attack. The lack of roads and poor communication makes them stronger in these areas. After all, the cooperation among states has a large bearing on a making a concerted effort to annihilate the Maoist.

An analysis of the anti-Maoist campaign strategies leads one to find that states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal who took the matter seriously. Most of the intelligence was collected by the local police. The information is passed on to the security forces. However, the road network in Chhattisgarh is very bad which goes in favor of the Maoists.

No Specific Policy For Maoist Issue

BBC Correspondent of Chhattisgarh Alok Putul who has been covering Maoist insurgency for more than two and half decades said “There is absolutely no policy with the Government yet to resolve this issue .During the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections in 2018, manifesto issued by the Congress party that time was dedicated to the Congress leaders who were killed in the Maoist attack in 2013 at Jhiram Valley. As you know, on May 25, 2013, in Jhiram Valley of Bastar, 29 people, including most of the top leaders of the Congress Party were killed in this biggest attack of Maoists on any political party in India. It was clearly mentioned in the manifesto that Govt. will formulate specific policy to resolve Maoist Problem. Each Maoist affected Panchayats will be given one crore rupees for community development works so that the marginalize people of the area can be brought into the mainstream through development but unfortunately nothing has been done so far.”

“Now it is almost two and a half years have passed. That declaration and the decision of the government, the investigation of Jhiram Valley massacre are entangled in the courts. No blueprint of any attempt to start the talks has been revealed yet.” He added.

Peace Process Initiatives

There has been a conflict between the security forces and the Maoists in the Bastar region for the last 40 years. Since the formation of the state, there have been more than 3200 encounter incidents in Chhattisgarh. According to a report of the Home Department, 1002 Maoists and 1234 security forces personnel have been killed in Maoist violence from January 2001 to May 2019.Apart from this, 1782 ordinary citizens have been victims of Maoist violence. During this time, 3896 Maoists have also surrendered. The figures for 2020-21 show that 31 Maoists were killed in police encounters in the state till November 30, while 270 Maoists surrendered.

For the first time an unique poll was organized under ‘New Peace Process’, an initiative of a conglomerates of tribal and non-government support groups and individuals, where the majority respondent tribals said that they want peace and the problem can be solve through dialogues. As part of this process a Dandi March 2.0’ from March 2021 was organized from Narayanpur in bastar to State capital Raipur.

Shubhranshu Choudhary, a senior journalist, peace activist and founder of CGNet Swara, a voice portal that allows people from remote areas in central India to share their voices said “Peace dialogues between the Government and the Maoist is the only solution to this issue. Barring few non tribal leaders in Maoist fold, most of the Maoist ranks consist of local tribals. So government should initiated the peace process and resolve this issue”.

Last month, the Maoists had called for peace talks with their demands: remove ban on their party, release the Maoist leaders from jails, withdraw security forces and camps from Bastar, close the camps and release the Maoist leaders. The government rejected this offer outrightly saying that the terms would not be met with and the Maoists should first give up arms before beginning any talks.

Learning Over The Years

Choudhary said many people might not know that on October 8, 1998, the Maoists blew up a lorry full of police personnel passing through the Tarrem area and the jeep running right behind using land mines. Eighteen soldiers were martyred in this incident, although some reports show the number of soldiers killed in this as seventeen. This attack was recorded as the beginning of a fierce Maoist attack and this was considered the first biggest attack. “This time after 22 years, the Maoist did the same thing and we lost our 22 soldiers. This implies that we have not learnt anything over the years.” he added.

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