New morrow brings hope without fear for weary Malkangiri
An assured state now operates a fully functional police station right in the heart of where darkness once pervaded.
In the southern tip of Odisha, Malkangiri district evoked a sense of alienation for an extended part of recent history. It would often be dotted with references to ‘cut-off area’, backwardness, violence, bloodshed and fear. Something interesting happened over the last fortnight in the once-cut-off region with a cluster of 151 villages islanded by a large reservoir on one side and hills on the other. A team of senior officers of the Odisha government reviewed projects and spent a night in the zone, which was unheard of. Ever since left-wing extremists infiltrated the area and took control of the lives and fates of thousands of inhabitants at the turn of the century, government and governance had completely retreated.
Last week, a film production company that made the hugely successful Pushpa arrived at the same place and sought permission to shoot the movie’s sequel. Slowly but surely, ‘Swabhiman Anchal’, as it is now called, has witnessed history recalibrating itself. Between 2008 and 2018, this hotbed of Maoist-fuelled violence recorded the deaths of over 70 security personnel, including the elite Greyhounds from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. In the last five years, no police officer has fallen to the bullets or blasts triggered by the Red rebels. For long, top officers of central paramilitary forces and state police would make a quiet arrival here and leave by sundown. Now, the zone has seven company-operated bases established by Border Security Force and Odisha Police. The security forces have not just cleared and held the ground; they stand guard on almost every inch of it. An assured state now operates a fully functional police station right in the heart of where darkness once pervaded.
Much of the credit must go to the relentless efforts by the state, ably supported by the Centre in fighting Naxalism in the area, and the growing social infrastructure built under the security umbrella in the last decade. Gurupriya Setu, whose construction started in the middle of the 1980s, only to be completed by the Naveen Patnaik government in 2018, built the proverbial bridges. Improved road communication brought in more deployment of security forces and ushered in development initiatives, so much so that the government has ensured a reverse weaning off of the tribal populace from the Maoists. That the district looks forward to its first airstrip in 2024 sums up the new story of Malkangiri.