Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: In the fight against Red rebels, the big sign of how the security forces have maintained their dominance over the red rebels in Odisha last year is clearly discernible in pruning of the casualties of civilians and security forces in the State.

Though the Naxal incidents in the State dropped marginally to 75 in 2018 from 81 in 2017, it is the big drop in casualties of civilians and SFs from 29 to 12 in 2018 that showed the dominance of forces over the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs).

However,  in order to dominate the mind game, the Red rebels have stepped up targeted killings in their strongholds this year, which is evident from the casualties toll of 10 till date against 12 in 2018. Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur and Kalahandi are the districts, where LWEs have targeted 'police informers' to dominate in the mind game.

Even as the strength of Maoists has taken a beating last year, some telltale indicators show how their capacity to strike is still intact.

They are organising Praja courts with impunity in their strongholds. Last year they held nearly half a dozen Praja courts in the State, and had ordered killing of 2 civilians, whom they dubbed as police informers. The strategy of the ultras behind such Kangaroo courts is to instil fear and awe among the local populace.

Similarly, it has been observed that the surrenders by LWEs in Odisha are on the descent. Post touching 100 in 2015, it now hovered at around 40. Also, neutralisation of the ultras in the State had dipped.

In contrary, it was observed that the left-wing ultras are striking the economic assets (mobile tower, road works etc) at their will.

With the government branding them as anti-development for attacking economic assets, it has been observed that the LWEs have opted a clever strategy to garner sympathy of locals.

Last year, when the ultras put on flame some JCBs and road construction equipments, they simultaneously had pasted pamphlets demanding drinking water and schools for the local populace.

This act of left ultras has been interpreted as an act to pool in local support to dismantle any assets that pose security risks for them.

It is in this context, CM Naveen Patnaik has today at a meeting on Left Wing Extremism, which was chaired by HM Amit Shah, demanded from the Centre a big push for infra like banking, telecommunication, rail and roads in the core LWE district of Malkangiri and Nabarangpur.

Under the holistic plan to bridge the critical infra gaps in the LWE region, in the Phase -1, Centre has allocated 253 mobile towers for Odisha.  But only 149 such towers could become operational. Some towers couldn't be installed as the State government was unable to provide land.

However, CM Patnaik today said the State government will not only make the land available for bringing up such critical infra in the LWE region, but will also bear half of the project cost.

It seems the strategy of the State government is in order to keep up the dominance of security forces over the left ultras, it now wants to give a big infra push -  for both the security operations and for easing the living indices for the locals.