Raipur, May 18 (Calcutta Tube) The top brass of Chhattisgarh visited Dantewada to instil confidence and commiserate with the victims of the Maoist massacre the day before, but Chhattisgarh stayed fearful Tuesday with security forces demoralised and people staying indoors as a 48-hour shutdown came into effect.
The shutdown called by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) began — a day after 31 people were killed when the guerrillas blasted a bus in Dantewada district — amid fears of fresh attacks and crippled life in Bastar region as well as parts of Rajnandgaon and the rural areas of Raipur and Dhamtari.
‘Passenger buses are off the roads and people are staying indoors. In several Bastar localities, Maoists have blocked roads by putting heavy wooden logs on jungle roads,’ the official at the police headquarters here told IANS.
‘In Bastar, an absolute terror-like situation is prevailing. Forces are hardly moving due to fears of Maoist attacks… they are feeling terrorised at their base camps,’ said a senior government official based in Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar region.
A policeman posted within five kilometres from the blast site at the Gadiras police station admitted that personnel were demoralised.
‘I admit that forces in the interiors of Bastar have gone on the defensive. Neither state police nor paramilitary forces are ready with heart and mind to go after the Maoists in the thickly forested areas.’
Chief Minister Raman Singh, Governor Shekhar Dutt, Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar and Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan visited Dantewada to pay rich tributes to the dead at a guard of honour function in Sukma town. They also met the injured at a hospital in Sukma.
‘Attacking civilians in a planned manner is surprising; it’s clearly a move to demoralise police and paramilitary personnel and terrorise civilians,’ the chief minister told reporters, describing Maoists as ‘brutal killers’.
Police had recovered 31 bodies, including 16 of security men, and feared that the death toll could rise.
‘The 15 injured people include 14 Special Police Officers (SPOs) who are in a very critical condition. However, 25 other civilians who received minor injuries returned to their villages without informing the police. We are trying to find out their exact location so we can reach out to them medically,’ Sueperintendent of Police Amresh Mishra in Dantewada told IANS over phone.
Ranjan, the state’s top police official, spelt out the challenges ahead.
‘Up to 25,000 sq km of Bastar’s 40,000 sq km is intensively mined and the big problem is that we have no technology and resources to de-mine the massive forested pockets. There is no technology to detect mines buried more than four feet deep inside.
‘The massive Bastar region has turned into a minefield with landmines buried even up to 10 feet below the ground. Without taking out the landmines it’s literally impossible for forces to go after the Maoists freely in the thickly forested areas as the rebels are always ready with a booby trap.’
The forested 40,000 sq km Bastar region comprises the five districts of Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar and Dantewada.