RAIPUR: Hundreds of tribal villagers armed with their traditional weapons launched a strong protest against the new base camp of security forces at Potali in Maoist-hit districts of Dantewada in south Chhattisgarh.
Some villagers even attempted to target the forces stationed in and around the camp with their bows and arrows, chisels and wooden sticks resulting into confrontation. The incident took place after the collector, the superintendent of police and the heads of various departments of the district visited the place to inspect the new camp.
“The situation is now under control but the forces remain vigilant. None sustained any serious injury,” said Abhishek Pallava the Dantewada superintendent of police.
The forces first resorted to lathi-charge, and despite the large presence of around 400 jawans didn’t deter the villagers, they opened fire in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the agitating mob.
Potali village is about 75 km from the Dantewada district headquarter.
The new camp has been set up in the Maoist stronghold for the personnel of Chhattisgarh police force from Special Task Force (STF), Chhattisgarh Armed Forces and District Reserve Guards (DRG). The Maoists have been strongly opposing against it.
While admitting such situation of the villagers coming out to register strong protest had never happened before in the conflict zone, the district police chief Pallava suspected it to be stage-managed and instigated by the Maoists.
“The region is dominated by senior leaders of the banned CPI (Maoist) who were the mastermind of some of the big attacks. They would never wish the camp should exist in their epicentre. The new camp will improve the security situation in the area and eventually benefit the local villagers too. Since the rebels on the back-foot are not in a position to target, the villagers, many from far off places, armed with traditional weapons, gathered as a mob to target the camp. The forces exercised enough restraint and to bring the chaotic situation under control opened fired in the air and used teargas shells to disperse the crowd causing disturbance and violence,” Pallava told this newspaper.
The villagers had earlier alleged that they are opposing the camp owing to the harassment and atrocities by the DRG jawans, who are surrendered Maoists.
“We tried to pacify the villagers making them understand the greater advantage the base camp will bring to them. Their fear of DRG, who are also local tribals, about misbehaving with the villagers is totally baseless. The victims can always lodge any complaint”, the SP affirmed.
Owing to the area being hypersensitive, the security measures have been further tightened.