Op-Ed: Dealing With Red Terror

Bhubaneswar: The Maoist attack in Chhatisgarh’s Dantewada that killed a BJP MLA on the campaign trail and four members of his security detail comes as proof that Red terror looms large over these elections. A few years ago almost the entire senior Congress leadership of the state had been wiped out in a Maoist ambush in the state’s Darbha valley. Ultras from Odisha districts like Koraput and Malkangiri had participated in that deadly operation, perhaps the biggest by the banned organisation in the entire history of Chhatigargh.

Odisha shares a long border with Chhatisgarh with large parts of Maoist-affected districts like Koraput and Malkangiri running contiguous to the neighbouring state. Despite claims to the contrary by the governments of the two states the border has been extremely porous with radicals crossing over at will. In fact, some of the biggest Maoist operations in Odisha have been planned by and executed with the help of rebel leaders from Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh which also shares border with our state.

That being so the threat of a Maoist attack during the elections is very real in the districts where the ultras have been active. As part of my election-related assignments I recently travelled through some of these areas in Koraput and Nabarangpur and found people talking about the Red menace in a rather indifferent manner since it has become part of their daily life. They have learnt to live with it.

To be fair to the state government it has made serious efforts to combat the threat of left wing extremism with intensified patrolling by BSF in Malkangiri and Koraput inspiring a modicum of confidence among the people. Still attack like the Sunki valley blast that had killed eight Odisha police personnel in 2017 keep taking place. Even more dangerous  is the trend of ultras killing innocent tribals by branding them as police informers. Koraput and Malkangiri have seen a spate of such killings in the last two years.

In 2017 the radicals had gunned down a boatman at a ferry ghat in Malkangiri accusing him of supplying provisions to BSF jawans deployed in the area. State police officials admit that innocent people are being killed by the rebels to spread terror but they appear to be more or less helpless in the matter. They only keep advising people willing to help police and apprehensive of an attack by the ultras to keep the nearest police station informed about the details of their movements so that they can be provided with security when required.

But this is easier said than done. The common tribal living in the “ cut-off” area of Malkangiri, so called because of its difficult terrain, cannot feel secure unless the Maoists are flushed out of this region, lock, stock and barrel. Now that the Gurupriya bridge, connecting the “ cut-off” area with the district’s mainland is ready, the security forces can launch a full-fledged operation against the rebels holed up in the hills and forests of this area which has hardly seen any development during the last one decade. It is also time the state government came up with a comprehensive and effective strategy to wipe out the Red terror from the state.

(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)