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Police conquer fears of Sukma tribals looking down the Maoist gun barrel

Author: Ejaz Kaiser
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: September 30, 2017
URL:   http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/2017/sep/30/police-conquer-fears-of-sukma-tribals-looking-down-the-maoist-gun-barrel-1665016.amp

The lives of villagers in the Maoist heartland is difficult and coupled with trust deficit with the armed forces and the outlawed CPI Maoist, their future often turns terrible. Such situations exist across the villages in south Sukma, the worst-affected district by left-wing extremism in Chhattisgarh.  Touted as the epicentre of Naxal activities, the tribals have been living under a reign of terror for over two decades.

Realising “whichever side the population remains, that side wins the war”, police forces in and around Dornapal began a tactical crusade—Tedmunta Bastar Abhiyan (Rising Bastar campaign) some months ago.  “Winning the confidence of tribal villagers was challenging. We conducted meetings, interacted on local issues, put up posters and circulated pamphlets, resolved problems, created awareness on government’s initiatives and exposed the ideology of Maoists,” said Sub-divisional Officer of Police Vivek Shukla, who spearheaded the campaign.

Meetings were held in areas considered Maoist strongholds. Villagers were encouraged to speak out about their needs, expectations, and lives. The process helped the forces gauge the perception and fear persisting among the tribals.

According to police station in charge of Dornapal and Polampalli, “Initially, we didn’t get the expected results. Our cultural troupe cadres, similar to Chetna Natya Mandli (the cultural outfit of Naxals) perform songs and dances based on development and welfare schemes. We talked about basic needs of tribals, their cultural aspirations, education, drinking water, and development.”

Maoists who held sway for decades in the region were outraged to find their influence waning. “After we left, the Maoists turned up in some villages to assess the impact of the campaign and warned the people to keep away from us,” the officials revealed.

But with repeated visits and feedback, the tribals have gradually gravitated towards the police. “We felt reassured after the forces returned to our villages to hold meetings. The narration by the surrendered Naxals who accompanied the security forces during the meetings exposed the hollowness of the Maoist ideology,” said the villagers at Kankerlanka and Ponapalli.
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