In his 20-year career as a police officer, he has seen the rise of Maoists in the red zone of Malkangiri, and thrice he came close to death. A landmine planted by the rebels almost blew up his father, a Congress leader of Malkangiri district. But he, too, survived. As the threats became more severe and his name appeared on the hit list of Maoists in 2002, he had to be posted out of Malkangiri to Koraput police station as the officer-in-charge.
Today, former police officer Sarat Chandra Buruda is back to fight as a politician in the same area where he and the rebels once played the cat-and-mouse game. Buruda, a Koya tribal from Sherpalli village of Malkangiri, resigned the job in February to contest from Chitrakonda assembly constituency on a BJP ticket.
“There is a dearth of leadership in Malkangiri. Several politicians have become the MLA from Chitrakoda, but never came back to stay after their victory. But I want to change this. My goal was to transform the image of Chitrakonda from a Maoist-dominated area to a development zone. In 2009, I offered my resignation but it was not accepted. But this time I was determined to quit my job and fight the polls,” said Buruda, sitting at his temporary election office in Chitrakonda town.
Few have experienced the violent history of Chitrakonda more closely than the 44-year-old former police officer. In 2000, when he was officer-in-charge of the Chitrakonda police station, Maoists had accosted him for his police revolver. But Buruda says that he craftily hid the revolver, and that the rebels, failing to find it, let him go. The second time he gave death a miss was in 2001 after a Maiost landmine blast’s timing went awry.
The third time he says he survived Maoists was on February 6, 2004, just a month before the general elections, when over 200 Maoists attacked significant police establishments such as Koraput district armoury, five police stations, Koraput jail, an SP’s office and the OSAP battalion killing four policemen, including 3 CRPF jawans, while injuring six others. After the attack, he was shifted to the Special Intelligence Wing, the anti-Maoist intelligence force of Orissa police.
Buruda feels Maoists have now become dacoits. “The corrupt officers and Maoists are sharing the funds that come for Malkangiri’s development. The rebels are no longer friends of tribals. I want to help the area make a fresh start and bring in real development,” he said.
According to local residents of Chitrakonda, Buruda has a good chance of winning as the Bengalis in the district should vote for him; they are unhappy with the BJD for not giving an assembly ticket to former minister Arabinda Dhali, a Bengali.