Maoists expanding base in Orissa, attacks intensifying

By Jatindra Dash, IANS,

Bhubaneswar : A medal winning sub-inspector shot dead, forcible capture of farm land belonging to non-tribals, attacks on police stations and corporate houses – Maoist rebels are fast spreading their base in Orissa and the government admits as much.

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Senior police officials engaged in anti-Maoist operations privately say they are helpless because the capacity building of the police force has not been as much as desired and there is no clear cut direction from the top on how to deal with the problem.

That the Maoist rebels have spread their activities is evident from the fact that during the past two years they have killed more then 100 people whereas the number of Maoists killed is below 20, say official source.

The attacks have only intensified in the past few months.

The rebels shot dead police sub-inspector Narasingh Mahakud, 54, a winner of the president’s medal, Monday in a forest in Sambalpur district. The district has witnessed gunbattles between the ultras and police since Sunday.

Last week, the rebels killed a person in Mayurbhanj and two people in Malkangiri district accusing them of being police informers.

Maoist supporters under the banner of Chasi Mulia Sangha have been holding sway in over a dozen villages under Narayanapatna block in the southern district of Koraput. They are forcibly entering the farmlands of non-tribals and occupying them by hosting red flags on the land, police said.

On Monday, the activists of the outfit occupied hundreds of acres of land of non-tribals in the region. Hundreds of non-tribals have already left their homes in panic, police said.

The red rebels attacked the bauxite mine of NALCO in Koraput district April 12. At least 14 people were killed in the attack, including 10 security personnel, who were guarding the mine, police said.

“The mine at Damanjodi is Asia’s largest bauxite mine which has a capacity to generate 4.8 million tonnes of bauxite a year,” NALCO chairman C.R. Pradhan said adding that the attack was the first of its kind in the region in the past 29 years.

“Although the ultras have their presence in the district they had never carried out such a big attack in the region, especially targeting a corporate house,” a senior police official posted in the region said adding it shows how they have expanded their base and strength.

Soon after the attack the state government announced that combing operations were on and additional police forces had been deployed. However, within two months the rebels carried out another attack in the same district.

This time they targeted police stations. They blew up a police station in Baipariguda village and blew up a police outpost nearby June 7. They also ransacked a nearby forest office.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the state assembly June 10 that the state government has been taking several steps to control the situation.

“We are taking many medium and long term measures to control the situation throughout the state which will start yielding results in the months to come. My government stands committed to protect the life and property of our citizens to the best of its ability,” Patnaik said.

But the opposition described the chief minister’s statements are mere eyewash.

“If the government is taking action then why are the number of attacks and their area of operation increasing,” Jual Oram, Bharatiya Janata Party’s national vice president, told IANS.

Around 10 years ago, Maoists activities in the state were confined to just three to four districts. By 2007, according to official figures, they had expanded to 15 of the state’s 30 districts.

According to state home department figure, the Communist Party of India-Maoist wielded influence in districts like Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Nabrangpur, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Sundargarh, and Mayurbhanj.

The new districts where they have spread during last two years are Nayagarh, Kandhamal and Boudh.

Similarly, the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (Jana Shakti), another left wing extremist outfit, has made its presence felt in the mineral rich tri-junction areas of three districts – Keonjhar, Jajpur and Dhenkanal. The outfit has expanded base to the neighbouring district of Jagatsinghpur.

“Now they have a presence in two more districts and some presence in the rest of the state,” a senior police official said on condition of anonymity.

“It is horrible situation for us,” he said.