RAYAGADA: The Dongria Kondhs of the Niyamgiri hills in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) which shot into limelight for their fight against bauxite mining, are caught in the crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists.
Constantly under watch of the Left Wing Extremists who hold sway over Rayagada-Kalahandi-Balangir axis, the tribals have become soft targets. Some of the Dongrias, who have leaned towards the civic action programmes (or Maitri Mela) frequently conducted by the police, have faced death.
The killing of Mali Pushika by the Maoists on Tuesday has further exposed the reign of terror unleashed in the hills. The police had planned a Maitri Mela in the Niyamgiri hills on Tuesday but called it off following a tip-off about the presence of the rebels.
The body of Pushika of Salphajhola village was lying deserted for five to six hours and later cremated by the Dongrias in the evening. Police could not reach the place to recover the body or conduct a post-mortem.
Police said Pushika was targeted because he had refused to withdraw a rape case which he had registered against one Bari Pidikaka of Tahali village, reportedly a member of Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti.
This is not a solitary case. Earlier, Dadhi Sikaka of Ambodhuni village, Tahalu Sikaka of Dangamati village, Manu Sikaka of Phakeri village and Syam Kadraka of Nirgundi village fell prey to the Maoists after being branded as police informers. In all the cases, no post-mortem was done as the bodies were cremated by the Dongrias before the police could reach the spot.
Despite being troubled, the Dongrias are reluctant to accept the presence of Maoists in Niyamgiri.
On the other hand, not willing to give up, the security forces are constantly holding camps around Niyamgiri and launching anti-Maoist operations leaving the Red rebels fuming.
The tribals, who look to police for security, do not find much solace. One Dongria Kondh youth was killed in an alleged encounter in February last year. While the police are claiming Manda Sikaka of Dangamati was in the Maoist camp, Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti claims it to be a fake encounter. On the other hand, one of the reasons why Pushika was killed is stated to be his defiance to the Maoists and the other outfit.
Such is the situation in the hills that villagers are scared to use mobile phones as it brings them under the scanner of the Red rebels. Sources said about five Dongria youths are on the hit list of Maoists for which they fear to return to their home land. The frequent warnings to Dongria youths by the Maoists through posters and banners asking them to desist from being police informers have spread panic in the area.