Chhattisgarh in spotlight, but for wrong reasons (2010 in Retrospect)By Sujeet Kumar, IANS
Thursday, December 30, 2010
RAIPUR - It marked a decade of its formation, but 2010 was also a black mark year for Chhattisgarh that found itself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons - be it Maoists increasing their spread, killing 76 troopers in the worst attack in four decades of insurgency or a court sentencing rights activist Binayak Sen to life imprisonment for sedition.
Chhattisgarh spent over Rs.2.34 crore for weeklong celebrations this November to mark a decade of its formation. But the celebrations were tinged with the sober realisation that things were not going right.
“It was the year that security forces in Chhattisgarh would never to like recall. Throughout the year, jawans faced one deadly attack after another. The massacre of 76 security personnel on April 6 in Dantewada district shook the confidence,” a senior office at the police headquarters told IANS, adding that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) faced the maximum hits.
The state witnessed 372 deaths in the government-Maoist war. The security forces suffered the maximum casualties as 173 of its men, from the level of special police officers (SPOs) to central forces were killed, while 129 civilians and 70 guerrillas also paid with their lives.
The year gone by saw Maoists making significant inroads in new areas. They have now expanded their bases from jungles of the sprawling 40,000 sq km Bastar region to the semi-urban pockets of Raipur, Mahasamund, Durg, Rajnandgaon and Dhamtari districts.
“It was surely a tough year for security personnel, especially the April 6 incident. But jawans renewed their attacks in a more aggressive and determined manner after the Dantewada incident and have now taken the battle to their (Maoists) hideouts,” Vishwaranjan, director general of police, Chhattisgarh, told IANS.
He admitted that Maoists had set up bases in completely new areas in 2010 but said that “they were forced to move out from jungles because of consistent pressure exerted by forces on their traditional bases”.
Chhattisgarhs Bastar region, comprising the five districts of Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar, Narayanpur and Kanker, has been considered the nerve centre of Maoist militants since late 1980s. According to Vishwaranjan’s estimates, guerrillas have buried mines in up to 25,000 sq km of the region.
Analysts say that nearly one million poor tribals in Bastar have been caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security forces and the misery they suffered this year was the worst.
“People in one of Indias worst poverty hit zones live in extreme fear. They feel they will be killed by police after being branded Maoists, and they are often also the target of guerrillas who label them as police informers. Their life has become hell,” said Manish Kunjam, president of the All India Adivasi Mahasabha, a tribal body in the state.
Maoists created massive tensions for NMDC Ltd, India’s largest iron ore producer and exporter in the public sector, through the year. Iron ore transportation from its key mines in Dantewada was disrupted for as many as 71 days in the year.
Maoists called strikes frequently and East Coast Railway refused to provide NMDC with rakes at night fearing attacks. In December alone, transportation was hit for 25 days as Maoists called for a three-week shutdown from Dec 2 and damaged rail tracks twice this week causing a severe loss to NMDC shipment. NMDC produces more than 75 percent of its annual output from Chhattisgarh.
Chhattisgarh has about one-fifth of the countrys coal and iron ore reserves.
The year saw the state hit the global headlines when a district and sessions court Dec 24 sentenced to life imprisonment to right activist Binayak Sen on sedition charges and his links with Maoist ideologue Narayan Sanyal.
The news led to outrage amongst rights activists in India and abroad.