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No battle against Maoists can be won without local help

Last updated on: September 25, 2009 
A tribesman carrying arrows at a camp run by the Salwa Judum in Dornapal in Chhattisgarh
In the final segment of a three part series, Krishnakumar P reports on how a traumatised 'villager' led forces to the Maoist weapons manufacturing factory inside the forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh.

Part I: New war against the Maoists

Part II: Many more battles to be won against Maoists

The credit for security forces's spectacular victory deep inside the so-called liberated zone over the Maoists goes to the local help they received to carry out the operation.

"This operation would not have been possible but for the help of the Special Police Officers," said a senior Chhattisgarh intelligence officer.

The SPOs are tribals who are armed by the state government with antiquated rifles to fight the Maoists through a controversial movement, the Salwa Judum.

Finally, SPOs are being seen in positive light

Last updated on: September 25, 2009 
Members of the Salwa Judum in Gudma village, about 450 km south of Raipur
Depending on who you talk to, the Salwa Judum is either a 'spontaneous uprising of villagers against the oppressive Maoists', or 'State-sponsored terror'.

The SPOs include villagers who are either disgruntled and voluntarily take to arms against the Maoists or have been coerced into fighting for the State.

The Salwa Judum has been accused of severe human rights violations, including countless instances of murder and rape of innocent tribals who have been herded into government-run camps after being evicted from their villages.

The state government has also been accused of using the SPOs as human shields in their battle against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Now, for the first time, the SPOs are being seen in positive light.

'Our victory would not have been possible without SPOs'

Last updated on: September 25, 2009 
Tribal militia at a checkpost in a forest area in Kutru village, about 450 km south of Raipur
That the Maoists had a weapons making factory in the forests of Bastar was known to the security establishment for many years now.

"We tried -- with futility -- a number of times to storm this unit in the heart of their stronghold. We always failed till now. This time, we planned the operation well. But this wouldn't have been possible without the SPOs," the intelligence officer said.

"First, they are familiar with the terrain and could lead the troops through dense forests where we had never set foot before. Second, these are villages that they have lived all their lives in. They precisely knew each and every place where the Maoists were present."

'A traumatised villager led us to the Maoists'

Last updated on: September 25, 2009 
A tribal teenager holds a bow and arrows at a relief camp in Dharbaguda
More than the SPOs, the role of a single villager ensured that the six Cobra men did not die in vain, according to an officer who played an important role in the operation.

"We had a person who led us to the factory," the officer, who did not want to be named, revealed.

Asked to elaborate, the officer said: "I can only tell you he is neither an SPO nor a disgruntled comrade. He was just an ordinary villager who was traumatised by the actions of the Maoists. I can't say anything further."

In the thick forests of Bastar, where it is said one cannot see a person standing at an arm's length, intelligence is of no use if it is not precise.

"It was common knowledge that the Maoists had a weapons making factory here. But it was of no use if you don't know where exactly it is. It would have been tough to locate it without this person's help."