‘Who rules Chhattisgarh’s Bastar, certainly not the government’

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), May 17 (Calcutta Tube) A string of attacks by Maoists at their will on state police, paramilitary forces and civilians around the 40,000 sq km Bastar region has led to a strong sense of insecurity among the people of Chhattisgarh who fear the rebels have established a firm grip in the forested interiors.

‘The Maoists are running the government in Bastar, not the police and authorities,” a constable posted at Gadiras police station, within 5 km from the site of Monday’s attack site, told IANS.

The 33-year-old terrified cop who refused to be identified, said: ‘I admit that forces in the Bastar interiors have gone on the defensive. Neither the state police nor the paramilitary forces are ready with heart and mind to go after the Maoists in the thickly forested areas.’

People have begun debating whether the government at all holds authority in the state after Monday’s attack in which 35 special police officers (SPOs) and civilians were killed in a forested area when Maoists blew up a passenger bus. The attack took place on a state highway in Dantewada district where Maoists had slaughtered 76 policemen on April 6.

A senior district official based in Dantewada said, ‘Some 40,000 forces are deployed in Bastar for anti-Maoist operations and they are just sitting ducks. Every day they pray for their life. Around one million civilians of Bastar’s 3.2 million population reside in cut off areas and are left to the Maoists’ mercy.’

Dantewada-based senior scribe Vinod Singh, editor of a newspaper Bastar Impact, told IANS: ‘The Maoists have proved their supremacy again in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region with today’s massive landmine blast. Surely the Maoists are dominating the Bastar forests and even the forces are feeling insecure at their camps and police stations.”

He said almost the entire Bastar is heavily forested and over 500 villages are cut off from the road since the late 1980s when Maoists consolidated their base in Bijapur, Narayanpur, Kanker, Bastar and Dantewada districts that jointly form Bastar region which has almost 20 percent of India’s iron ore deposits.

Chhattisgarh’s Director General of police Vishwa Ranjan said: ‘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,” Ranjan remarked.

Anil Vibhakar, a Raipur-based analyst on the rebels, remarked, ‘Maoists have taken firm grip in the state. They can strike in the state capital anytime if they wish. The entire population of the state is reeling under the red terror threat. Unless the Indian government takes some extra-ordinary measures then the entire Chhattisgarh will fall in their authority in the next five years.”

Chhattisgarh has a population of 20.08 million.

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