Raipur: The Chhattisgarh government is set to open eight new police camps by the end of this year to strengthen its hold in the Maoist strongholds, even as it faces protests against the move.
According to the government, the camps will come up in Dantewada, Kondagaon, Bijapur and Sukma districts.
These are part of the 15 police camps that the government has planned to set up this year. The first seven of these were established in the districts named, apart from Narayanpur, before the Covid-19 outbreak. Five more such camps will come up by March 2021.
“Innocent villagers are being needlessly killed by Maoists on the pretext of being informers. Protection of villagers is the responsibility of the government,” Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu told ThePrint.
“Setting up police camps in Maoist-held areas is an important part of the state government’s anti-Naxal policy. Once these camps open, the Naxalites’ stranglehold in this area will start to weaken on its own and other development works could also be carried out,” he added.
A number of villagers have been killed this year.
However, the latest move has faced some resistance in the villages of the areas where these camps are supposed to come up.
Police officers said ‘symbolic protests’ to these camps are being carried out under pressure from the Maoists, adding that this pressure on the villagers will diminish considerably once the police camps start functioning.
What the police says
Sundarraj P., Inspector-General of Police, Bastar, said, “A total of 15 camps of the state police are to be commissioned during 2020. Seven camps were already established in the districts of Narayanpur, Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur in February-March 2020. Eight other camps will be established by December and another five will come up by March 2021.”
Sundarraj refused to disclose the exact areas where the new camps will come up, citing safety and security of the local populace.
On the villagers’ protests, Sundarraj said, “There is great deal of enthusiasm among the villagers for the police camp. However, some people are symbolically protesting under pressure from the Naxalites. It will come to an end after the opening of the camps as security forces keep an eye on all Naxalite activities.”
He said the camps are already disrupting the Naxalites’ supply chain as well as their main pathways of transportation.
“The extent of Naxalite pressure on the villagers can be gauged from the fact that the propaganda related to the so-called protest is being spread through Maoist leaflets themselves. Naxalites want to take advantage of their terror among the villagers,” said the IG.
Impact of police camps
The practice of establishing such permanent police camps started in 2016, when 14 camps had been set up in the state. These included camps of the Chhattisgarh Police, the India Reserve Battalion (IRB) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
A total of 130 security personnel are deployed in each of these camps.
As part of the anti-Naxal policy of the state as well as the central government, these camps have been established mainly in areas that have heavy Maoist presence.
Their main objective is to establish suzerainty of the state in the Naxal-dominated areas because the government has almost no access to them until such camps are opened.
These camps also have the responsibility to extend security cover for construction of critical infrastructure, such as large bridges and strategically important roads.
Along with this, once the camps start functioning, the government is also able to provide basic facilities such as ration shops, anganwadi centres, Mitanin centres and implement other development schemes.
According to Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallava, “About 55 camps of CRPF, Indian Reserve Battalion and State Police have been established in various Naxalite dominated areas of the state during the last four years. Out of these, 35-40 camps belong to the State Police and 15-20 camps are set up by CRPF and Indian Reserve Battalion.”
He said this continuous process in Bastar has become a cause of immense trouble for the Naxalites.
“This is the reason why Naxalites are now continuously murdering innocent villagers on the suspicion of being police informers. This year the Maoists have murdered around 50 villagers so far,” said Pallava.