Tag Archives: Naxalism

Born inside the Union Home Ministry, I am SOP and here’s my story…

My name is Standard Operating Procedure. You can call me SOP.

You will hear about me whenever something goes terribly wrong or a tragedy strikes. Many carry the impression that my tribe is the cure to all ills.

Now I am not simply called SOP. That’s too generic. I have a special number assigned on file but mentioning that may make matters too technical.

Well, I was born as a two-page letter on August 3, 2010, at the hands of a clerk who worked for the then special secretary (internal security) Mr UK Bansal. In my early moments, I recall Mr Bansal sending me from his chamber located on the first floor of the North Block which houses the ministry of home affairs (MHA) to the headquarters of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) like the CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Why was I created and what was the message I carried?

Back in 2010, home minister Mr P Chidambaram was said to be serious in securing the Left-wing extremism (LWE)-affected areas. These were sizeable parts of central and eastern India where rebels from the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) were wreaking havoc. Once when I was lying on the desk at an office I heard how four months before I was born, Maoist rebels killed 75 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one policeman in a single attack in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district!

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The government’s efforts however hit a roadblock when they realised that the local police forces in their states had neither the training nor the numbers to take on the Maoist insurgents who called the jungle their home. So, till the police could build themselves up, the CAPFs would help them with numbers and fire power. It was to be a partnership.

As time passed, Mr Bansal, a 1974-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, wasn’t very happy about how this partnership was progressing. The CAPFs, which did not belong there, did not know the region or for that matter even the local language, felt like foreigners. The local police on the other hand did not suffer these disadvantages but they did not participate enough. The Maoists exploited this. They killed many of our men.

On my two pages, Mr Bansal had written that for every one policeman participating in an operation, two men from CAPFs would do so too, thus maintaining a ratio of 1:2. He revised it to 1:3 later for “any planned operation”. Only in case of an urgent operation could reduced police participation be allowed. You see the point he was making?

Have you wondered how many policemen participated in the “planned” operations to support road construction in Bhejji on March 11 and in Burkapal on April 24 where the CRPF lost 37 men? Two constables in Bhejji and one in Burkapal! This despite the MHA recently stating that there are “over 20,000 state police personnel” and “45,000 central forces personnel” posted in there.

People in power have no idea about my existence.

When journalist Jugal Purohit went about asking, here is what he found:

– Abhishek Meena, Superintendent of Police, Sukma: No such guidelines exist and no such guidelines can be adhered to.

– DM Awasthi, Special Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh: Such instructions can’t be followed.

– Sudeep Lakhtakia, Additional Director General, CRPF: I will have to check up.

– K Vijay Kumar, senior security adviser, MHA: You cannot have such rigidity.

– The spokesperson of the MHA did not offer any explanation.

This is my reality.

Someone sitting removed from the actual situation thought about me and pushed me down the throats of others who had their own ideas. Then when something went wrong, newer people came together and created newer SOPs. Lessons were seldom learnt. I remain forgotten.

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CRPF personnel killed when the Maoists detonated a landmine under the truck they were moving in. March 30, 2016 MAILAWADA in DANTEWADA DISTRICT. IMAGE SOURCE: Author 

Contrast this with our enemy who bears the name of a foreigner who died more than 40 years ago. That enemy deploys his tactics and remains guided by his doctrine even today. He hasn’t forgotten.

THIS PIECE FIRST APPEARED ON THE DAILYO PORTAL:

http://www.dailyo.in/voices/sukma-attack-maoists-crpf-sop/story/1/16963.html

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Sukma, CG: Cops won’t occupy fortified stations till furniture & colouring is done

Assuring the assembly of chief ministers of ten Maoist-hit states about the centre’s support in terms of training, resources and intelligence, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh added a condition nevertheless. “But states must take initiative to conduct operations and use resources optimally”, he said before inaugurating the key meeting on May 8. While the national meet was called in the wake of repeated reverses suffered in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district, Singh’s words have failed in making any impact in that very place. Exemplifying that irony are two ready yet unused ‘heavily-fortified police stations which can serve as an impregnable base for nearly 200 troops’ at any given point in time.

Ready for months now and located in the heart of the troubled Sukma district, the local police has failed to move in to either of them. Inexplicably it has ensured that policemen and counterparts from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continue to operate in lesser strength from older barracks in the vicinity.

