Unable to engage the heavily-armed central security forces, the Naxalites have turned their ire against tribals in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district killing one civilian every five days since March this year.
Nearly half of the 28 civilians were killed within the last 45 days, security sources said, adding that the victims included two mentally challenged persons.
Police said the local Naxal commanders were not, however, convinced about their mental health and killed them too.
Gadchiroli — the hotbed of the Maoist activity in the south-east Vidarbha region of Maharashtra — had witnessed 22 civilian casualties last year.
“We have not been able to figure the reason for the sudden spike in civilian casualties. Possibly, the commanders are frustrated, amongst showing their true colours or broken free and no longer under the control of the national leaders,” a police officer who tracks Maoist activities in the state said.
Their latest victims included the village headman in Korchi tehsil on July 18, who was abducted along with two others from neighbouring areas.
Their bodies were found on the road on Monday morning. Two of them had been shot, the third had his head crushed with heavy stones. A senior security official in Delhi said the headman had been warned not to push some developmental projects in his village.
Besides jan militia and dalam-level formations, intelligence sources said Gadchiroli had a military company and a platoon of well-armed cadre.
Intelligence agencies had last year cautioned the government not to attached too much importance to a decline in violence in Maharashtra since they had detected considerable increase in the activities and influence of the Maoists in large parts of Gadchiroli and small pockets of Gondia.
In fact, they told the government that the naxals had enlisted young tribals who received their training at camps held in the district during May and August 2010. A subsequent rejig in the deployment of forces had reduced the number of corridors that the Maoists used to cross the state’s borders with Chhattisgarh to move in and out of the Bastar division.