Red Terror Strikes in Western Orissa

Rajat Kumar Kujur
June 22, 2005

Of late, Sambalpur district of Orissa becomes a hotbed for Naxal activities. After a period of silence, the rebels have again managed to strike terror and this time they have struck hard killing civilians. Late last month, on May 27, the Maoists went on a rampage and killed three villagers and injured several others in the Burda village under Jujumura police station. Prior to this, the Maoist activities were only confined to abductions followed by ransom. The incident came as a shock as the Maoists generally targets the police, forest officials, contractors and other businessmen. 

This incident has been considered important with regard to the course of Naxal growth in the underdeveloped and tribal-dominated Western Orissa. The timing of the incident speaks in volumes about the greater aims and ambitions of Naxals in the region. The incident came barely after nine hours of an important meeting of high-level police officers held at Sambalpur district headquarter to discuss problems related to the Left-wing extremism in the area. It clearly signals the Naxal game plan of defying the Government and creating an environment of terror and suspicion. 

Earlier in May, the village headman of Chhamunda village council was abducted and was released only after he signed a bond paper to pay Rs.4 lakhs to the rebels. However, the police failed to take notice of this development and the failure on their part was largely responsible for subsequent killings. The residents and eyewitnesses of the incident alleged that the police also failed to act in time in that fateful night. Another important thing that has come out of this incident was the determination of the local people. The Naxals came to the village just before midnight looking for the headman Jayram Bhoi and to their surprise, they found the whole village came in for protest. This is no small thing and the administration must take notice of it. Because till now Naxal movement has survived on the support of rural underdeveloped tribals. Now after this incident the government must wake up and try to win over the locals in their favour.

For long Naxal activities in Western Orissa was considered as a spill-over from Jharkhand. However, things have changed for worse and now the Maoists have created a red corridor from the Saranda forest of Jharkhand to Rairakhol forest in Orissa. Earlier it was confined to some parts of Sundargarh, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj but now the Maoists have managed to put their foot in different parts of Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Deogarh and Anugul. The successes of all countermeasures in these areas need proper coordination among the officials of Orissa and Jharkhand. They must devise a sort of joint strategy to fight the Maoist threat, but this is what seems to be lacking. So far it has been alleged several times that in the name of anti-Naxal operations, the Jharkhand police harassed the residents of border villages of Orissa. This has been a constant cause of worry for the local populace, which is being successfully exploited by the Naxals in their favour.

It’s high time that the administration must understand that the Maoists are no ordinary criminals nor Naxal is a common law and order problem. To solve the problem and to fight the extremists, the administration needs to be mentally and logistically well prepared. Over the last three years, the Naxals have strengthened their position in the tribal districts of Orissa. With their activities, the Naxals have managed to spread the message of terror among the innocent villagers of the area. In this situation, it is the foremost duty of the police and administration to restore confidence among the local people. And for this, the police have to act really fast and definitely tough. It is very much necessary to strengthen intelligence gathering system of police and equally important is also the modernization of the police force. So far the Maoists are banking on the support of the local tribal and poor rural people.

Nevertheless, the solution of the ongoing problem lies with a formula of social development along with immediate replacement of the prevailing atmosphere of violence, terror and suspicion. Its time for the Government to correct past wrongdoings, at the same time it must not allow the rebels to create an atmosphere of fear and terror. The government must work on a strategy of development, efficiency, equity and justice. Let these meaningful words not only part of the Indian Constitution; rather let them be the keywords for a brighter tomorrow free from all sorts of violence and counter-violence.

Author Note
Rajat Kumar Kujur, Research Associate, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi