Agitated crowd,comprising of women and a group of Special Police Officers (SPOs),threw eggs at social activist Swami Agnivesh,hurled abuses,pulled him out of his car,pushed him around and forced him to return as he was proceeding towards Tadmetla near Chintalnar where the security forces had allegedly set more than a 100 houses ablaze following the death of their three colleagues in an encounter with Maoists on March 14.
Swami Agnivesh,accompanied by Acharya Rishi and other representatives of Art of Living,had left the rest house at Sukma early in the morning on their way to Chintalnar to meet the people whose houses where burnt by the security forces and to provide relief material to them. Unknown people,suspected to be SPOs belonging to the Koya Commandos,followed the three member delegation and the media personnel accompanying Swamy in vehicles without number plates throughout the nearly 40 Kms stretch up to Dornapal.
A large number of people,including women,were present at Dornapal crossing,blocking the road that leads to Chintalnar. As Swamy Agniveshs vehicle stopped,few people gathered around his vehicle and shouted Are we all animals? Dont we have any human rights? See these women. They are widows of Errabore,where the Maoists had set ablaze a relief camp killing more than 33 people few years ago.
Even as few people were shouting at Swamy Agnivesh and others,few women forcibly opened the vehicles door and pulled him out and pushed him around while a group of youths searched his vehicle and took away bags and other valuables. These youths also snatched camera,mobile phones and bags from a couple of media personnel and pushed them accusing the media of playing into the hands of rights activists and directly and indirectly supporting the Maoists. The youth,apparently SPOs,were alert to ensure that no photographs are taken.
Where were you when 76 security personnel were massacred by the Maoists at Tadmetla in April last year? Where were you when the Naxalites set the relief camp on firefew years and burnt 33 people,including children,alive few years ago?,the agitated crowed threw questions at Swamy Agnivesh,Art of Living Gurus and at the media personnel accompanying them.
Agniveshs reply that he and others had always condemned all acts of violence provoked the agitators,including women,who hurled abuses at them raising slogans Pakdi wale vapas jao. The people also deflated the tyres of the vehicles,saying that they would not allow them to proceed to Chintalnar. However,someone in the crowd was heard asking the youth the return the belongings,including those of media personnel,before they could return.
Later,the mob took Swamy Agnivesh and others to their vehicle and forced them to leave. A group of tribal women and others got on to other vehicles and followed his vehicle for about 20 Kms so as to ensure that the team did not return to Dornapal. The people also snatched blankets and other materials which were meant to the distributed to the people of three villages whose houses were burnt down in the second week of this month.
After Swami Agnivesh and others left,the villages blocked National Highway 30which connects Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradeshto prevent movement of people towards Chintalnar.
As everyone was returning to block headquarters Sukma,this correspondent got a call on cell phone and the female voice on the other side identified herself as Comrade Niti,commander of CPI (Maoist) East Batar Divisional Committee. She read out a statement condemning the burning of houses by the security forces and communicated CPI (Maoist) decision to call a bandh in April against the police brutalities. She said there would be an economic blockade next month but schools,hospitals and colleges and other essential services would be exempted.
Comrade Niti and her team had abducted five policemen few months ago and later they were released after Swami Agnivesh,Rights activist Gautam Navlaka mediated for their release from captivity.
Apart from Dornapal,hundreds of people,who are staying in the relief camps at Errabore and Pollampalli,had gathered on the way from Dornapal to Chintalnar to prevent Swamy Agnivesh and media personnel from reaching Tadmetla. Most of the relief campswhich were set up by the government after the Salwa Judum movement are being guarded by the Special Police Officers (SPOs),the local youth recruited on honorarium basis,to assist the security forces.
Every action seemed that someone had taught them to do so. I am going back to Sukma and wait to talk to Chief Minister Raman Singh. Suspicious people are following us in vehicles without number plates. What does it mean? ,Swami Agnivesh told the Indian Express while returning from Dornapal.
The situation in this entire tribal region is tense for more than a weekresembling a police Raj– as the security personnel,mostly SPOs belonging to the Koya Commando are carrying out searches of vehicles to prevent outsiders from visiting Tadmetla,Morpalli and Timmapuram villages. Media personnel from Andhra Pradesh as well as Chhattisgarh were not allowed to proceed to these villages,citing one reason or the other and drivers are being threatened not to take any passengers to the area.
Even the local government staff is scared of the SPOs said a group of government staff,who went to these villages yesterday to supply relief material and food to the affected tribals,were threatened by the SPOs not the visit this area again. SPOs have become reckless. Somehow we managed to return to Dornapal,a government who accompanied the team said.
The latest incident of burning of houses has resulted in escalation of tension in the area with the local,supported by the police and the SPOs,on one side and the Maoists and their supporters on the other side.