Ramgarh: Cut off, but no longer safe

Even when the movement was strong in Srikakulam in early 1970s and in Telangana in the1990s, the area was considered a safe haven by the Maoists.

November 06, 2016 02:52 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:25 am IST - Ramgarh (Cut-off area Andhra-Odisha Border):

Ramgarh is surrounded by hills on three sides and the Balimela reservoir on the fourth.

The arduous journey to this tiny village exemplifies why the area is referred to as the Cut-Off Area. Since the Naxal movement began in Andhra Pradesh in 1967, the densely forested AOB region, stretching across 1,200 sq km through parts of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari in A.P. and Malkangiri and Koraput in Odisha, was considered impregnable.

Even when the movement was strong in Srikakulam in early 1970s and in Telangana in the1990s, the area was considered a safe haven by the Maoists.

Ramgarh is located about 135 km from Paderu in Visakhapatnam division, our base camp. There are two routes to the village from here — the Munchingput route via Beijingi and Kusumpadar or the Peddabayalu route via Rodakota and Jambaguda. Both Munchingput and Peddabayalu are around 50 km from Paderu.

The motorable roads end about 20 km both from Munchingput and Rodakota. The next 40 km from either side is covered in a bone-crushing four-wheeler drive. The terrain is rocky, over boulders sometimes and rivulets, on a road that sometimes snakes along gorges that fall steeply to hundreds of feet.

But even the jeep can only go as far as Beijingi, four hours and 110 kms away. Beyond that lie pristine forests through which a path threads its tentative way. It is another four hour trek to Kusumpadar, the village nearest Ramgarh, which is still two kms away. These two kms take an hour to traverse, through fields where ganja rampantly grows.

In Rampur huddle 20 families, mostly from the Poraja and Didoyi tribes — both from the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PTVG). In fact, the adivasis inhabiting the 160 villages in the cut-off area are mostly Poraja, Konds and Didoyis.

This small tribal hamlet abutting the picturesque Balimela reservoir is the very picture of pristine serenity. And the occasional small adivasi hamlets embellish the scene with their lush green terraced fields of millets and turmeric and acres carpeted with yellow niger seed farms.

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