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Orissa tribals have PW on the run

Orissa tribals have PW on the run

Author: Ashutosh Mishra/ Bhubaneswar
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 7, 2003

The growing disillusionment of the tribals with the Naxalites, in their once impregnable strongholds of Malkangiri, Gajpati and Rayagada has put the People's War cadres in Orissa on the defensive.

A stepped up drive by the tribals against the ultras has resulted in the arrest and surrender of at least 50 PW operatives in the state's southern districts bordering Andhra Pradesh during the last three months. This is the first time that the Naxalites are being hunted down by tribals who, until recently, were counted among their most ardent protectors.

The state police is delighted at the phenomenon as the unexpected about turn of the Adivasis has given them a strong ally in their war against the People's War, the biggest ultra left outfit operating in Orissa.

"The tribals have turned upon the Naxalites because of the growing lumpenisation of the ultra Left movement. The PW operatives who until recently swore by the ideology of Mao and Marx and went out of the way to protect the interests of the Adivasis have suddenly begun extorting money from them and exploiting them in other ways.

Ironically enough, the biggest victim of the tribal onslaught has been the PW group led by legendary Savyasachi Panda who also leads the Kui Labanga Sangha and some other frontal organisations of the Naxalites in the Rayagada-Gajpati belt.

In the last three months, at least 20 supporters and comrades-in-arm of Panda have been forced to give up arms by the tribals who tracked them down relentlessly through their forest hide-outs. In one instance, the tribals attacked and severely injured some of Panda's followers. No wonder then that Panda is suddenly on the run.

Once the tribals realised that the Naxalites had not only failed to deliver on their promises but were actually using them as pawns in their war against the state they got wary. The extortion and violence against tribal men and women by the PW cadres added fuel to the fire. The government, on its part, accelerated the pace of developmental work in the Naxal-affected areas where road network now is far better than what it used to be five years ago.

The favourable turn of circumstances has also given the police some new ideas which, if implemented, could yield rich dividends in their operation against People's War in southern Orissa. If police officials posted in the Naxalite zone are to be believed, the anti-Naxalite force might soon evolve a system of using the local tribals as full fledged informers. The idea is to set a thief to catch a thief.

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