January 27, 2014
A media report of 17 January this year, said a large number of armed guerrillas of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or Maoists in short, have infiltrated into Balaghat district of Madhya Pradesh comes as no surprise. Of course, it is difficult to hazard a guess at the number of rebels that have moved across the porous border between Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and from the adjoining areas of Gondia (Maharashtra). The enclosed map shows a few safe sanctuaries in the Maoist-affected areas indicating that in case of sustained operations and hot pursuit by the security forces (SF) against the Maoists, they could move into some of the prominent forested areas - also characterised by their remoteness and vulnerable population. These include general areas in and around Malkangiri, Abhujmarh, Gadchiroli, Balaghat, Balrampur and Sarguja, and Saranda. Interestingly, all these lie along inter-state boundaries. The bi-junctions and tri-junctions are known to be the most vulnerable areas.
On 29 May last year, the Maoists - in one of the deadliest pre-planned attacks - had successfully ambushed a convoy of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district, killing 29 people. The immediate reaction of the rebels was to cross over to southern parts of Odisha, which thereafter resulted in an increase in violence, particularly in Malkangiri and Koraput. The SF too had further intensified their operations in southern Odisha (Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagarh, Navrangpura etc), southern Chhattisgarh with greater focus on the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. They have met with a large measure of success, resulting in apprehension, elimination or surrender of a few rebels. Gudsa Usendi (GVK Prasad), leader and spokesperson of Dandyakarna Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) surrendered to the Andhra Pradesh police in early January 2014, after having remained with the Maoists (particularly in Chhattisgarh) for about three decades. The rebels have also remained active in the conflict areas by resorting to killing civilians and security personnel, laying IEDs and preventing development activities by destroying plant equipment and vehicles of contractors. If we plot, on a map, the areas in which the operations were conducted by the SF and the places where the rebels have experienced the heat of such operations, the Maoists could possibly move into the adjoining areas of Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh) to the west or Andhra Pradesh in the south or forested areas in the north, to seek refuge. Considering the overall status of anti- Maoist operations, the distances involved and the success achieved by the Andhra Pradesh's police, Balaghat forests and ghats appeared to offer a relatively safer sanctuary.
Movement of the Maoists into an otherwise relatively dormant Balaghat region was quite expected. It has been reported that one of the Local Guerrilla Squad (LGS) commanders, named Dilip, who has been on the wanted list, has led the armed Maoists into the Balaghat region. Balaghat has also been in the news in recent times due to activities of the Tanda Dalam (guerrilla squad). Coupled with this, a few suspected Maoists were arrested in early January 2014. Balaghat district - one of the poorer district - lies along the south eastern portion of the Satpura Range, and has a series of ghats, laden with dense forest cover. In addition, it is extremely rich in minerals such as manganese, bauxite, copper, marble, dolomite, limestone and clay. Balaghat has all the ingredients required to bolster Maoists activities - difficult terrain, dense forests, vulnerable population. While such forested areas and ghats provide safe sanctuaries to the Naxals, it is also easier to move across the porous border into Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra to escape the dragnet of the operations by the SF.