They act like Maoists and write like Maoists. But they are not Maoists, claim police.
North Chhattisgarh’s Surguja district, once a Maoist stronghold, is now under the sway of local gangs that extort in the name of the rebels, police say.
The police suspect that while some gang members involved in extorting from contractors, businessmen and panchayats may have Maoist links, most are criminals with no such backing.
“They are criminals who may be remotely connected with the Maoists,” Surguja Inspector General P.N. Tiwari told HT. “They succeed in extorting money from big contractors and businessmen but others who are unable to meet their demands come to us narrating their ordeals and lodge complaints.”
Though the district has been mostly free from Maoist attacks for few years now, security personnel don’t want people to get the idea that Maoists are back.
“They (gang members) have even got printed letter pads of Maoist organisations and use them for extracting levies and funds,” Tiwari said. “Even their language and style resemble those of the Maoists...”
The gangs are active in areas adjoining the Jharkhand border. “We recently arrested four extortionists by tracking their phone numbers,” Tiwari said.
However, others claim that the gangs include former members of the banned CPI(Maoist).
“Former (Maoist) area commander Rendha alias Anil Yadav operates such extortion rackets,” Rajesh Singh Sisodiya, a human rights activist told HT. “He moves with armed colleagues but is no longer a member of the CPI(Maoist).”
The police have asked people to report any threats by individuals or groups claiming to be Maoists.
Ashfaque Ali, an activist, said the extortionists used the name of rebels of the area who either fled or were killed. “They succeed as the people are ignorant. An awareness drive is needed.”