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Maoists take the river route

Besides employing their feared guerilla forces, Maoists are now taking a new route to carry out their activities: down the river, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2008 00:49 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

Besides employing their feared guerilla forces, Maoists are now taking a new route to carry out their activities: down the river.

One of the most-feared Maoist strongholds is the area where Malkangiri district in Orissa meets the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh and Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh. Malkangiri is separated from Andhra by the Sileru river and from Chhattisgarh by the Saberi river. This is where Maoists have started raising a boat wing to facilitate faster movement of armed fighters, cadres and weapons. Besides the Sileru and Saberi, there is another inter-state river, the Mahendrataneya, between Orissa and Andhra.

“Maoists are now using boats to come to Orissa, especially from Chhattisgarh. They have their own boats but rely on local boatmen. We have already had a few encounters with them,” said S.K. Nath, DIG of the southwestern range. “They are using inflatable boats which are easy to use. We seized a motor recently which was attached to an inflatable boat,” said Malkangiri SP Satish K. Gajbhiye. The exact number of boats in the Maoists’ possession is difficult to ascertain, but the number of motor-driven inflatable boats is rising steadily, officials said.

There are two reasons why Maoists are using the river route. First, tendering process has begun for the 2,215-km long Vijaywada-Ranchi highway, which will pass through 12 Naxal-affected districts of Orissa. The highway, said officials, will facilitate anti-Naxal operations. It will also help security forces carry out joint inter-state operations against the Left-wing ultras in Andhra, Orissa and Jharkhand. The second reason, officials said, is that a boat wing would give Maoists more options during the monsoon, when they normally lie low.