Other States

Maoists on the backfoot in remote Swabhiman Anchal in Odisha

Villagers have started resisting the ultras’ opposition to developmental work

With many villagers starting to resist Maoist opposition to developmental work including road construction, the ultras have started to lose support and are on the backfoot in the remote Swabhiman Anchal of Odisha’s Malkangiri district.

On January 25 night, one armed Maoist was killed and another was seriously injured when inhabitants of Janturai village of the Jodambo panchayat bravely retaliated in self-defence against a group of armed Maoists, who had come to terrorise the villagers asking them to oppose the road construction in their area. The enraged Maoists torched over 10 houses at Jodambo on Sunday morning. For the safety of the villagers who have parted ways with the Maoists, security has been enhanced in the area. Victims of the Maoist arson have been rehabilitated and the administration has declared compensation for their loss.

Lack of road communication with mainland Odisha kept Swabhiman Anchal, the erstwhile cut-off area of the Balimela reservoir, underdeveloped. Proximity with the Maoist-prone regions of adjoining Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had made it a safe haven of Naxalites for decades.

The Gurupriya bridge connected this cut-off area with the mainland in 2018. The State government initiated a special package for the development of Swabhiman Anchal that included laying roads to connect around 150 remote villages as well as projects to provide basic amenities. Enhancement of road communication has increased area domination and penetration of security personnel to facilitate road construction and developmental projects.

The people, deprived of the benefits of the projects of the government, have now realised that the Maoists are the stumbling blocks for their development. “These villagers now feel that after 70 years of Independence they should no more use mules for their transportation only because the Maoists oppose road connectivity,” said DIG, south-west range, Shefeen Ahmed K.

The recent establishment of a camp of security personnel at Hantalguda has also facilitated the public delivery system in this remote region. It has turned the sentiments of the villagers against the Maoist cadres and their ‘illogical’ anti-development propaganda. “The villagers of Jodambo, Badapada, Paparmetla panchayats, who were traditionally supporting Maoists out of fear, have started to realise the importance of being part of the mainstream after a series of government initiatives,” said Malkangiri SP Khilari Rishikesh Dnyandeo.

A joint operation named “Operation Swabhiman” was taken up for ghat cutting work of around 9 km from Hantalguda to Jodambo, which will further increase road connectivity. The twin strategy of presence of security forces and development is hoped to bring past supporters of the Maoists too into the mainstream.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:46:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maoists-on-the-backfoot-in-remote-swabhiman-anchal-in-odisha/article30667616.ece

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