The killing of 13 Maoists in Malkangiri is the latest high point in the Orissa Polices war against Naxal violence. Over the past one year,led by a new DGP,the state police has inflicted several major blows on Maoists without conceding much in one of the toughest terrains in the country.
And its all been done the old school way,collecting intelligence through informers and acting on it without delay. Money is also now no longer a constraint,with Orissa Polices annual budget at Rs 1,800 crore,from Rs 450-odd crore in 1997.
Maoist fortresses Koraput and Malkangiri have now fallen. With largescale surrenders by members of the pro-Maoist front Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha,the police have the Narayanpatna block of Koraput under their control,while the killing of Madhav alias Golla Ramullu,a senior leader of the Maoists in Malkangiri,has made it much more secure.
Maoists have lost 19 cadres in five encounters over the past year,including the 13 in Malkangiri. The police have also seized massive amounts of weapons and ammunition. They have lost five men in these operations four BSF personnel in Koraput and an SPO in Malkangiri.
What has changed in Orissas anti-Maoist operations is the full backing given to SPs,making them the fulcrum of anti-Naxal operations,and the focus on collecting human intelligence.
After the September 14 Malkangiri encounter,DGP Prakash Mishra and senior officials flew down to congratulate the SP and announced a cash reward for the team,sending a clear message that the force stood together.
But not everyone is as convinced. The NHRC is probing the killing of five suspected Maoists on November 14,who were alleged to be associates of rebel leader Sabyasachi Panda.
Besides,despite the threat from Maoists going down in places like Narayanpatna block,the government has made no attempt to back this with quick development,as it had promised. Tribals there continue to lack medical centres,drinking water,schools and good roads.
The area domination by BSF jawans as well as their integration with local police is also still not up to the mark. The August landmine blast in Koraput that killed four BSF jawans,for example,was the result of just carelessness.
Questions could also be raised about the Malkangiri encounter as the 13 Maoists appear to have been shot in their sleep. At a time when it is making progress in a decade-old war,Orissa has to realise that it can hardly afford a slip-up.
Mohanty is a special correspondent based in Bhubaneswar
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