In bad news for security forces, Maoists have managed to form a Red corridor that gives them easy movement and safe passage through three states - Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand.
The term Red corridor has so far been used for the entire naxal-infested region in India that includes the three states as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra.
But recent interrogation of arrested cadre has revealed it now literally means a narrow but contiguous strip that runs from the southern tip of Chhattisgarh to central Jharkhand - the two key theatres of naxal violence.
Such a corridor would be crucial to the Maoist strategy of enabling free and safe movement of its military companies from one battlefield to another.Government sources told HT that Maoists arrested in recent weeks, including a courier, had confirmed the corridor was now in use.
"A corridor is essentially a question of support structures. In recent times, they have strengthened themselves in Odisha's heavily-forested Naupada district," a home ministry official said.
This means Maoists have managed to build a reasonable support base among the local population along the Chhattisgarh-Odisha border, right up to Jharkhand's Gumla district.
HT had in January 2011 reported intelligence inputs about Maoists' attempts to create the corridor.
In October last year, the IB had sounded another alert on the same.
"The Maoist idea of mobile warfare is that better trained military companies should be able to operate from anywhere," a senior police officer said.
The closest the rebels have come to this is in and around Jharkhand, in areas under the charge of Dev Kumar Singh, who heads the Bihar Jharkhand North Chhattisgarh Special Area.
This 300-strong team operates in Gaya, Aurangabad Chatra, Gumla, Palamu, Gadwa and Latehar districts.
"Today, this is the strongest naxal belt," he said.