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Former allies take on Maoists

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 27: The tide in Odisha’s Maoist-dominated hinterland seems to be turning against the rebels with local tribal people, who once worked with them as allies, ready to fight them.

The latest proof of their friendly relations turning adversarial comes from Nuapada district, where tribal residents of around 50 villages within Sunabeda sanctuary bordering Chhattisgarh have decided to resist the entry of Maoists to their area.

The tribal people of the region, who till a few months ago were gathering intelligence on behalf of the Maoists apart from providing them food and shelter, resolved to draw the battle lines after the radicals killed one of them last month after branding him as police informer. Armed with traditional bows and arrows, the local youths are reportedly guarding their villages to prevent the entry of the rebels.

“The killing of Bishnu Meher, who hailed from Khadang village, shocked the tribal people living in the sanctuary. Now, they are determined not to let rebels enter their hamlets,” said Nuapada sub-divisional police officer Ashish Singh.

With the Maoists now preying upon them, disillusionment among the tribal people is growing and they are increasingly defying the rebels’ diktat. There have been skirmishes among them not only in Nuapada, but also in Koraput and Malkangiri districts, where the extremists had succeeded in setting up strong bases with the help of the tribal people.

“What has shocked the tribals most is the utter disregard of the new crop of Maoists even for the Praja courts which, in the past, were considered a must before executing an enemy or a police informer. These days the rebels don’t even respect the law of the jungle. They kill people on flimsy grounds,” said a senior police officer.

Resentment against the rebels has also been growing in Malkangiri, often described as the Maoist capital of Odisha. Even the tribal people residing in the district’s “cut-off” area, so called because of its difficult terrain which makes it a haven for the Left-wing extremists, have begun to raise their voice against the trigger-happy radicals.

“About one-and-a-half months ago, residents of Andrapalli gram panchayat in the cut-off area rose in rebellion against the Maoists and barred their entry to their area. The resistance was led by a female sarpanch, Chandrama Bishoi, who showed exemplary courage in the face of Maoist threats,” said Malkangiri superintendent of police Akhileshwar Singh.

Similar incidents have also taken place in Andrahal and Marigeta areas of Malkangiri with the rising tide of rebellion unnerving the Maoists, who, in some cases, have resorted to retaliatory violence. Between April and October, they have killed a village headman and a sarpanch, both tribal people, to re-establish authority.

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