Fearful in Chhattisgarh day after Maoist strike

Raipur, May 18 (Calcutta Tube) Security forces stayed fearful in their base camps and life was hit in several parts of Chhattisgarh as a 48-hour Maoist shutdown began Tuesday, a day after at least 35 people were killed when the guerrillas blasted a bus in the state’s Dantewada district.

The shutdown called by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) began 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, a senior police official said.

‘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.

Maoist guerrillas killed at least 35 special police officers (SPOs) and civilians Monday in Dantewada district, some 450 km south of capital Raipur, when they detonated a powerful landmine blast targeting a passenger bus.

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.’

Added Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh in a conversation with reporters: ‘Attacking civilians in a planned manner is surprising; it’s clearly a move to demoralise police and paramilitary personnel and terrorise civilians.’

Chhattisgarh’s Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan spelt out the challenges ahead.

‘Up to 25,000 sq km of Bastar’s 40,000 sq km was 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.

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