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Report appeared in the MAIL TODAY newspaper on May 18, 2017

Running south from the town of Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region is the National Highway (NH) 221, re-named as NH30. It has had a particularly bloodied past. Among the instances of bloodlust the road has witnessed, the brutal massacre of the Congress party’s state leadership in the Jheeram Ghati in May 2013 reverberates in the national consciousness to this date. Located along that highway are the towns of Kukanar and Chhindgarh, separated by 15km. It is in these towns that the two fortified police stations have been constructed under central assistance where funds up to Rs 624 crore have been made available to ten states for a total of 400 such police stations. There are in all 75 such police stations earmarked for Chhattisgarh alone.

According to a local resident in Kukanar, “The building has been ready since the end of 2016 but no one has occupied it yet. Earlier this year, villagers were asked to attend its inauguration but we are still waiting for an invite.” Similarly in Chhindgarh, locals said the building was awaiting occupancy since nearly a year. “May be it is about not getting VIPs to inaugurate it or something else, we don’t know. There are other smaller police stations in other parts of Sukma also lying empty we have heard,” said another local resident.

When asked for its response and stand on the issue, the Home Ministry kept mum. In Chhattisgarh, DM Awasthi, Special Director General, Anti Naxal Operations (ANO) said, “The one at Kukanar has been handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately. In Chhindgarh, there are minor repairs pending.” Sukma’s Superintendent of Police, Abhishek Meena when asked said, “Chhindgarh building is ready but colouring and repair work is left. In Kukanar, we have ordered furniture and awaiting its set up”.

Kukanar building
The brand new compound in Kukanar lying unused. ‘Handed over to us six months back. I have ordered my staff to operationalise it immediately’, says senior police officer DM Awasthi. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

This delay has not gone down well with members of the security set up.

“Where is the will to take on Maoists? In Delhi, they talk about doing things on war-footing, senior officials fly in and out conducting meetings and on the ground, the police is unwilling to move, wasting precious infrastructure,” said a source on the condition of anonymity. Another source observed, “Across the country, there is outrage over how Maoists are killing security forces and here the policemen are waiting for well-designed, coloured and comfortable police stations”.

Chhindgarh building
Chhindgarh’s fortified police station lying unused. The area SP told me his force had sought colouring and repair jobs before they could move it. SOURCE: JUGAL R PUROHIT

Interestingly, in the aftermath of the Burkapal ambush in Sukma last month where 25 CRPF personnel were killed by the Maoists, the centre had defended the state police’s role. In a statement released on April 26th, the union home ministry had stated, “It is incorrect to say that Chhattisgarh Police is in shambles. In addition to 45,000 Central Forces, over 20,000 State Police personnel are posted in Bastar region. The Chhattisgarh police forces are well equipped and a Bastar package for police was introduced in end 2015. There is complete coordination between Centre and State forces”.

STORY FIRST APPEARED ON INDIA TODAY PORTAL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/rajnath-singh-maoists-chhattisgarh-police-stations/1/955854.html

FIGHTING INSURGENCY: Pushing men as leaders stay behind, that is what is taking place in Maharashtra Police on a bloody frontline called Gadchiroli

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on August  7, 2015
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on August 7, 2015

ARTICLE ON INDIA TODAY SITE

No full-time Inspector General of Police (Anti Naxal Operations) since February 2014
No full-time Deputy Inspector General for Gadchiroli range since February 2014
No full-time Superintendent of Police (SP) Special Action Group (SAG) since June 2015
Chair of the Principal of training institute, UOTC was vacant from December 2014 till middle of July 2015. Has been filled only recently.  

After considerable gains against the Maoist insurgents over the last couple of years, things in Maharashtra may be on the verge of slipping. Critical posts, dealing with the anti-Maoist struggle, in the state police remain vacant for over a year leading to a leadership vacuum. Positions like Inspector General of Police (Anti Naxal Operations), Deputy Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli range) and Superintendent of Police Special Action Group (SAG) have no full time officers assigned. In addition, even the post of Principal of the Unconventional Operations Training Centre (UOTC) where Maharashtra Police personnel train before induction into insurgency-affected regions has only been filled recently after remaining vacant for months on end.

These charges are being held on additional charge basis by officers holding positions in the Nagpur police administration which is headquartered 170km away from the affected Gadchiroli.

