The Chhattisgarh Police Tuesday said they suspect an outbreak of Covid-19 among Maoist ranks, citing a purported letter that mentioned an “illness” many cadres had succumbed to.
The police said they found the letter during a raid at a Maoist camp in Bijapur district’s Palnar village on Tuesday. While the letter does not say the illness is Covid-19, senior police officials believe the coronavirus has spread among Maoists in Bastar division.
The letter, seen by The Indian Express, is addressed to one “comrade didi” and states that several members of Dakshin Bastar, Darbha and Pashchim Bastar divisons are fighting an “illness”.
Written in Gondi, it says seven Maoists including a commander of the Chetna Natya Mandali (a cultural arm) and battalion members of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army died due to the illness. Three others are said to be “critical”.
“The ill are being treated at your location. From what I have heard, the disease spreads fast and affects the elderly. You need to take care of yourself. In the last zonal meeting, I had tried to caution everyone, but the senior zonal members had not taken me seriously. You must remember that I had had a hot discussion with Vikas dada. Zonal members don’t relay the right information to the lower cadres. Through news we are hearing about the deaths of several thousand daily. If we stay alive, only then can we carry the revolution forward,” the letter said.
Complaining about a lack of permanent leadership, the letter also said that several cadres had run away from their teams due to the fear of the disease.
“The letter states that due to our outreach and camp establishment, the Maoists have been facing trouble in acquiring medicines, ration and other supplies,” a senior officer said. He added: “The Maoists are facing a tough time due to the spread of Covid-19 virus amongst their members, we had such information. The letter is a proof of the same.”
IG Sundarraj said the illness being mentioned was Covid-19. “We have corroborating field inputs regarding the same,” he said.
According to senior police officers from the Bastar division, they had received information on the death of at least one member from the battalion. “Senior members had forbidden the teams to say Covid-19 and had told the cadres to communicate using letters. We have information that some of them have gotten infected with the Covid-19 virus across Bijapur and Sukma,” a senior police officer said.
Officials in Bastar believe that Maoists could have contracted the virus from their operatives in Andhra Pradesh even as infections are spreading in Bastar’s rural area. “Several people in the tribal belt in the region of their operation are at risk and we are monitoring the situation,” the officer said.