A shock and anguish was very much evident among the people of Dantewada, a district where a tribal leader Mahendra Karma lived and nurtured his political ambition amid Maoist threat, following the macabre attack that killed him along with 27 others.
Not just the usual activities of the masses in Dantewada's semi-urban and rural areas came to nearly standstill, one can perceive the growing apprehension among local populace regarding their future.
Resentment too is seen against the naxals but the tribals feel helpless, “We are poor. Who will rally round to make us feel secured?” asked Pusao Saran, a farmer.
Security forces were more visible on the roads than villagers who preferred to remain confined to their hamlets. A desolate look was conspicuous at the haat bazaar in Kavalnar, adjacent to Pharaspal, native village of Karma where he was cremated on Monday. “The villagers and the businessman are avoiding attending the bustling village market ever since the incident has occurred”, said Ganpat Sau, a local trader.
The local marriage season has just begun but an eerie silence has taken over the delightful feeling of celebration as the hamlets looked dull and lifeless. “We are no stranger to violence but uncertainty soars”, said Phirat, a farmer who will solemnize the marriage of his son on May 31.
Upset inhabitants in Alnar village were not willing to speak out much about the attack.
“Sad, we lost a daring leader. We will be terrified to move in groups as both the Maoists and security forces might harass us on mere suspicious”, Jaldev Nag told HT.
His neighbour Manku blamed naxals for bringing disrepute to Bastar region. “Youths are misguided by Maoists and now after Karma’s death it’s difficult to find a leader with the mass backing and support who can challenge Maoists”, he said.
At Pharaspal women and men couldn't hide their anger and grief at losing a leader who stood up for them for years. “We still can’t believe our leader is not with us”, said Simgha bai added, “Threatening Karma family on a day of funeral exposed the ruthless naxals”.
The local leaders have lost hope that peace will ever return here. Napu Tula, a local leader in Keshpur of ruling BJP might quit politics. “No one ever thought the politicians would be targeted this way. Security comes first”, said Tula and was worried, who will campaign fearlessly now, this being the election year.
The region has good presence of Congress supporters. “It’s a horrifying incident. With the death of Karma the threat perception has turned real for us”, said Deepak Netam, a political worker at Bhogham.
The ground reality of poor education, lack of development and abject poverty prevails in many interior villages.