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Mosquitoes, snakes rattle Naxal leaders

Senior CPI (Maoist) leaders are a worried lot. The threat posed by malaria and snakebite taking a toll on Naxal cadres in jungles has left them apprehensive. Pradip Kumar Maitra reports.
Hindustan Times | By Pradip Kumar Maitra, Gadchiroli
UPDATED ON APR 20, 2008 03:07 AM IST

Senior CPI (Maoist) leaders are a worried lot – and it is not about intensified police action. The threat posed by malaria and snakebite taking a toll on Naxal cadres in jungles has left them apprehensive.

The latest victim is senior ideologue and CPI (Maoist) Maharashtra unit secretary Anuradha Gandhy, who died at a Mumbai hospital on Saturday. Sources said Anuradha contracted malaria following a mosquito bite during her stay in the Gondia-Balaghat forests earlier this month. After she failed to respond to local treatment, she was shifted to a private nursing home in Mumbai a few days ago. By then, however, her immune system had become too weak and she breathed her last.

Anuradha, wife of the politburo member of the ultra-left organisation, Kobad Gandhy, was a teacher at Nagpur University in the 80s. She was alleged to have masterminded several dalit and student movements in the region, particularly in Nagpur. She went underground in mid-90s and lived in jungle hideouts.

Anuradha is not the lone malaria victim. A few months ago, another senior Maoist leader and spokesman of CPI (Maoist) Dandakaranya Zonal Committee, Gudsa Usendi, was also bedridden due to acute malaria. Fortunately, Usendi recuperated.

Activists have now resorted to carrying mosquito coils while moving in the jungles.

After malaria, snakebite is another major killer. A hardcore CPI (Maoist) naxalite, Rahul Tiwari, who was wanted by the police in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, was killed when a king cobra bit him in the Chhattisgarh jungles in September year. He could not be moved to a hospital on time because of lack of transport facilities and died within an hour.

Over 15 naxalites, including some senior leaders, have fallen prey to snakebite in Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur jungles in the last year alone.

Talking to the Hindustan Times, Vasanthi, a surrendered naxalite, revealed that after such tragedies, Maoists made it compulsory for all dalams (squads) to carry anti-venom serum. According to her, malaria and snakebites account for major casualties among naxalites in jungles of Gadchiroli and Gondia. Vasanthi, who is a trained nurse, said snakebite incidents occur most during the rainy season. Naxalites stay in dense forests and hilly terrain where snakes like cobra, russel viper and other venomous snakes venture out in the open.

The Gadchiroli police claimed they had seized anti-venom serum, mosquito coils and other related medicines in almost all the raids conducted recently at secret naxalite camps.

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