Op-Ed: Police Must Step Up Its Drive Against Maoist Rebels

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The killing of a hardcore Maoist, a platoon commander, in an encounter in Malkangiri district on Wednesday, is a significant achievement of state police. Though a district voluntary force (DVF) jawan also lost his life in the exchange of fire there is no denying the importance of the operation.

While the slain Maoist, Rakesh Sodi carried a bounty of Rs.8 lakh on his head and was involved in several deadly operations against the police and the paramilitary forces in the area the seizures from the encounter spot included an AK 47 rifle. The success of the operation is certain to boost the morale of state police.

In fact, state police have not had any major successes against the rebels in the recent past. One of its biggest achievements in the last few years has been the killing of 25 Maoists including some of their senior leaders in an encounter within Jantri police limits of Malkangiri in October, 2016. Among those killed was Munna, the son of Maoist central committee member, Ramakrishna who still leads the Andhra-Odisha Special Border Committee of the banned outfit.

Yet another success of the police was the gunning down of 13 Maoists in an encounter in Malkangiri district in 2013 led by its the then superintendent of police, Akhileshwar Singh. The encounter in Salaikota reserve forests had also led to the recovery of a huge cache of arms and ammunitions.

The police in neighbouring Chhatisgarh, which sometimes organises joint operations with its counterparts in Odisha, also had some significant successes like the recent killing of seven Maoists in an encounter in Rajnandgaon district. In fact, rebels from Chhatisgarh have been quite active in Odisha, hitting big targets. The platoon commander killed in Wednesday’s operation was also a native of Chhatisgarh’s Sukma district.

Considering that both Chhatisgarh and Odisha have been at the receiving end of Maoist violence they ought to hold more joint operations against the rebels. The neighbouring state, in fact, has suffered much more on account of rebel violence with the radicals even eliminating politicians. The Darbha valley ambush that wiped out almost the entire senior Congress leadership of Chhatisgarh in 2013 is still fresh in the minds of people.

The rebels have also been targeting politicians in Odisha. In 2011 they had gunned down ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA, Jagbandhu Majhi in full public view in Nabarangpur district. The wheelchair-bound lawmaker was distributing land rights papers to people at a function in his constituency when he was shot from point blank range. A year later the Maoists kidnapped another ruling party MLA in Koraput district.

In 2011 the rebels had scripted history by kidnapping the then Malkangiri collector, R Vineel Krishna who was released after spending about a week in their captivity. The state government had to accede to some important demands of the Maoists to secure the freedom of Krishna. Compared to the recurrent rebel strikes police successes have been few and far between. The men in khaki need to step up their punitive drive against the rebels.

(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.)