Those on the ground say this lack of leadership is demoralizing and may end up providing to the Maoists a breathing space. What is important to note is that the Maoists have stated their aim is to now ‘preserve’ their battle against the might of India which has been unleashed against them since the second half of the last decade. Interestingly, while the officers at the top are missing, other officers and men at the lower level are adequately staffed.

The state police is directly under the control of the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio. A response was sought from the CM but none was received.

Recently released Union Home Ministry data recorded 27 ‘incidents’ till June 30 this year in which eight civilians and two security personnel were killed. Also 15 Maoists were arrested however not one Maoist insurgent was killed by the police, an admission which many believe is an indication of the dismal state of affairs. “I don’t particularly agree with that death figure being an indicator however, this is a serious development which needs to be addressed,” said an officer.

When asked, Maharashtra’s Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjeev Dayal said, “Yes, I agree they shouldn’t be left vacant. We are actively considering filling them up and it will be done soon.” When asked for a cause and the impact on the ground situation, he replied, “Things are going very well in Gadchiroli.” However, his officers did not share the optimism. “The reluctance among police officers to go to such places is not new. For nearly a year these posts are vacant. DGP can do what he wants and officers who don’t wish to go simply seek assistance from politicians,” said an officer. In Gadchiroli, the local Superintendent of Police, Sandip Patil said, “My seniors who hold additional charges are experienced officers who have worked here and thus we have a perfectly fine system,” he said. However an officer with the experience of having served in Gadchiroli questioned this optimism, he said, “If these posts are so insignificant that all is working well in their not being filled, the govt might as well abolish them and save revenue.”

Since the late 1980s, when the erstwhile People’s War migrated out of united Andhra Pradesh in search of safer pastures, the contiguous forest cover provided by Gadchiroli, Gondia and Chandrapur districts of Maharashtra was an attraction for the insurgents. Traditionally, Maoists have used these areas for rest, recuperation and recruitment as well as to launch attack in the neighbouring Bastar region in south Chhattisgarh. Seldom have they waged their battle with the intensity matching that in Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh.

Maharastra’s two districts of Gadchiroli and Gondia, at its eastern most fringe, rank among the affected districts. While the former has been a long-standing history, the latter is relatively quieter.

EXPERT OPINION BY AJAI SAHNI, INSTITUTE OF CONFLICT MANAGEMENT

Lapsing into complacency is what it is. What the situation there may have improved but it can’t be called peaceful. Plus it borders the most volatile and unstable region in Chhattisgarh. You can not let your guard down. Fact that no officer is posted or wants to be posted tells you this area is far from stable. If seniors are absent, resentment will creep in. Men will say we are being pushed in and over time operational decline will set in.

MAHARASHTRA: MAOIST VIOLENCE FROM 2012 TILL JUNE 2015

34 security personnel killed
40 Maoists killed
62 civilians killed since
149 Maoists arrested

INTERVIEW: SAIBABA TALKS ON PEERS, PRISON & PM

Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on July 12, 2015
Article appeared in MAIL TODAY on July 12, 2015

“He is like a General Post Office (GPO) of the Maoist insurgents because he ensures a smooth flow of information between the insurgents in the jungles and supporters in urban centres and abroad,” said a senior police officer in Maharashtra, aware of his case. The forty seven year old could only smile at this thought, sitting inside his official residence in Delhi’s North Campus. “If I am a GPO and the Indian state knows that, why disrupt the flow? They can gain more by stealthily monitoring me,” he replied. Dr. G Naga Saibaba, an activist, a teacher and someone who the security establishment believes to be a ‘thorough Maoist but for his handicap and family commitments’ returned home on July 4, following a three-month bail on medical grounds, secured from the Bombay High Court.

The Maharashtra Police, whose manner of arresting Dr Saibaba, in which he was swiftly taken to Nagpur while returning from an examination in New Delhi on May 9, 2014 made headlines. The cops believe Dr. Saibaba, who was born and grew up in East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, to be a scout for the outlawed Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist who motivated and funneled leaders into strife torn regions for carrying on with the group’s violent agenda. That he teaches under graduates, post graduates and research students only adds to his importance for the Maoists, police believes. “I am a teacher, not a preacher. A number of my peers, people who studied with me, worked with me in over three decades have gone underground. Most of them are dead today. From that emanates the circumstantial suspicion that agencies have of me. It is completely unfounded,” stated Saibaba, a PhD holder from Delhi University and a resident of Delhi for over two decades. “Can anyone show me an instance where I have stated the Maoist position as mine? Yes, I oppose fake encounters and human rights abuses and oppose bans on anyone, be it CPI Maoist or Bajrang Dal, if it is banned,” he added.

