The security forces manning the forest zones of Chhattisgarh have gained an upper hand over the Maoists for the first time in recent years. Abujmarh forest’s inaccessible hideouts that are strong Maoist bastions have come under the striking range of the paramilitary forces specialising in guerrilla warfare. This is the impression that police forces have gathered after the Maoist-sponsored one-day bandh, protesting the series of encounters in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh in the last two weeks, ended on Friday. Sources in Telangana Greyhounds in Hyderabad, who reviewed the situation in the border districts of Chhattisgarh, told The Sunday Guardian that the bandh did not have any impact on life on the ground.

The Maoists, who lost around 50 of their comrades in the encounters in Gadchiroli of Maharashtra and Bijapur and Sukma districts of Chhattisgarh from 20 April onwards, gave a bandh call in both the states as well as in surrounding Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The Maoists issued media releases seeking public support for the bandh. Usually, Maoist-sponsored bandhs are accompanied with large-scale violence and destruction of property in their strongholds and disruption of public life. This time, the governments of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Telangana cancelled bus services in the border areas and shut down schools. At the same time, security forces, mostly CRPF battalions, were rushed to the interiors.

On Thursday, CRPF forces in Chhattisgarh staged two major encounters, killing three Maoist militia men—Joga (32) and Mukalu (29) in Sukma district’s Puttapadu jungle, and Soyam Kama (50) in Chintakunta forest. These encounters stopped other militia members from coming out of their hideouts to damage public property.

The Maoists, however, managed to damage some public property in Telangana by burning a road roller and an RTC bus, and by destroying a culvert and felling some electricity poles. These incidents were nothing compared to the widespread damage they could cause in the past. This time, the police also provided protection to their informers from Maoist attacks.

Sources in the police told this newspaper that Chhattisgarh’s anti-Maoist forces too were able to storm into the interiors of Abujmarh forest zone, in some sort of a victory for the security forces. The 3,200 sq km Abujmarh forest, which has a hilly terrain, has been a safe haven for the Maoists since 2004-05, after they lost the Nallamada forest in Andhra Pradesh to the security forces.

It is in Abujmarh forest that the Maoists have set up the headquarters of their People’s Liberation guerrilla army. It is here that Maoists usually conduct all party conclaves and top level meetings. It is in Abujmarh that the Maoists have been running their janatana sarkar (people’s government) since 2006-07. It is a “parallel government” which even collects taxes from locals.

Soon after wiping out three armed Maoist squads in Gadchiroli’s Sironcha area, the Maharashtra government on Thursday released the names of five top Maoists and announced a total reward of Rs 1.71 crore for them. The release said that anyone who gave the government information leading to their arrests would become millionaires. The fugitive Maoists include Mallojula Koteswara Rao (from Telangana), who carries Rs 60 lakh on his head, Deepak (Maharashtra) who carries Rs 50 lakh, and Narmada, alias Usha, from Andhra who carries Rs 25 lakh on her head. This indicates that the Maharashtra government is following a hot pursuit line and is to drive out the Maoists from the eastern part of the state.

In a collaborative move, Ministry of Home Affairs too issued a circular to all Maoist affected states to proceed with road and bridge building activities in their remote areas, without waiting for environmental clearances. Home Secretary Rajiv Gauha on Thursday told these states to take up communication networks in Maoist hit areas as the Ministry of Environment had given its nod en bloc.

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