The worst fears of the Maoists are coming true.
The deaths of 16 civilians in Monday’s blast in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district are turning the local people against the Red rebels.
Hindustan Times spent much of Tuesday and all of Wednesday meeting local tribals to gauge their feelings in the aftermath of the blast and found that local Maoist commander Ramanna’s “apology” hasn’t had much effect — there is a massive groundswell of anger and disgust following Monday’s blast. The five-day bandh called by the Maoists has had very little
Aitu Maravi (56) a tribal from Churnar village, about 10 km from the blast site, is disillusioned by the incident. “It was a passenger bus that plied every day on Sukama-Dantewada route. How can the Dadas (local name for Maoists) claim that they
were not aware that the bus also had civilian passengers?” she questioned.
Churnar is considered a Maoist stronghold and Maravi had even provided food to the rebels in the past. “But now people will provide them poison instead of food,” she added.
An inconsolable Budribai (50), who lost her husband Kosa Mandvi (55) in the blast, went further. “From now on, we will fight the Maoists, not the police,” she said.
Referring to Ramanna’s apology and his offer of compensation, Budribai retorted: “Can they return my innocent husband? We don’t need their help.”
But this outpouring of public anger may not translate into immediate gains for the forces.
“Though a lot of the so-called local support for Maoists stems from the fear of reprisals, tribals still consider them the lesser evil compared to the police,” said Manoj Sodi, a non-tribal resident of Mukhapal village, another Maoist stronghold in the area.
Sensing the mood of the tribals, the Maoists have moved into damage control mode. According to intelligence sources, they have deputed Narmada (46), a soft-spoken but popular leader, to meet important people in the area to try to retrieve lost ground.
The district administration, meanwhile, will use this window of opportunity to build bridges with the tribals.
“We are planning to organise Rozgar Melas (employment fairs) for unemployed youth in those areas. We will recruit around two thousands Class III and Class IV employees,” said Reena B Kangale, district collector of Dantewada.