Bridge widens Maoist-tribal gap in Malkangiri

The newly-inaugurated Gurupriya Bridge in Malkangiri district of Odisha.Special ArrangementBiswaranjanRout

The newly-inaugurated Gurupriya Bridge in Malkangiri district of Odisha.Special ArrangementBiswaranjanRout  

Rebels send audio, written messages to keep support alive in erstwhile cut-off areas of Balimela reservoir

Maoists in Malkangiri district of Odisha are using audio and written messages to communicate with the tribals living in the erstwhile cut-off areas of Balimela reservoir where penetration of security forces has increased because of the recently inaugurated Gurupriya bridge.

Through these messages the rebels are trying to keep alive their support base in the region by putting the blame on the government for all the problems of the local population.

Letter in Telugu

Earlier this week, the Malkangiri-Koraput-Visakhapatnam Border Division of outlawed CPI(Maoist) released a letter in Telugu, alleging that the damage caused by the recent floods in the area had been caused because of storage of excess water in the Balimela reservoir to generate more electricity.

According to the letter, the overflow of water from the reservoir during recent heavy rains damaged standing crops in seven panchayats of the erstwhile cut-off areas and the situation is likely to worsen in future.

The Maoists threatened to disrupt developmental works being taken up in the area if the government did not pay compensation to the flood-affected people in Malkangiri district.

Blame on bridge

They again slammed the Gurupriya bridge as a medium of exploitation of the tribals and termed it “anti-development”. The letter alleged that the Odisha government had constructed the bridge to loot the natural resources like bauxite from the area.

On September 24, a Maoist leader named Kailash had released an audio message criticising the Odisha government for the construction of the Gurupriya bridge. He also alleged that the bridge had been built to exploit the tribals.

The Gurupriya Setu was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on July 26, providing road connectivity to over 30,000 tribals living in 151 villages in the cut-off areas of Balimela reservoir.

The proposal for construction of this bridge had been initiated in 1982, but the Maoists, through their violent opposition, Kept delaying its construction for over three decades. Lack of road connectivity had made the area a safe haven for the rebels.

After the opening of the bridge, security forces' presence has increased in the area. It has also led to a series of surrender by Maoist elements in the region which has started to worry the Maoists as they are losing their grip on the area, said a senior police officer.

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