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Maoists’ surrender comes down during note ban
Post the Malkangiri bravado, the Odisha police apparently missed an evolving blip flashed on its security radar during the demonetisation (DeMo) months.
When Chhattisgarh saw nearly over 300 surrenders of the Left-Wing Extremists (LWE) cadres, Odisha witnessed only a few LWE surrenders in November and completely nil in the month of December. The lull, therefore, in LWE surrenders during demonetisation period was a significant security alert for the police establishment here. After the lethal Malkangiri strike on Maoists by joint command of Odisha and Andhra police that bled the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) command of Naxals quite grievously, coupled with the demonetisation bombshell dropped by PM Narendra Modi which was a blow against the ultra transactions, the expectation was a rush in LWE surrenders in Odisha.
A senior CRPF official engaged in anti-Maoist operation in Odisha said the lull in surrenders, however, indicated otherwise. That the Maoists were still a force to reckon with was manifested quite starkly in the Sunki booby trap attack by the ultras on the non-combat police party that killed nearly six security personnel.
Significantly, LWE surrenders in Odisha till October 2016 was around 55 and the year ended with only 63 total surrenders compared to 73 surrenders in 2015 and over 100 each in 2013 and 2014. But in case of Chhattisgarh, the total surrenders last year were nearly three times of 2015 and 2014, data revealed. Interestingly, Andhra Pradesh too has recorded a fall in LWE surrenders vis-a-vis 2015 and 2014 like Odisha, when Odisha-Andhra joint command has launched a successful operation against the Maoists last year.
Also, in yet another significant indicator of Maoist violence, the total Naxal incidents in the State showed only a marginal fall to around 86 in 2016 compared to over 90 in 2015. And Odisha is the only State in the country that showed spurt in Maoist incidents in the post demonetisation month (Jan 2017) when total incidents were double the number in January 2016. So, it was crystal clear that Maoists had the power in Odisha to inflict fear on their adversaries despite Malkangiri attack and demonetisation, observed CRPF experts. Despite LWEs upping their ante in some regions of the State, no reports of any big escalation has come from any parts of the State on the eve of Panchayat polls so far and security forces still feel of having an upper hand over the Maoists.
The reason: Though LWE affected districts in Odisha are counted high at around 20 (of 30 districts), for the last five years, the actual number has shrunk to around 15 with only Koraput-Malkangiri remaining the epicentre. This scenario suits the security forces as they can engage in focussed battles with the ultras rather than fight on multiple fronts.
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