Gadchiroli, Gondia and Bhandara, along the Andhra border, are burning again. And the state government is at a loss.
It has sought the Centre’s help to provide IAF helicopters — to be based in Nagpur — and a development package to counter the problem. Since January this year, 70 incidents of Naxalite-related violence have been reported from the state, killing 59, including 17 policemen. The Naxals focus on tribal Gadchiroli, bordering the liberated zone of Abujhmad in neighbouring Bastar. Bhamragarh in Gadchiroli, adjacent to Abujhmad, is a Maoist bastion.
It may be a coincidence, but Naxal activity in the region has increased after the “peace march” by several intellectuals, NGOs and local residents in Gadchiroli against the senseless Maoist violence in March-April this year, on the lines of Salwa Judum campaign in Chhattisgarh. The state fears more violence because of the resistance movement. An alert was sounded in the districts bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra after the July 17 Errabore massacre, but policing si still lax.
The Naxalites, who entered the state from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in 80’s, exploited the backwardness of Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Gondia. Their methods of instant justice by punishing forest and revenue officials, won them support among local tribals. Maharashtra has not launched any “systematic crackown” on the Naxals though it was the first state which accepted that Naxalism was not just a law and order problem, but a socio-economic malaise. It had announced an aid package in 1989 for the “upgrade” of the affected areas. Despite the measures, it could not rein in the movement.
The sudden spurt in Naxal violence has also affected the morale of policemen, especially those deployed in the forest areas. Sources say the Naxals of Maharashtra provide financial help to Maoists all over the country. Documents seized show that the CPI-Maoist has extorted over Rs 10 crore from industrialists, tendu leaf contractors and road contractors in the state.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Pankaj Gupta, inspector-general of police (IGP), anti-naxal operation, Maharashtra, admitted that Maoist violence has increased drastically over the past few years.