Other States

In Bastar, the valley of death

With Maoists inching closer to the key town of Jagdalpur, the new government at the Centre is confronted with a mounting challenge in Bastar.

“A simple law and order approach to the Naxalite problem will not work. I only hope the new government is briefed properly on these issues,” E.N. Rammohan, former Border Security Force Director-General, said on what former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the “biggest internal security threat”.

A 40-km stretch from the villages of Kamanar to Tahakwada on National Highway-221 has become the new hunting ground for the Maoists. In one year alone, over 60 people — including senior political leaders, security personnel and civilians — have been killed.

The most recent Maoist attack, in which nine persons were killed, came two days after polling in the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency on April 12, just 35 km from Jagdalpur.

“The attack was unexpected and shocking. We were manning all the sensitive points of the area and this blast took place on the main road,” said a Central Reserve Police Force official in the area.

A month before the elections, the Maoists targeted a joint team of the CRPF and Police from the Tongpal station near Tahakwada, killing 15 personnel and one civilian.

This area includes the dense valley of Jiram, where 28 people were killed last year, including former Union Minister Vidya Charan Shukla and Congress leader Mahendra Karma.

New front

“The area hardly witnessed any activities until two years ago. So police presence was less here. This is a thinly populated area with hard terrain and the inter-State boundary only makes the situation complicated,” Bastar range Inspector-General Arun Dev Goutam told The Hindu .

According to Kichhai Nanda, a former group leader of the Special Police Officers, the Maoists often target new areas where their presence is hardly expected by the police.

“For over a year, Jiram Ghati has become their new target, so the security forces will also focus on this area. But it gives time to the Maoists to regroup in their strongholds deep inside forests,” Mr. Nanda told The Hindu .

After the attack on the Congress convoy last year, a CRPF camp was set up near the site. But, according to an officer posted in another camp in this area, the anti-Naxal operations face several hurdles.

“Until now, the State government would put the blame on the Centre for Maoist menace. Now that both the State and the Centre are being ruled by the BJP, it will be interesting to see how they tackle this problem, especially in Jiram area,” Kawasi Lakhma, a Congress MLA, part of the convoy which was attacked last year, said.

“The tribals must get their rights. Tribal advisory councils have to be set up,” Mr. Rammohan, who inquired into a 2010 Naxal attack in which 76 police personnel were killed in Chhatisgarh, stated.

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Printable version | Oct 4, 2022 10:17:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/in-bastar-the-valley-of-death/article6058936.ece