Odisha villagers who fought Maoists flee homes as rebels burn their homes, abduct 3
More than a dozen families in Odisha’s Maoist-affected Malkangiri district have fled their village after Maoists burnt their homes and abducted three villagers in retaliation and took shelter in a police camp on Monday, officials said.
The tribal villagers at Janturai village under Jodambo gram panchayat in the Swabhiman Anchala area had killed a Maoist on Saturday after the first-ever such face-off over the construction of a road in this stronghold of the left-wing rebels.
Police officials in Malkangiri said the families took shelter in Kuntarpadar police camp on Monday after the Maoists burnt down 10 homes and several motorcycles on Sunday morning.
More than 25 Maoists had swooped down on Janturai on Saturday night and hauled up the villagers with angry questions about their support to the construction of a road from a Border Security Force (BSF) camp to the village, a distance of 16km.
Ganga Madi alias Adma, a party member of Gumma area committee of Maoists, was killed and Jipro Habika of area commander of Nandapur area committee arrested on Saturday night when angry villagers pelted stones and shot arrows at them soon after the rebels raided their village.
Madi carried a reward of Rs 100,000 and Habika of Rs 400,000.
“The villagers asked the Maoists what have they done for the area in 30 years and why were they opposing the development, the rebels resorted to blank firing. The villagers retaliated pelting stones and firing arrows. In the melee, one Maoist cade was killed and another got injured,” Malkangiri’s superintendent of police Khilari Rishikesh Dnyandeo said.
BSF, which is engaged in anti-Maoist operations in the district, had opened its camp in Kuntalpadar village under Jodambo gram panchayat, considered to be the epicentre of Maoist activities, about a month ago.
Several Maoists had then taken out a procession opposing the setting up of the camp.
This is the first time that the villagers in the Maoist hotbed have retaliated.
The Maoists’ writ has always run large in the area with the rebels routinely scaring off people from polling booths in several assembly, Lok Sabha and panchayat elections.
A senior police official, engaged in anti-Maoist operations in Malkangiri district, said it was “a great development”.
“The people of the Swabhiman Anchala, who were deprived of the benefits of the developmental projects of the government, have now realised that the Maoists are the real stumbling blocks for their growth and development,” the official cited above said.
“A joint operation called Operation Swabhiman was launched in the area for five days this month in which the formidable task of cutting through the mountains for building a 9 km road between Jodambo and Hantalaguda was undertaken. This would ultimately help road connectivity,” he added.
The Swabhiman Anchala area bordering Andhra Pradesh has been a Maoist stronghold for more than two decades although the influence of the rebels has been decreasing slowly.
The area, which has 151 villages spread across nine gram panchayats, remains a major cause of concern for the state police as Maoist commanders of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee operate there.
Sandwiched between the Balimela reservoir on one side and daunting hills on the other side, the area was like a liberated zone for Maoists till the government it built a bridge in July 2018 ending decades of isolation for the 37,000 people of the area.
In 2011, Maoists had abducted the then district collector of Malkangiri, R Vineel Krishna before setting him free.
Officials said to reach out to the people inside Swabhiman Anchal, the state government has submitted a proposal of Rs 55.5 crore to the rural development ministry for the construction of a 120-km concrete road there.
The road, to be constructed under Road Connectivity Project For Left Wing Extremism (RCPLWE) programme of the ministry, would connect places like Papermetla, Panasput, Kuntulpadar, Musruguda, Jodambo, Laxmipuram and Kumuda.
Though BSF has set up three camps and India Reserve Battalion has one camp inside the Swabhiman Anchala area, a cat-and-mouse game between the security forces and Maoists has been on.