Orissa: Industrial Zones Vs Naxalite Liberated Zones Part-I

Nihar Nayak

The Naxalite/Maoist movement in Orissa is gaining momentum gradually along with State government’s proposed industrial zones. The red rebels have virtually set up ‘liberated zones’ along with industrial hubs in Orissa by adopting new line of operations by mixing up both democratic and violent means to consolidate their position in these areas. Both the means are being used considering the geographical, social and political situations on the ground. As far as tribal regions are concerned, Naxalites are using violent means to maintain their support base. This phenomenon has been increased in post Nayagarh attack period, while the state police took help of villagers to gather intelligence.

Like Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Naxalites in Orissa have been adopting tactical counter offensive operations to counter police initiative in tribal regions. They have killed at least eight police informers in Rayagada and Malkangiri districts in the last three months throwing a major challenge to the security forces. They also (Maoists) killed seven persons, including four village headmen (peda) in Malkangiri. The Naxalites feel that headmen have been creating obstacles in the recruitment drive and also working in tandem with police. They organized a meeting in the Gajapati district immediately after the Nayagarh operations (Februray 2008) to target on some village headmen, who have been working as informer and had warned them not to entertain police in the villages. Traditionally, the pedas resolve village level disputes and involve in village development programs. Since the Naxalite movement has spread to new regions, the peda system created obstacles in the recruitment drive.

However, frequent combing operations, killing and arrests of cadres after the Nayagarh incident have made the Naxalites more reactionary. They have been adopting terror tactics to regain control in that region. Moreover, the new tactic is being adopted in Malkangiri because Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee secretary, Sudhakar, has taken leadership responsibility of the Mottu armed squad, which operates in Mottu region of Malkangiri district from April this year.

The Naxalites have been virtually running parallel government by creating political vacuum either killing village headmen or driving out influential persons from the villages. In fact, their domination reflected while the Naxalites called four day strike in Malkangiri district (on 22 May) in response to the killing of two Naxalites in mid May 2008. Apart from village headmen, the Naxalites have been targeting contractors for levy. As a result many developments related projects are affected due to Naxalite fear. For example, Janbai bridge on the Gurupriya River in the Malkangiri districts has delayed for eight years due to Naxalite activities. The situation worsened while the Gammon India private limited refused to work on that project due to security reason. Interestingly, the Naxalite also do not allow Construct Bridge on the Sileru River which will connect Dantewada and Malkangiri. The Naxalites have been prohibiting construction of these two bridges because of police access to the Chitrakonada region. The project cost of these two bridges has increased from 80 crore to 100 crore.

While southern Orissa has been facing the brunt of Naxalites, attack in northern Orissa is very imminent, since the Naxalite use “uproar in south and attack in north” tactics. Around 70-80 Naxalites in three groups are roaming around in K Bolang border areas of Sundargarh district and Karampada area close to Sarenda forests of Jharkhand. Similarly, another group has been moving around Baunsjor area of Jharkhand closer to Biramitrapur police station for Sundargarh. The third group is camping near Raikera of Jharkhand just 10 kilometers away from Nuagaon area of Sundargarh district. It is believed that the Maoists may capture the Mohanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) mines. The Naxalites are supporting trade unions in the coalfields. According to sources, few days ago, an unspecified number of arms including land mines, bullets, LMG, INSAS rifles and some gelatin sticks are supplied from Sarenda forest to Orissa’s Sundargarh district. Considering cadre movement and arms supply a possible attack on police stations or government installations is imminent. They might attack on MCL. Because the MCL has failed to pay monthly levy to the Maoists.

According to an interrogation report of an arrested Naxalite, Kamal Kant Sethi, the CPI-Maoist has formed new divisions both in tribal and coastal areas to execute their plans effectively. They have expanded their network with full vigor. The newly formed Ghumusar division in Ganjam district was carved out in 2007, while Kalinganagar division in Jajpur district and Sambalpur division are fully functional with the newly recruited cadres. Interestingly the Jajpur division was formed near the proposed industrial corridor of State government. There are around 15 armed cadres in that division. Similarly, the Sambalpur division manages operations in Sudargarh and Keonjhar districts, where both the POSCO and Mittal groups have applied for their proposed steel plants captive area. Apart from Mittal more than 48 mining companies are also active in Keonjhar district.

Recently, Naxal activity has also increased in many places like-Anadapur, Ghasipura, Ghatagaon, Badbil, Harichandanpur, Daitari, Telkei and Joda area of Keonjhar district. Out of 20 police stations in the districts, Maoists have presence in nine police stations. The Naxalites organized a meeting at Atei and Rebna forests in April, 2008. Strategically, the Naxalites have identified Keonjhar districts as funding zone. They collect huge amount of extortion money from the district from various mining companies. Other factors motivated the Naxalites to consolidate in Keonjhar districts are- Mittal project in Patna area, strong police action in Sarenda forest, ineffective policing and poor law and order situation in Keonjhar, frustration among masses due to corrupting, injustice, and failure of administration to provide basic social infrastructure in rural areas, presence of mining mafia and increase in crime, strong police action in Sambalpur area and Naxalite urban strategy.

Author Note
Nihar Nayak, Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Views expressed in the article are personal.