By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Maoist insurgency is one of the most intractable problems confronting Odisha government. The problem that began in the eighties when Congress was ruling the state has acquired serious dimensions now. In the last two decades the radicals have stepped up their attacks on police and even targeted mines in a bid to undermine the economy. They have also unleashed violence against common people, specially against the members of the tribal community who they suspect of having joined hands with the police and passing on information about them.
The tribal community, which once acted as an ally of the Maoists whom they saw as messiahs who would free them from the exploitative clutches of. the state, has now turned against the ultras. The members of the community appear to have realized that the gun-toting Maoists have also been exploiting them in the equal measure. They have also been using them as cannon fodder in their war against the state.
This realization has made the tribal community members cooperate with the security forces engaged in a prolonged operation against the Maoists. But this has incurred them the wrath of the ultras who have killed more than a dozen " police informers" in the last one and a half years. Police are at their wit's end as to how to stop this mindless violence by the radicals.
Security forces have been targeted time and again by the Maoists in districts such as Malkangiri and Koraput which are considered to be their fortresses. Nearly ten years ago the ultras had gunned down 34 jawans of the elite Greyhound force of then undivided Andhra Pradesh when they were trying to cross the Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district. Soon after that Maoists looted the police armoury in Nayagarh after killing several policemen forcing the state government to launch one of its biggest operations against the ultras.
Malkangiri and the neighbouring Koraput district have seen a series of violent incidents involving the Maoists in the last two decades. In the recent past they have triggered at least two blasts killing BSF jawans and Odisha police personnel in Koraput. Though the inauguration of Gurupriya bridge in Malkangiri has made things slightly easy for the security forces but Maoists still have the upper hand in this war against the state.
What makes the job of security forces more difficult is the topography of the area where the radicals operate. These are heavily forested hilly areas where the movement of the forces is impaired by natural circumstances. On the contrary the ultras know the forests like the back of their hand and often mow down the paramilitary forces hunting for them at will. Hills and forests provide the Maoists natural security and radicals very often organize their training camps inside the jungles. The bulk of their new recruits are still drawn from tribal villages.
In the last few years the state government has changed its strategy against the Maoists using the carrot and the stick policy for them one the one hand and launching a developmental drive in the areas of their operation on the other. The government now offers a good compensation package to the ultras who surrender and join the social mainstream. The package has been successful in inducing some surrenders but state's failure to prove the surrendered rebels fool-proof security remains a problem. Besides there is also a demand for upgrading the compensation package.
More significant is the government's initiative to step up the developmental drive in the areas where the Maoists have entrenched themselves taking advantage of underdevelopment and the local populace's disenchantment with the government. With the administration adopting a more pro-people approach and schools and hospitals coming up even in remote tribals areas, which once used to be the stronghold of the rebels, the hold of Maoists on Malkangiri and Koraput is slowly weakening. But this process needs to be accelerated if the state has to win the war against left wing insurgency.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)