Villagers in the forest area of Dantewada where the Maoists killed 76 CRPF men are scared of becoming victims of collateral damage in the battle between the rebels and security forces, which is likely to get bloodier after Tuesday’s attack.
In Chintalnar, a village around 6 km from the spot of the massacre, villages are suspicious of all outsiders.
Even journalistic queries get responses like: “Who are you? Why have you come here? Why are you questioning us?”
“Did the police send you?” a youngster wanted to know.
“Please don’t ask us anything,” an old man said. “Leave us alone.”
Some villagers told Hindustan Times that they were scared that security forces would raid the village to extract information about the Maoists.In the adjacent village of Burkapal, headman Shubh Deva said security personnel would throng the village for inquiries.
“Villagers will be quizzed on whether we knew about the activities of the Maoists or if any villager offered help to them,” he said.
“What has happened (the killing of security forces) is very wrong,” a frail-looking Phirti Ram said. “But don’t ask our opinion.”
This cluster of villages in Dantewada is located around 450 km south of state capital Raipur.
The story of villagers unwilling to open up was repeated in two other villages, Chintagufa and Polampalli, less than 12 km from Chintalnar.
“We all know what is happening, but will I get the protection from the police if I speak about or say something against the Maoists? The Maoists will kill me,” said a farmer in Chintagufa, adding that the local tribals were scared of both the police and rebels.
At least some officials have realised the tribals’ dilemma.
“We have advised villagers to stay neutral,” said DIG (anti-naxal operations) S.R.P. Kalluri. “If the Naxals have even an iota of suspicion (that the police are being helped), they (the Maoists) will not spare the villagers.”