60 Maoists had surrendered; Lok Sabha polls have been largely peaceful

After two days of combing in the Maoist-affected areas of the Dhanora division of Gadchiroli, commandoes of the C-60 force (the Maharashtra police’s special anti-Naxal unit) reached Yedunar in the Chamorshi division and called for vehicles to reach the Gadchiroli police headquarters, hardly 35 km away, on Sunday. But a Maoist-triggered blast would soon take away the lives of seven of them and leave two seriously injured.

“Not even in our dreams had we imagined that such a blast could take place in Chamorshi,” a police officer posted in the area told The Hindu following the deadly landmine blast.

The tribal district, which was once a Maoist stronghold, witnessed a spate of encounters in the past two years resulting in the elimination of 40 Maoists.

The Maharashtra police launched “Campaign Nav Jeevan” in 2013, appealing to Maoists to surrender. In fact, a police officer visited the families of senior Naxal cadres in the district, promising them assistance under this campaign.

The Gadchiroli police say the campaign was a “success” and resulted in the surrender of over 60 Maoists.Gadchiroli witnessed a comparatively peaceful Lok Sabha election on April 10. Two incidents of firing were reported in which one policeman was killed and five were injured.

If some senior police officers posted in Gadchiroli are to be believed, Maoists were on the “back foot” in the district.

The Hindu accessed telephone conversations of Deputy Inspector-General (anti-Naxal range) Ravindra Kadam with a police informer in which Mr. Kadam claims that the way “things” are happening in Gadchiroli, the district will be “Maoist-free” within a year and a half.

The DIG was not available for his comments, and did not respond to repeated calls from The Hindu.

Intelligence failure

But Sunday’s landmine attack has shocked the authorities.

According to sources, an informer, Pappu Gupta, who helped the police nab seven Maoists in February this year, later turned hostile because “police indifference.”

“Pappu Gupta was used and dumped by the police and it has sent a wrong message to the police informers,” a surrendered Maoist told The Hindu. Sunday’s attack was a “big” failure of police intelligence, he said, adding the police needed to address the concerns of informers immediately.

The Maharashtra Assembly election will be held in October and after almost peaceful Lok Sabha election, the State police are trying hard to maintain a “tight grip” on Gadchiroli, at least until the Assembly election.

But if some local journalists are to be believed, Maoists will not miss the opportunity provided by “a troubled network of informers” and may carry some big strikes.

Over 50 policemen were killed in Gadchiroli in violence during the 2009 Assembly election.