The Chhattisgarh police have pinned their hopes on the construction of two key roads in the state's Sukma district to win the "war" against Maoists in their strongest base.
According to police, the two roads -- one connecting Dornapal to Jagargunda and the other Injram to Bhejji -- in the heart of the Maoist dominion, will not only curb the activities of the rebels but also prove pivotal to the people living in the area.
Last month, 25 Central Reserve Police Force jawans were slain in one of the deadliest Naxal attacks in Sukma district. The attack came when they were guarding an under-construction road.
"The two roads being built in Sukma are not only strategically important but also crucial for the people living in this inaccessible region," Special Director General of Police (Anti-Maoist operations) D M Awasthi said.
These roads are of great importance to win the war against the rebels in Sukma, he added.
The Sukma district, in the southernmost Bastar division, lies near the junction of three states -- Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra -- with Maoists dominating the region through an extensive network of 'Janatana Sarkar' (people's government) units coupled with dreaded guerrilla fighter battalions.
The Maoists fear that construction of roads will speed up the movement of security forces and development works in Bastar region, thereby uprooting them, he said.
He said the road connectivity would help villagers, mostly tribals, to avail the benefits of government schemes and directly connect them to the administration.
"Naxals do not want these roads to be laid. Therefore they launch attacks on security forces and damage the roads, vehicles and machines used in construction works," he said.
The road being built from Dornapal (on NH-30) to Jagargunda, one of the most sensitive areas inside the forest, is around 56 kms long. An 8-km stretch from Dornapal to Gorgunda has been completed, while the base work for one more km has been done.
The remaining 47-km stretch, being built by the Police Housing Corporation, is under construction.
The road, which starts from Dornapal, reaches Jagargunda while passing through Gorgunda, Polampalli, Kankerlanka, Puswada, Temelwada, Chintagufa, Burkapal, Chintalnar and Narsapuram villages, the police officer said.
This strategically important route has five police stations, besides paramilitary camps, at 11 different locations mainly to ensure protection to the construction of the road being built at a cost of Rs 122 crore, he said.
Similarly, the under-construction Injram to Bhejji (20 km) road is also considered as a strategically important route in the Naxal hinterland of Sukma.
Injram, situated on Sukma-Konta road, is a patch on NH-30. The first seven kms of road on this route is being built by the public works department. The cement concrete laying work of the first 4 kms has been completed.
In the remaining 13 kms being built by PHC, the cement concrete work has been completed up to seven kms, he said.
This road is being built at the cost of Rs 35 crore.
Notably, the Naxals have inflicted maximum causalities on security forces in Sukma region, particularly in the area close to these two roads.
Before the deadly April 24 attack near Burkapal village, several major attacks took place in this region. On March 11, 12 CRPF personnel were killed in a Naxal attack in Bhejji area.
Nearly 76 security personnel were killed in the Naxal ambush in Tadmetla in 2010, seven STF men in Pidmel (Polampalli) in 2015, and 14 CRPF personnel in 2014 in Kasalpada (Chintagufa), a pattern that shows the dominance of Naxals in the region.
State Home Minister Ramsewak Paikra also believes that the construction of these two roads is vital for the development of Sukma as well as to take on the Maoists.
"We are determined to develop Bastar region through various schemes and projects but Naxals do not want the benefits reach to tribals. The construction of roads in Sukma is indeed very crucial," Paikra said.
The road construction work in the region has gained momentum in the past couple of years and simultaneously the operations of security forces have also increased in the Maoists stronghold, he said.
"The Naxals are disappointed with these developments and the recent attacks on security forces are a result of their frustration," the Home minister said.
Meanwhile, a senior police official, posted in Bastar, stressed on the need to break the influential Janatana Sarkar network of Maoists with development works in Sukma.
The two recent attacks on CRPF have once again raised questions over the plan and action in this area which had earlier too witnessed a number of Naxal ambushes, the officer said on the condition of anonymity.
The quadrilateral patch of Sukma, from Dornapal to Kistaram and Bhejji to Jagargunda on Golappalli track (spread in an area of around 4,000 sq km in South Bastar), serves as a haven for Naxals.
The area not only helps the rebels in movement across Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra through Chhattisgarh, but also for their guerrilla warfare training amid the dense forests and inaccessible terrain, he said.
The Naxals have spread their base in the forests of Sukma in the past three decades. It will take time to reclaim the region in their heartland, he added.
"Sukma is one of the highest militarised districts in the country with deployment of over 10,000 personnel there. But along with deployment, the need is to strengthen the intelligence network and we are making serious efforts in this direction," the police officer said.
Photograph: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com