Caught in crossfire, Chhattisgarh tribes traumatised

By Sujeet Kumar, IANS,

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh):Hundreds of impoverished tribal families caught in the crossfire between security forces and Maoists in the vast forested terrain of Bastar are feeling traumatised, with many deserting their homes in anticipation of an intensified conflict.

Support TwoCircles

They fear the area will turn into a “war zone” in the coming weeks after the Maoists massacred 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and one policeman April 6 in Chintalnar forest.

“We are leaving our houses, everyone is in a rush to desert their village because all are believe that CRPF may attack Mukram village and other areas of Chintalnar forest where the troopers had a night stay before being killed by ‘dadas’ (Maoists). Police may think we tipped off the dadas about the CRPF night halt that day,” Poriam Bella, an 18-year-old resident of Mukram village, told IANS.

Fear runs deep in the minds of these tribals in the 40,000 sq km economically backward Bastar area, of which up to 25,000 sq km is believed to be intensively mined.

They are afraid they may be killed by police after being branded as Maoists or by Maoists after being called police informers.

An elderly resident of Chintagufa said: “There is no end to our agony. About 50,000 people had been left homeless by Salwa Judum (a government backed civil militia movement launched in June 2005), but life was beginning to look up for a few month as some tribals were beginning to return.

“But now a strong rumour that the CRPF may go after civilians for allegedly supporting Maoists has returned to haunt,” he said.

The feeling of CRPF revenge attacks has also gripped a stretch from Sukma area in Dantewada district on national highway 221 down to Konta towards Andhra Pradesh via Dornapal.

Bastar is made up of five districts – Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar and Kanker – and is known as one of India’s most impoverished pockets.

“The Bastar region is clearly dubbed as India’s nerve centre of Maoist terrorism, up to 25,000 sq km of area is intensively mined, explosives exist six feet below the ground,” said Vishwa Ranjan, Chhattisgarh director general of police.

He said police has taken out 1,010 mines from the Bastar jungles since 2004 but the rebels have filled it with explosives again.