Asked for his views on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to Maoists to drop the gun and pick up the pen, he smiled. “Pen was my weapon and see what was done to me. Violence perpetrated by the state is much bigger than that by smaller groups. I believe dialogue between the government and opposing groups is important however don’t ask me to lead efforts for it. I am better off a teacher,” he said referring to previous attempts to goad him into mediating a truce. With regards to the development model being pursued by the Modi government, he said, “It is no different from the UPA. The manner in which mineral resources are being pursued will lead to resistance, I am certain.”

Recounting his fourteen months in the Nagpur Central Prison’s anda cell (solitary confinement cell the shape of which resembles that of egg) he admitted that while nobody tortured him physically, “conditions were consciously created which amounted to that”. Wheelchair bound Dr Saibaba, who stated his disability as ’90 per cent’ described the prison conditions akin to those in the “18th century”, and stated, ” Video conferencing  room, medical room, meeting room have steps leading up and thus are all out of bound if you are on a wheelchair. What option did I have but to allow myself to be lifted like a luggage by fellow inmates!”.

CASE AGAINST DR SAIBABA:

Police have charged Dr Saibaba with being a member of a banned organisation, hatching criminal conspiracy for arranging meetings of urban and the underground cadre in the jungles of Abujmadh forests along Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh border as well as forging international links to support the CPI Maoist. Sections  13, 18 and 39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 have been slapped against him.

OPINION: @drramansingh, the collector’s sunglasses are off, what about the blinkers you are wearing?

It took me a while last week to digest the message I had just received. When I did, I was left impressed.

After all, it speaks about the efficiency of an administration when it spots and decides to pull up its senior staffer (that too an Indian Administrative Service officer) for wearing inappropriate clothes and keeping his sunglasses on while receiving someone as up the order as the prime minister.

No sooner did I sit back, feeling good, something else hit me. It was my duty, I felt, to inform such an establishment of what I knew, since my editors have been liberal in allowing me opportunities to report from the conflict zone that the Bastar region is.

So here is my effort to help them.

To begin with, in any insurgency-hit region, the police have to stabilise the situation for the civil administration to come in. Till that happens, vacancies will remain in sectors like education, water supply, medical services, revenue and the like. The impact this has on the public, which is as such, in dire need of basic services, is self-explanatory. This also implies that the only department which does not, and cannot, have vacancies is the police.

Speaking of Bastar, despite the bloody insurgency marauding the inhabitants for nearly two decades, even as on date, the local police department is understaffed. Of the 9,245 police posts sanctioned, 8,214 have been filled up, leaving Bastar understaffed by 1,031 police personnel across ranks. To fill up the void, it must be conceded, the efficient administration announced an initiative in 2013. It appealed to all the existing and retired Indian Army personnel to join its ranks. What better can a challenged police ask for than the trained and disciplined army personnel manning its ranks! But so poorly crafted was the scheme that till date, army headquarters data shows not more than two army personnel have taken up the offer.

Recently, when I was in Dantewada, I sat with a notepad and let jawans from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) speak unhindered (CRPF is the biggest contributor to the anti-Maoist efforts in the region). Before going ahead, what is important to note is that these jawans are operating on the invitation of the state government which sought their presence to counter the Maoists, which in turn, makes the state responsible for providing them with basic amenities like drinking water and accommodation.

The photograph of the camp where I chatted with the jawans speaks volumes of how the administration has treated them. So I will refrain from expending words. It was brought to my notice by these men that many of them have to cheat death just so that they can go on leave. These men, the flag-bearers of the state’s existence in the conflict zone, say the moment they step out of their camps, their force disowns them. They are provided with no facilities to navigate out of the danger zone. Instead, they are to wait for a civil bus to pick them up and take them home – a process in which only recently two policemen have been identified, pulled out and shot dead by the insurgents.

The state of the inhabitants is worse than those posted there for duty.

What this administration deserves to know is that at an average of one per week, at least 21 civilians have been killed, caught in the crossfire between the security agencies and insurgents, since January 1 this year. Add to this the casualties of security personnel and Maoist fighters and the number goes beyond 51 in less than six months. Such is the intensity.

