Raipur: Chhattisgarh Police have claimed that over 50 Maoists, including many senior insurgents, are infected with Covid-19 in their hideouts at Sukma and Bijapur districts in the state.
Over 50 Naxalites are likely in a severe grip of Covid, anti-Naxal operation head and Bastar Range Inspector General Sundarraj P. told ThePrint. “They are located in areas around Jagargunda, Basaguda, Kristaram and Pamed tribal belts in Bijapur and Sukma districts,” he said.
Other senior officers of Bastar range said many known Naxalite leaders and their team members have been suffering from acute lung infection and other symptoms of Covid-19 for some time now.
Dantewada SP Abhishek Pallava told ThePrint that Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) member Sujata, who has a reward of Rs 25 lakh on her head, is among three senior Maoists suffering from Covid.
“We have definite information that Sujata is suffering from serious Covid infection. She is unable to breathe properly and move,” Pallava said. “Sujata has been the undeclared head of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh since the death of Ramanna in December 2019. Apart from her, Naxal leader Dinesh, Darbha Valley Committee (DVC) secretary Jailal and Somdu, all carrying a reward of Rs 10 lakh, are also seriously ill with Covid infection.”
Pallava added that in addition to Covid, many Maoists are also suffering from food poisoning. This is because their supply chain had been cut off by security forces, he said. “This has forced them to consume unhealthy and unhygienic leftover food, leading to food poisoning among their cadre,” the SP said.
Another police officer from Dantewada said the Maoists’ Central Regional Committee (CRC) member Rajesh and Darbha Division Committee leader Sagar are also seriously ill with Covid-19.
Chhattisgarh is among the states worst affected by the second Covid-19 wave in the country.
As of 8 May, the state had recorded 8,42,356 cases, with 10,381 deaths. But nearly half of the deaths have taken place in the last 25 days. The state has 1,30,859 active Covid cases.
A public statement about Covid infections among Maoists was made by police Saturday. The Naxalites have so far not issued any denial to the police claims.
‘Could affect local tribals’
Bastar Range IG Sundarraj told ThePrint that there are fears the Covid-infected Maoists could put the lives of tribals living in the area at risk.
“Infected Naxals have risked the lives of local tribals in over 40 nearby villages lying in their areas of influence,” the IG said.
Another senior police officer from Bijapur said on the condition of anonymity that the “lives of over 1.5 lakh tribals in Maoist stronghold villages are at risk”. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” the officer said.
Sundarraj said police believe the Maoists may have got the infection from Andhra Pradesh amid increased contact with operatives there, a fact he attributes to their local supply chain being choked. “This is mainly because local villagers haven’t touched or interacted with those in Maoist camps for some time now,” he added.
‘Maoists seeking help online’
A senior police officer in Bastar said several Naxalite leaders have also sought online consultations from doctors. Officers claimed the sudden eruption of Covid cases has created panic among the top Maoist leadership.
“We have inputs that Maoists having Covid symptoms recently sought online medical help via video calls to doctors,” the officer said. “They have also managed to procure around 150 PPE kits and 200 Covid vaccine doses from Sukma’s Konta Tehsil area.”
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)