Devbrat Patnaik

Malkangiri: After a brief lull, the red rebels are making their presence felt again in 'Swabhiman Anchal' - the remote cut-off areas in Malkangiri district. It seems repeated appeals by police and administration to shun violence and join the mainstream failed to make an impact on these left-wing extremists.

"Tulsi Pahad area, Kalimela area and Swabhiman Anchal are considered the hotbeds of Maoists. The Maoist activity has significantly decreased in the first two areas, and the threat in Swabhimal Anchal is under control and witnessing a downfall," DGP Abhay had said this after a review meeting in the area on August 29, 2020.

Exactly seven months before that (on January 26), the decline in Maoist threat was well evident when a Maoist cadre was stoned to death allegedly during a retaliation by locals of Janturai village. The ultras warned the villagers against celebrating Republic Day but hardly did they know that terrorising the innocent villagers would prove costly for themselves.

However, Naxal activity is rearing its ugly head again despite DGP Abhay undertaking a number of operational visits to review the LWE scenario there.

On October 19, BSF personnel recovered seven landmines and tiffin bombs near Gora Setu foiling a major ambush plan by the Maoists. A day later, a group of armed ultras brutally killed a young tribal and attacked other villagers of Khajuriguda under Jodamba police limits before picking up three more from the village on suspicion of being police informers.

Again on October 26, a joint team of SOG Jawans and BSF 9th Battalion recovered a Maoist dump from Mukudpalli-Beijing area under Jodambo PS in Swabhiman Anchal. The seizures included country-made revolver, mines and explosives which were reportedly intended for preparation of IEDs to be used against innocent civilians and the security forces. Today in the wee hours during a search operation by security forces at Jumdang area in Malkangiri district on Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, the members of CPI (Maoist) spotted SFs advancing towards them and opened fire. The security forces too retaliated.

The key question here is how and why have the Maoists become so active all of a sudden? Four back-to-back incidents over the last two weeks point at two possible circumstances - either the Maoists are in a state of panic knowing that they are no longer invincible or else they want to deploy more Naxals in the region to prevent the 'Swabhiman Anchal' from being Swabhiman in a true sense.

"They (Maoists) are constantly under the fear that because of the increased communication between locals and police, they will not get enough space to organise themselves back, which is why they are resorting to violence and terrorising people," said a social activist.

Former Police DG Gopal Nanda said, "Definitely, Maoist menace has reduced to a great extent, but this doesn't mean the problem is sorted. They will try to use their own means to extort money from people by threatening to kill them."

Last month, the Maoist hotbed got access to mobile network connectivity, this being a demand of the locals for long. Apart from this, increasing road connectivity in the cut-off areas, provision of healthcare services, and deployment of security forces seem to have made a dent to the growing Naxal activities in Swabhiman Anchal.

Moreover, several anti-Maoist posters and incidents of protest have surfaced in the area condemning violence and ghastly acts by the ultras against the innocent tribals. "We have joined hands to give them back. It's high time we should retaliate," said a local of Khajuriguda.

Police on the other hand have tightened their noose in the hotbed and expediting efforts to ensure the safety of the people. Calling the sudden activity of Maoists as their last-ditch effort, Malkangiri SP Hrishikesh Khilari said the Maoists are clearly on the back foot."Combing operations have shattered the hopes of the Maoists. They know they are on the losing side, so this seems their final attempt to show strength," he said.

Whatever the current scenario is, there shouldn't be any let down in operations and development works in the Swabhiman Anchal, police have assured.