In Orissa’s ‘liberated’ zone, two villages take on the Maoists

JanThe villages have a population of about 4,000. (Express Photo)

Armed with an axe, Rukmani Majhi, 45, of Gatibeda village in Sunabeda wildlife sanctuary area, takes a break from household chores every evening to take position on a "morcha" (a fortified platform), along with other men and women of her village, all armed with traditional weapons like bows and arrows, to watch out for Maoists.

For the first time since 2008, when Maoists set up base in the area, two villages on the Orissa-Chhattisgarh border, Sunabeda and Gatibeda in Nuapada district — a part of the "liberated" zone — have taken up arms against them. The two villages together have a population of around 4,000, mostly belonging to the Chakotia Bhunjia tribe.

While no district administration official or local police would venture into the area earlier, the Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) CoBRA and Orissa Police's Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel have been camping in the Sunabeda forest rest house since December.

Officials said the change was due to the successful elections in Chhattisgarh. The Maoists had threatened to disrupt the Chhattisgarh polls. But other than some minor incidents, the elections were conducted successfully. According to officials, after the Chhattisgarh polls, people in the two villages started to stand up to Maoists, refusing them food, shelter or any other help.

"This is the first time that we are seeing such resistance against Maoists anywhere in the country. Not everyone wants to help them, but they were doing so till now out of fear. After the Chhattisgarh elections, we got information that locals were rising against the Maoists. It was a conscious strategy to set up camps there, they have to be protected too," said Dilip Trivedi, DG, CRPF.

"When news of the successful polls reached other states, it was taken as a failure on the part of the Maoists. These two villages started resisting the Maoists and also put up a fight against them with bows and arrows," said a senior officer.

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