Tribal villagers in Maoist-affected Narayanpur district in Bastar zone of Chhattisgarh have been slapped with a prohibitory order directing them not to carry their traditional weapons in public places, especially weekly markets and fairs.
Police are describing the ban, approved by the district administration, as an attempt to prevent Maoists from attacking security personnel visiting local markets for purchases.
According to police officials in Narayanpur, about 380km south of capital Raipur, Maoists posing as villagers and carrying axes, sickles, bows and arrows have attacked security personnel at markets in the past.
Banners and boards proclaiming the ban came up at different places earlier this week.
"What is the use of axe, sickles, bows and arrows or other tools used by tribals in market places? The ban will at least bring down the violence carried out with such traditional tools by Naxalites," said Narayanpur superintendent of police Mayank Srivastava.
Tribal leaders, however, are not happy with the ban, citing that villagers carry traditional weapons for safety because they live in forests and have to be on guard against wild animals while travelling.
Moreover, villagers also use their weapons as tools for earning their livelihood.
"The decision is an infringement on our rights," said Badu Sukadu, a former panch near Chote Dongar in Narayanpur.
Tribal leader Manish Kunjam said, "It is sad that villagers are again paying the price for police failure to counter the Maoists."
State home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar, himself a tribal, however, supported the prohibitory order.
"Any tradition cannot be a hurdle to ensuring peace. The issue should not be politicised."
Maoists have killed 76 security personnel and 74 civilians in Narayanpur district since 2005.
At present, there is no official word on whether the ban would be imposed in other Maoist-infested areas in Bastar zone. Police are likely to favour extending the ban.
"We welcome such an initiative because a majority of the weekly markets are in the red zone," said Bastar zone inspector general of police TJ Longkumer.