RAIPUR: The outlawed CPI (Maoist) on a backfoot, faced with consistent aggressive coordinated onslaught by security forces, had asked the local traders to restart weekly haat bazar (markets) left abandoned for past many years owing the naxal terror in interior areas of strife-torn Sukma district, south Chhattisgarh.
The rebels' move is seen as an attempt to regain the losing trust and support from the masses. The left-wing extremists simultaneously raised a demand from the vendors to pay the rebels their annual tax. The traders returning from Jagargunda weekly haat bazar on their vehicles were stopped by the armed Maoists who took them to the remote forest, held meetings and asked them to set up rural trading venue as weekly haat bazaar in different villages for the local population. The naxals also instructed each trader to pay annual levy of Rs 500 besides Rs 5000 annually each for their transport vehicle they use for their business. The "consent" serves twin objective for Naxals - regaining the trust of villagers and the financial gain.
According to the businessmen, the Maoist commander Anil took the meeting and they were asked to start the weekly markets that were discontinued earlier in the interior villages. The ultras even suggested the traders that if the police halt their vehicles to enter interior areas then report it to the district collector. Several markets in interior areas were closed down owing to Maoists terror and the hundreds of tribal villagers had to move several kilometre to reach the nearest market to buy their requirements. The jungle warfare experts interpret the 'consent' given by the naxalites to the businessmen to again set up weekly markets in interior areas as an strategy to win over the trust of the local tribals.
"Apparently the Maoists are now trying to regain the cooperation and support of the population because they find the local masses are going away from them. People are now more inclined towards the police and the government. The law enforcing agencies have already won their confidence", said Brigadier (Rtd) B K Ponwar, the Director of Kanker-based Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College. The Chhattisgarh police in Bastar cited the rebels' diktat on traders will not have any affect as the naxalites are fast losing popular backing of the masses.
"It's good for the tribal population if the markets starts functioning in interior areas. The villagers perception about the police have drastically changed as they are increasingly reaching out to us to get their grievances redressed", DIG Ratanlal Dangi told the Express.