Dantewara, Nov. 23: On November 20, the People’s War Group’s western Bastar divisional committee commandant faced a few select reporters in the deep jungle village of Bareguda at 12.30 am.
Ganesh Uike, at home in his hideout about 550 km from Raipur, told them: “We are going to violently oppose the poll this time — remember, violently.”
The man on the street in Chhattisgarh has nothing to do with the polls scheduled for December 1, he said. “We will not let the mockery go on smoothly,” Uike added.
A day later, the PWG blew up a police van near Siksid village in Kanker district, killing armed policeman Samarunram Mirdha. The next afternoon, a BJP poll vehicle was torched near Pakhajur weekly market in the same district.
Terror had been struck into the hearts of the residents of Dantewara, Bhosi, Erabore, Jungla Bijapur and Bhopalpatnam police-station areas in the state’s worst Naxalite-hit district of Dantewara.
About two weeks before elections, posters warning villagers to stay indoors on poll day had appeared all over Bijapur and Konta in Dantewara.
“The threat is sure to scare away shy tribals from (polling) booths. We fear this time the voting could be less than 30 per cent,” said former Konta MLA Manish Kunjam, who is a CPI candidate.
Over a hundred kilometres northwest of Dantewara, in a hilly jungle corridor where the cacophony of the poll campaign is a distant noise, Uike declared the PWG’s no-confidence in both the ruling Congress and the BJP.
“Despite being tribal, he has no interest in solving the basic problem of the indigenous inhabitants,” Uike said, referring to chief minister Ajit Jogi.
Though he did not comment on the Dilip Singh Judeo cash-on-disc controversy, Uike said the BJP was trying to divide the poor along caste lines.
“Let us dispel any rumour that we are by the Congress side,” he said, “nor are we sympathetic to the Christians as Christian missionaries are the paid agents of colonial powers.”
Election time is as good a time as any to propagate ideology and the PWG is determined to that in this village of Bhopalpatnam block, where Raipur is irrelevant and the rebel outfit has camps and runs a parallel administration.
How powerful is the PWG in this region, which is 5 km from Maharashtra and over 20 km from Andhra Pradesh and has a mixed populace of Maharashtrians, Telugus, and Bengalis'
“We have over 17 dastas (groups) active in the terrain and they rule their liberated zones from the jungle. We used to be dismissed as poorly armed curios from another time. But our weaponry is unmatched now,” Uike said, showing off the Kalashnikovs and automatic guns slung from the shoulders of the teenage guards standing behind him.
Striking terror during poll time has been a routine exercise in all 20 Assembly constituencies in Bastar, Kanker, Dantewara and Surguja districts.
Police outposts in the jungles are particularly soft targets for the Naxalites who have an edge in attacking from the cover of forests and hill corridors, Dantewara superintendent of police P.S. Bara said.
Though the local tribals are oblivious of the armed PWG cadre, administrative circles are on edge after the Naxalite attacks.
The state’s chief election officer, K.K. Chakraborty, said adequate paramilitary forces would be rushed to all polling stations in Bastar division, which is in the grip of terror. “Besides, army helicopters will keep an aerial vigil,” he added.