The Maoist prohibitory order has failed to cut ice with Bastar's young tribals, who have turned out in large numbers at an army recruitment centre in Kanker district, some 200 km south of Raipur.
A senior official at state police headquarters said not a very encouraging turnout was expected because the rally was going on in Kanker, one of the worst-affected districts in south Chhattisgarh.
The Chhattisgarh police remained on guard. "We recovered leaflets warning the youth against participating in the rally. But over a period of years our efforts to win the confidence of the tribals have worked and it was noteworthy to find youths responding in good numbers," Kanker district superintendent of police Rahul Bhagat told HT.
The Maoists have strongly opposed the recruitment rally and exhorted the job-seekers from the seven districts of Bastar to boycott the event. They have put up banners and circulated pamphlets to convey their decree.
The six-day schedule of the rally will continue till June 2.
"It was remarkable to find more than 3,000 youth, most of them tribal and from remote areas, reporting for the rally," Colonel Pankaj Sharma, director (recruiting), told HT.
The intake depends on how many soldiers are retiring or the number of units likely to be raised. "Around 300 candidates are needed from Chhattisgarh in every six-month cycle (recruitment rally), based on the recruitable male population of the state (differs from state to state). Depending on where the vacancies exists — infantry, artillery, armoury or the service sector — recruiting is done," Sharma said.
The aspirants said they risked their lives by defying the Maoist threat. "Serving the country is our dream and more important for us. And why should the Maoists target the jobless youth?" asked Shiv Lahre (name changed), a candidate, on the phone.
Tulsi Sukhdar (name changed) had a different take on the matter: "I can prove to my nation that I am a good citizen."