By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Senior police officials in Koraput recently brainstormed on ways to contain left wing extremism in southern Odisha, specially the erstwhile undivided Koraput district. The area comprising the present Koraput, Malkangiri, Nowrangpur and Rayagada districts deserves special attention as Maoist rebels have been most active in this belt.
The area shares borders with Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, both of which have a long history of Maoist violence. A few years ago 24 Maoists had keen killed on Malkangiri-Andhra Pradesh border in a fierce encounter with the police. Among the slain rebels was Munna, the son of veteran Maoist commander, Ramakrishna.
Last year the Maoists killed Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA from Araku in Andhra Pradesh, Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former MLA Siveri Soma in an effort to consolidate their hold on the Andhra-Odisha border region which is being seen by the rebels as safe corridor between the Dandakaranya region in Chhattisgarh (areas comprising Sukma and Dantewada) and the forests of Jharkhand.
There is tangible evidence to suggest that Maoist radicals are keen to extend their influence in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh while consolidating the gains they have already made in Jharkhand. Hence, it has become imperative for Odisha police to develop an effective strategy to counter the left wing insurgents who, bereft of any ideology, are now increasingly behaving like a gang of gun-toting hoodlums. But for any strategy to be successful against the Maoists it is important to cut off their support base among the tribals who have been providing them shelter and intelligence on the movement of security forces. Though the killing of some tribals by the rebels on the suspicion of being police informers has triggered resentment among a section of their tribal supporters the Maoists still rely heavily on the “adivasis” of the Koraput-Malkangiri-Rayagada belt for survival as their war with the security forces continues.
It was with a view to placating the tribals angry over the killing of their community members after being branded police informers that the Maoist leadership recently expelled one of its divisional committee members accusing him of ‘anti-party’ activities. Navin, who was active in the “ swabhiman anchal ” ( earlier known as cut-off area) of Malkangiri, was thrown out of the organisation apparently for committing atrocities against local tribals in violation of the ‘party line.’
There is growing realization among the Maoist top brass that the organisation is losing its most important support base with a section of cadres turning into exploiters. There have been allegations of extortion and rape against them with incidents of sexual exploitation of tribal girls in Maoist training camps being reported from districts such as Koraput and Malkangiri which over the years had turned into Red fortresses.
State police would do well to exploit the anti-Maoist sentiment among the tribals of Koraput- Malkangiri- Rayagada belt. Simultaneously the police force should undertake confidence building measures like organisation of health camps and sporting activities for tribals to win their confidence. This is the best way to win the war against left wing extremism.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)