Does it call for a ceasefire? A solid initiative for talks to begin? Many say that if India can talk to Pakistan, China and insurgent groups in the North East, why not with the Maoists? Whether there is merit or not in initiating a dialogue, the fact remains that the administration is not uttering a word. It is as if, normalcy prevails.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), compiled by the Bastar-based Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group has further substance which the administration deserves to look at. The already-crowded prisons of the state are overflowing and the percentage today is more than twice the national average. Bastar’s prisons, most notorious among which is the one at Kanker, have clocked overcrowding of up to 623 per cent. There is data to prove that while in the country overall, an undertrial has to languish for 9.7 months, under the administration in Bastar, an undertrial has to wait for 21.8 months, which is almost two years! All this on one side, and complete acquittals to the extent of 96.2 per cent (as seen in the latest available data of 2013) on the other side, tell you that most of those made to suffer the wait are the local tribals and are seldom convicted.

While my effort is that of informing the administration in the hope that they will focus their attention on these issues, the fact is that today’s government in Chhattisgarh is in its third term. Does that leave chief minister Raman Singh any room to speak about not having enough time on hands?

So while the sunglasses are off, frankly, I am waiting for the administration’s blinkers to go too.

ORIGINAL PIECE APPEARED HERE: http://www.dailyo.in/politics/bastar-raman-singh-dantewada-chhattisgarh-maoism-naxalism-narendra-modi/story/1/3935.html

MY PIECE: Post Sukma ambush, CRPF’s two field officers get the boot; inquiry against top boss under a cloud

Report in MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 19
Report in MAIL TODAY newspaper on December 19

Recovering from a deadly blow dealt by the Maoists in the form of killing 14 of its men and looting their weapons, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has decided to move on. However, with a step forward it has also taken a step back which has raised many eyebrows not just among its rank and file but even outside.

Confirming reports about a poor fighting effort and a failure of command and control among its different battalions involved in December 1 ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has ‘attached’ and relieved from command two of its leading officers who commanded two key units who participated in the ill-fated operations.

Even as it does so, it’s effort to conduct an impartial probe into the issue has come under a cloud. The reason behind this has to do with the Presiding Officer of the Court of Inquiry (CoI) launched into this episode.

Field officers get the boot

In an order dated December 11, the CRPF HQs “attached” the Commanding Officer (CO) 223 General Duty battalion from which all the men who perished belonged alongwith a Deputy Commandant who was the officer leading 206 CoBRA battalion, a specialised force. The order has sought the respective formations to relieve these officers on an immediate basis. “They will not be given any task and will remain attached with their zonal headquarters in Kolkata,” it was learnt. When asked Director General CRPF RC Tayal said, “While there was a failure of command and control in the case of 223 battalion and the Commanding Officer was not around, in the case of CoBRA battalion, we observed that they failed to act and could not prevent the looting of arms despite not being too far from the embattled troops of 223 battalion.” According to Tayal, these actions emanated from the initial findings. “Nobody is off the hook yet, including the Inspector General HS Sidhu who was leading the operations on the ground. I am personally looking into the case,” Tayal added.

However this move has not gone down well with the force.

Said an officer aware of the entire operation, “The CO of 223 battalion had been called by the IG for a meet when the Maoists began firing. He took time to reach the location as the meet was some distance away and had to make his way back while the firing was on.” CO 223 battalion who was leading 90 odd men from his battalion was unharmed while his Deputy Commandant and Assistant Commandant fell to the Maoist bullets with 12 other men. In the case of the CoBRA Deputy Commandant, his party with specialised weapons claimed they had participated and even rescued some of the injured.

Cloud over inquiry

The CoI looking into the episode is presided over by DIG Sanjay Kumar who is stationed at Raipur and is administratively under the IG in this case. “Can you expect the DIG to scrutinize his boss? The IG was personally leading the operations on ground so like others his actions also need to be scrutinized. With this move I am confident that no fault whatsoever of the IG will be found,” said a CRPF officer.

Retired Additional Director General of CRPF, DC Dey agreed, “Someone from outside should have been assigned this task”. Former Director General of Border Security Force (BSF) Prakash Singh said, “The force headquarters needs to step in. I understand that the IG was on the field and he may not have anything to hide but a senior officer who could have examined the IG’s role too should have been asked to investigate. Otherwise it won’t carry conviction.”

While the IG refused to comment, sources in Raipur said there was no problem at all in anyone inquiring. “The force headquarters asked the IG to appoint an inquiry and he did. If there is any apprehension then CRPF HQ should directly handle matters, there will not be any resistance”, said a source.

