Sib Kumar Das

They begin acquiring boats for their operations

A motor used in inflatable boats seized near a reservoir in Malkangiri

‘They are using inflatable boats which are easy to use’

BERHAMPUR: The waterways and reservoirs on Orissa-Andhra-Chhattisgarh border were to be the future domain of naxals. The naxals tried to hit in this point through their successful attack on a boat carrying anti-naxal commandoes in Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district on Sunday. Death of two persons, including a boat driver and a policeman, has been confirmed.

Thirty-seven policemen are still missing. They include two constables of Orissa police and the rest were elite Greyhound anti-Naxal commandoes from Andhra Pradesh.

According to Malkangiri Superintendent of Police SP S.K. Gajbhiye the motorboat, which was carrying anti-naxal troupe, was attacked near Alampakka village inside the Balimela reservoir.

Using strategic locations on top of the nearby hills the naxals are alleged to have fired rockets and grenades on the boat to capsize it when it was a point where the reservoir was around 40 m deep. During recent past the police force had increased communication with the villages in the cut off areas of Balimela reservoir which were safe havens of Maoists.

The intelligence sources hinted that the Maoist guerrillas have started eyeing the reservoirs, rivers and water channels for their communication. A motor used in inflatable boats was also seized by police near a reservoir in Malkangiri district. It hinted that Maoists had started acquiring boats for their operations.

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Meanwhile, highly-placed Intelligence sources revealed that besides employing their feared guerrilla forces, the outlawed ultras are now taking a new route to carry out their activities; down the river. Malkangiri is separated from Andhra Pradesh by the Sileru River and from Chhattisgarh by the Saberi River. This is where Maoists have started raising a boat wing to facilitate faster movement of armed fighters, cadres and weapons.

Besides the Sileru and Sabari, there is another inter-state river, Mahendrataneya, between Orissa and Andhra. Maoists are now using boats to come to Orissa, especially from Chhattisgarh. They have their own boats but rely on local boatmen.

“We have already had a few encounters with them,” a top Intelligence official said. "They are using inflatable boats which are easy to use. We seized a motor recently which was attached to an inflatable boat," said the official. The exact number of boats in the Maoists’ possession is difficult to ascertain, but the number of motor-driven inflatable boats is rising steadily, officials added.

Reasons

There are two reasons why Maoists are using the river route.

First, tendering process has begun for the 2,215-km long Vijayawada-Ranchi highway, which will pass through 12 Maoists-affected districts of Orissa.

The highway, said officials, will facilitate anti-Maoists operations.

It will also help security forces carry out joint inter-State operations against the Left-wing ultras in Andhra, Orissa and Jharkhand.

The second reason, officials said, is that a boat wing would give Maoists more options during the monsoon, when they normally lie low.