Wednesday 12 January 2011

Naxalite activities gather pace

The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 is beginning to look like calendar of increasing Naxalite activity. Up to press none of this has been very visible to me here, but slowly I can see that is changing.
The first local incident was noticeable as black acrid smoke billowed its way across the nagar a few weeks back. When I arrived at the office, other staff were already present - that is a surprise in itself as I am usually the first or second person into the office in the morning. A contingent was at our gate chattering away in Oriya with concerned faces. Kana heichi? I asked. There is a bhandh (strike) called. A group are burning tyres on the main road. Kana pai? It emerged that someone had been kidnapped and the bhandh had been called to try and get action to find him. The Orissan equivalent of habeus corpus! I heard no more about that until today. The full story is still unravelling but it appears that some local councillor had been abducted. His bike, with keys in its ignition, was found outside the Temple on the edge of town.
Then yesterday when I was paying my rent, my landlady told me of a incident in Kasipur block of Rayagada district where people had been killed in a confrontation between Maoist Naxalites and police . This was the first time I had heard of there being such incidents in Kasipur where we have a field office and where I had visited in August.
I asked at worked this morning, and S told me that the Naxalite Insurgency is now more active in town as well as in the countryside, and that the situation is deteriorating. She updated me on the story of the abducted man from the type burning episode - still not found. She told me that even the local colleges are paying out protection money! And on a somewhat lighter aspect to the problem, about the family across the street from their house. The daughter of this family was recently getting married to a young man from Cuttak whose parents refused to travel here because of their fears of Naxalite action. They insisted that the wedding had to take place in Cuttack or not at all! So the woman's family had to up sticks and have everything arranged in Cuttack (very unorthodox) rather than in their home town!
Worryingly, staff at our Lanjighar office were approached by Naxalites last year. Mr P is backing out of projects there and now the office has finally closed. Such as shame as this was a really great project team who had been doing some really good work with Dongria Khondh village women to help them learn how to make and sell leaf plates, use sewing machines, manage money and bank accounts, and so generate some income for their families. I visited this project almost exactly a year ago but was never able to return because of the troubles. I do hope the work we are doing in Kasipur block does not go the same way. We have a number of projects there including solar lights, land and forest management, veterinary camps, and various livelihood initiatives and it looks likely additional funding will be available for these allowing us to expand their coverage into more villages.
So other than my ridiculous "grounding" last year, this is the nearest the Naxalite activity has come. Personally, I've seen nothing untoward here. Nor have I experienced any trouble directly. So rest assured I am safe and well.
Catch these stories here

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