The operation was not planned as it should have been: RC Tayal, DG CRPF

Q. What is the takeaway from this ambush for the CRPF?
A. There is no meaning in conducting operations by announcing our presence and moving in broad day light in areas dominated by the Maoists. We have decided that we will carry out our movements by night now onwards. We have also decided to improve motivation levels among our men, incentivize postings in Maoist-affected areas and plan better. MHA is already in the loop on this.

Q. Is that then an admission that this operation was not planned properly?
A. I would say that it was not planned the way it should have been.

Q. This operation also saw minimal participation from the side of the police. Do you then believe that in the time to come the CRPF can/should take on operations in unfamiliar terrain without the local police’s participation?
A. Our role is that of being in aid to the civil police. My view is that there is no meaning in conducting operations unless the state leadership comes forward. It is flawed model if we believe CRPF can take the lead and do operations on its own

Visited insurgency-affected Gadchiroli recently. My ground appreciation with supporting data and voices

With a large map of the district on his office wall, a senior police officer posted here, pointed to four red pointers. “These are infiltration routes and here is where the great wall of Gadchiroli needs to be erected if we are to crush this menace,” he said. From north to south, the four western tehsils in the troubled district also share borders with Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur and Dantwewada districts. Intelligence reports say an unspecified number of cadres of the Communist Party of India (CPI) Maoist have entered Gadchiroli using these routes recently. Ominous signs.

Though on the backfoot following a spate of losses and surrenders,
Maoists retain the initiative owing to their strategy of hit and run.
Police data also points to this urgency. ‘Joint Patrolling operations’
are undertaken when paramilitary forces and police from the bordering states are roped in for coordinated operations. The frequency has shot up. From six operations between January and July, 79 have been conducted in the last two months. The police is actively pursuing whatever leads it can get on the movement of the Maoists. It has also got additional manpower in the form of paramilitary forces, specifically for the elections. “We had nearly 70 per cent polling in the Lok Sabha polls held on April 10 and we hope to improve the count further,” said Collector Gadchiroli Ranjeet Kumar.

Pulapaka Elkurthy (right) and Samakka Gangula at the Ankisa village in south Gadchiroli. Photo by Jugal R Purohit
Pulapaka Elkurthy (right) and Samakka Gangula at the Ankisa village in south Gadchiroli. Photo by Jugal R Purohit

Pulapaka Elkurthy and Samakka Gangula live near Ankisa village at the southernmost tip of Gadchiroli. A decade ago, both their sons were killed by the police in an encounter. Speaking in Telugu, Pulapaka said, “My son had gone to the forest to pick up medicinal herbs for our cattle. He never came back. Days later the police showed us his body. Because I was too shocked I did not want to even see the body.”

As a result she does not even have her son’s death certificate.
Nobody, says Samakka, has helped them. “There are many like us here. We too are victims. Some help from the government is all we want,” she said.

Meanwhile, the candidates, while going to the people, did not even
mention the insurgency, far less talk about ways to tackle or help
people like Pulapaka and Samakka. Political activity for the three seats, all reserved Scheduled Tribe (ST) seats, is still largely taking place along the roads. Most are talking about issues like job creation, irrigation and statehood for Vidarbha. Three time minister and NCP candidate from Aheri, Dharamraobaba Atram admitted to this situation, “We are talking about getting jobs and
industries here, if that happens it will automatically solve the
problem.” His nephew who is contesting on a BJP ticket, Ambrishrao
Atram said, “People have to live here. They are already sandwiched
between the police and them.” When visited, partymen in offices of BJP and Shiv Sena spoke about everything but the insurgency. “This is a problem of the centre. We shall see,” is what a BJP office bearer
said. Gadchiroli SP Sandeep Patil said, “They can be targeted since they are directly challenging the Maoists who oppose elections.”

Violence level in Gadchiroli-Gondia region

Year    Security Personnel Killed       Civilians Killed        Maoists killed  Ambushes by Maoists     IEDs exploded
2009    52      41      07      2276    01
2010    10      34      02      1081    04
2011    08      40      05      1129    04
2012    14      25      04      1884    03
2013    06      09      26      1029    07
2014 (Till Sep 30)      11      08      13      597     06

BOX – Gadchiroli in numbers

•       893 polling stations
•       4500 polling staff
•       Seats – Gadchiroli, Aheri and Armori
•       Total voters – 7,31,105