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Maoists stall parts of Odisha

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: Hundreds of people waited in vain for buses in various parts of southern Odisha as public transport almost came to a standstill in the region on the second day of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) week being observed by Maoists.

The rebels, who have increased their presence from 15 to 19 districts in Odisha, cut off major routes by felling trees and placing boulders at strategic points.

Sources said a number of long-distance buses from Malkangiri and Koraput to Andhra Pradesh were cancelled with operators not ready to take chances. Bus service between Jeypore and Parlakhemundi and Malkangiri and Mohana was also hit.

Fear of landmines kept the security forces from making attempts to clear the roadblocks. “The roads passing through the interior areas become treacherous during the PLGA week when rebels try to show their strength by planting landmines and indulging in violence. We will clear the roads only after the week has passed,” said a police officer.

Yesterday, the rebels had damaged two mobile towers at Boipariguda in Koraput by setting fire to their battery rooms. Sources said deliberate violence by the Maoists during the PLGA week was aimed to divert police attention from their training camps being held in the forests of Koraput and Malkangiri. “This is also the time when they recruit cadres,” said a police officer.

The Odisha government’s helplessness against the Maoists is evident from the fact that rebels have managed to spread their tentacles to 19 out of Odisha’s 30 districts. Significantly, more than 2,000 posts of policemen in these districts are lying vacant though the government claims to have spent around Rs 143 crore on the development of the Maoist belt.

Apart from sporadic violence during the PLGA week, the Maoists have also launched a publicity campaign by plastering the walls of towns and villages in Malkangiri, Koraput and Gajapati districts with “revolutionary” posters. The posters urged the people to support Maoists’ war against Odisha. One of the posters said the PLGA would soon be renamed as PLA (Peoples Liberation Army).

A press release issued by the CPI (Maoist) central committee on the occasion of the week lashed out at the party’s former Odisha State Organising Committee secretary Sabyasachi Panda, dubbing him a renegade, who was out to destroy the Maoist movement.

Panda, who was expelled from the CPI (Maoist) in August for alleged anti-party activities, has floated the Odisha Maobadi Party which is trying hard to expand its base. However, the rebel leader is being hunted both by the security forces and his own former colleagues, who want him punished for going astray and questioning the top party leadership.

Panda fell out with the CPI (Maoist) leadership after he kidnapped two Italian nationals in March without taking his seniors, especially the leaders from Andhra Pradesh, into confidence. He also criticised the leaders from Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for exploiting the cadres from Odisha.