By Sujeet Kumar, IANS
Raipur : With hills, caves and waterfalls, Bastar makes for a picturesque getaway, yet there has been a sharp drop in the number of New Year revellers in the region that was virtually the epicentre of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh throughout 2007.
“New Year revellers, a majority of whom consists of families, are shying away from Bastar,” a top official in the tourism department told IANS.
Till Tuesday, around 5,200 people had booked hotels, motels and government guesthouses to usher in the New Year at various tourist spots in Chhattisgarh. Out of these, just about 18 percent (756 people) had booked at Bastar locations.
Last year about 8,000 people had gone to various tourist spots for New Year celebrations, of which 80 percent visited Bastar despite spiralling Maoist violence.
The revellers’ reluctance this time to celebrate in Bastar is blamed on rising violence in the region, which includes the worst hit Dantewada and Bijaur districts.
Overall, about 95 percent of the Maoist violence in the state has been recorded in the Bastar region, which is spread over some 40,000 sq km in five districts. The violence has resulted in some 300 deaths, including 202 policemen, this year.
“They seem to be preferring the state’s northern region’s hill station Mainpat in Surguja district, the wildlife-rich forest location at Barnawapara in Mahasamund district and Achanakmar forest reserve in Bilaspur district.”
He, however, pointed out that tourist spots in Bastar have never seen any Maoist violence.
The Bastar region is home to ancient monuments, rare wildlife, waterfalls and rock paintings.
One of the places known for its natural beauty is Chitrakote, where the Indravati river abruptly drops 96 feet, resulting in a spectacular horseshoe waterfall often compared with the Niagara Falls.
Bastar also boasts of the Kailash and Kutumsar caves that are said to be three billion years old.
Left extremists have stepped up their activities in Bastar this month. They blew up a police station Dec 12, engineered a daring jailbreak Dec 16 from Dantewada prison in which 299 inmates, including nearly 100 Maoist cadres, escaped and killed 12 policemen Dec 20 in Konta block in Dantewada.