Villagers of over two dozen tribal hamlets in the Naxalite-dominated Kanker district in south Chhattisgarh are up in arms against the state government’s plan to set up a police station in the area.
The villagers said they, particularly their women, would be safer without a police force “establishing the rule of law” in the area.
Several village headmen assembled on Sunday near Partapur village, about 350 km south of the state capital, Raipur, to oppose the idea.
Earlier, there was a police outpost at Partapur, but it had to be shifted to Pakhanjur in the same district, following stiff opposition from the villagers.
Nankuram, one of the village headmen, said, “We would like to request the government to reconsider the decision, or else, the villagers will be forced to migrate to other areas.”
But state home minister Nankiram Kanwar said, “Who are the villagers to decide? They must realise that the state remains equally concerned for their well-being.”
The state police suspect the headmen are being prompted by the Naxalites. Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) T.J. Longkumar said, “The area is a hot-bed of Naxalism. We aren’t here to appease the villagers, but to enhance our control in these areas.”
Another village headman, who did not wish to be identified, said “Once the police station comes up, every other day we will be picked up randomly on charges of being Naxalite sympathisers.”
Recollecting the aftermath of a police-Naxalite encounter near Partapur four years ago, the headman said after the gun battle, over 300 police personnel camped near the village for a month and unleashed a reign of terror on the villagers.
But Longkumar defended his force, saying, “The cops might have interrogated the villagers as part of their routine work.”