Maoist Activity Increases in Madhya Pradesh Post Milind Teltumbde’s Death
Maoists carried out three separate arson incidents in MP's Balaghat after the death of Deepak Teltumbde.
Maoists allegedly set construction vehicles, including a road roller and a JCB, ablaze in Mandwa village of Balaghat district on Wednesday, 8 December. Approximately 40 maoists are alleged to have threatened labourers and torched construction machines including a hot mix plant, a JCB, a roller and a motorcycle engaged in the construction of the Bithali-Pathri road in the district.
The locals present at the scene said that Maoists even took their phones before they fled the scene.
Similar arson incidents were carried out earlier in Koraka on 3 December and Bodalijhola on 6 December in Balaghat district. In all the incidents, the Maoists left banners and posters mentioning the death of Ultras in an encounter in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, and calling for a ‘band’.
Maoists appear to have designated Madhya Pradesh- Maharashtra-Chhattisgarh zone (MMC) as their latest area of expansion. Milind alias Deepak Teltumbde was tasked with the expansion and strengthening of the cadre in this zone. Post Deepak's death on 13 November this year, the MMC is currently headless.
A number of Maoist women were also purportedly involved in the recent incidents of arson carried out by banned outfit CPI (Maoists) in the Balaghat district of MP.
Delving further into details, Sajid Shapoo, IG, Naxal operations, Madhya Pradesh said:
"There have been some incidents by the Maoists of burning the construction vehicles in the region and we have increased our presence in the area. They are trying to re-assert their dominance and trying to prove that the death of Deepak has not weakend them to that extent. But it's not true. The govt is very serious about this and we are doing everything to eradicate the Maoist issue from the state."
Increased Maoist Activity Cause of Worry For Madhya Pradesh Govt
Madhya Pradesh government has been constantly reluctant in acknowledging the severity of Maoist presence in the state. Though the recent developments indicate otherwise. Between 2018 and 2021, two more districts, Mandla and Dindori, featured on the list of districts affected by left-wing extremists (LWE).
Over the years, Maoists have shifted focus to the areas of Kanha national park and Bhoramdeo wildlife sanctuary situated at the border of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The MMC zone created by the Maoists in 2016-17, maps the districts situated at the tri-junction of the three states. They have also created two divisions in the zone, the Gondia-Rajnandgaon-Balaghat division and the Kanha-Bhoramdeo division.
Plans to convert the thick forests of the Amarkantak and Kanha-Bhoramdeo area into a safe haven for the Maoists have also been confirmed by former close aides of Deepak who had surrendered in the past.
“This is a very crucial time for Maoists, especially after the death of Deepak Teltumbde. They are weak, unorganised to some extent and are headless. This is the time when Madhya Pradesh police should increase anti-Maoists operations. If they (Maoists) will be allowed to recuperate by not acting they will only strengthen their cadres. They have already developed two area committees in the Kanha-Bhoramdeo division, but now, since Deepak is gone, things are in a bit of a disarray. It’s the prime time for police to tighten the noose.”Senior journalist requesting anonymity
Earlier on 13 November, the day 26 Maoists were killed by Maharashtra’s anti-insurgency forces, Maoists killed two villagers over the suspicion of them of being police informers in Malikhedi village which falls under Baihar police station in Balaghat district.
Why is MP’s Kanha Important for Maoists?
One of the major reasons for developing MMC is the proximity of Amarkantak forests to that of Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Odisha. It gives the ultras a through-the-forest-safe-passage to these states. It is a passage well-connected to Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh.
Sources say that more than 300 Maoists are currently active in the KB division as part of ‘Vistar Dalam’ (A group tasked with the expansion of the Maoists cadre) and the two area committees formed in the region.
Initially, a small band of 40-50 rebels were sent to scope out the area, understand the region, its geopolitics, public issues among other things under the ‘Vistar Dalam’. However, both the recent countrywide lockdowns imposed due to COVID, provided the Maoists with ample time and freedom to convince the locals into joining the armed rebellion.
In Kanha-Bhoramdeo especially the parts of Kanha, ie, Balaghat, Mandla and Dindori districts Maoists have been constantly strengthening their cadres. Many are still, however, the cadres sent from South Bastar and other parts, but the growing number of incidents and the visible appearance of woman Maoists points to the fact that they have started getting traction in parts of the KB division falling in Madhya Pradesh.
MP Playing Down the Maoist Threat?
“In the Kanha-Bhoramdeo areas, we have come to know that Maoists have constituted an area committee and they are planning to intensify their efforts in the region," a senior police officer told The Quint, and voiced concerns about the Madhya Pradesh police not taking it seriously enough.
"The Madhya Pradesh police though seem to not take this seriously. This might be the biggest mistake that they are making. Maoists are weak now, less in numbers, have less local support; couple that with the loss of Deepak Teltumbde. This is the right time to act, attack and dissipate their presence from Kanha-Bhoramdeo. If not, the longer Maoists remain unchecked, the stronger their cadres will come.”Senior Police Officer
Along with Kanha-Bhoramdeo being most suitable for the Maoists to take refuge and strengthen their cadres the response from the MP govt has failed to initiate serious efforts to counter insurgency in the area.
Talking to The Quint Abhishek Tiwari, SP Balaghat, meanwhile, said, "There have been incidents of Naxals after Deepak's death in the district and mostly they are being carried out by the cadres imported from the Bastar and Gadchiroli region. We are carrying out operations like area domination and patrolling in the area and taking all measures to curb Maoist movement in the area."
Sources say that the situation in Kanha is far worse than the state is realizing. In the interiors, the forest officers are too afraid to even go there. Officers rush out of the forest before sunset. The fear is palpable now among the locals as well as the government employees who frequent the forests of Kanha.
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