The attack on a Bihar village on Wednesday appears to be part of a protracted battle between Maoists and the people they claim to protect — local tribals.
Twelve tribals were killed when Maoists stormed Korasi village in Jamui district.
Villagers belonging to Koda and Ghatwar tribes said a struggle for control over forest land had been going on with the Maoists for almost five years.
Maoist control over the forest deprived the tribals of firewood, honey and other forest products, which they used to gather and sell in the market.
“Maoists do not allow us to enter the forests. Life is getting difficult for us, with increased extremist hold over the area,” said Bacchu Koda, a survivor of the raid. He and his family have taken shelter at the Panchayat office building.
Police officers said a small group of Koda and Ghatwar tribals has been fighting the Maoists since 2005.
The group managed to snatch some arms from the extremists and handed them to the police. “Since then, the extremists have not allowed local Kodas and Ghatwars to collect firewood and other forest products to earn their livelihood,” a police officer said.
The ultras also tried to add the tribals to their cadre and use their village as a hideout during operations against the police, he said. When they failed, they dubbed the tribals as police informers and penalised them.
“Our women (who venture into the forest) also get exploited at the hands of extremists,” said refugee Kaleshwar Koda.
Wednesday’s attack was said to be in “retaliation” to the “disappearance and suspected murder” of some Maoists.