File picture of a Maoist training camp
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 25: In an early morning attack, Maoists blew up the Padia block office building in Malkangiri district, around 500km from here, casting a pall of gloom on Christmas celebrations in the area.
Residents of the tiny settlement, barely 70km from the district headquarters town, initially mistook the explosions that occurred around 2am, as celebratory fireworks for Christmas. But truth dawned upon them quickly as smoke billowed from the block office which was gutted completed in the attack.
Malkangiri superintendent of police Akhileshwar Singh said around 50 Maoists, armed with high-power explosives, stormed into Padia under Kalimela police station area early in the morning. They set the block office building on fire before triggering the blasts. No one was, however, killed in the explosions as the building was empty at the time of the attack.
Four rooms of the office building were gutted completely and a huge pile of documents destroyed in the attack that was the second of its kind since 2010 when rebels had razed to the ground the new block building in Padia in a similar manner.
“Stacks of important documents in the office have been charred. Hardly any part of the building is left intact,” said block development officer Trinath Majhi.
The Maoists left behind posters condemning the killing of 13 of their cadres in an encounter in Malkangiri in September. The rebels also demanded an immediate halt to the operation by security forces against them. Combing operation has been intensified in the area with BSF and District Voluntary Force conducting searches in villages and the forests near Padia.
Security forces also stepped up operation in Raikia area of Kandhamal district where two rifles and a huge cache of explosives were seized following an encounter between police and the Maoists today. Though there were no casualties, DIG (southern range) Amitabh Thakur said some Maoists might have been wounded in the gun battle.
A senior police official said stepped up violence by the rebels was a sign of desperation as they were increasingly losing cadres in encounters and support among the tribals, who once protected them and also collected intelligence on their behalf.
“In Malkangiri they are also upset as the number of BSF camps in the district has gone up making it difficult for them to carry out their operations. One of these camps has come up on the way to the district’s cut-off area, which has been a Maoist stronghold and gives the ultras easy access to Chhatisgarh across the border,” said a senior officer.
Significantly, the attack on the Padia block office comes in the wake of four killings by the rebels in Malkangiri district in the last two weeks. On December 14, the rebels had shot dead three persons, including a contractor and a village panchayat ward member. On December 12 they had killed a 65-year-old man, who happened to be the father of a panchayat member.
Officials in Bhubaneswar said anti-Maoist operations throughout the state would be stepped up soon with the deployment of extra forces in vulnerable districts such as Malkangiri and Koraput. However, they rued the transfer of intelligence director Abhay, who was shifted yesterday in the wake of chief minister’s carcade being waylaid by protestors near the secretariat.
“He was an efficient officer, who had strengthened the police intelligence network in the Maoist belt. We were beginning to reap the fruits of his labour when he was shunted out,” said an officer, who refused to be named.