Where fear is the only constant

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Political parties keep off Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district where the Maoist threat looms large

At around midnight on March 2, twelve armed men wearing military fatigues barged into Channu Madavi’s house in Kuthegaon in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. “They said they had something important to discuss with my father,” says his daughter, Jaywanta.

The next morning, Channu, 55, was found lying in a pool of blood. His throat had been slit.

People living in villages across Gadchiroli are not unfamiliar with such killings. Maoists often kill people in such fashion, dubbing them police informers.

But such killings are always owned up. In Channu’s case, however, the Maoists said nothing. The police though blamed the Maoists for it. Not only that, three days after Channu’s death, three other people from Kuthegaon — Maruti Jetti, Vitthal Kovachi and Sonu Usendi — received letters from the police. The letters written in Hindi read: “You are on the Maoist hit list. It is better if you move out of the village. If something untoward happens, only you will be responsible.”

The letter has left the recipients stunned. “I have never worked either for the police or the Maoists. I don’t have any case registered against me, nor have I been on the police or Maoist radar,” says Maruti Jetti.

Vitthal Kovahi and Sonu Usendi said they didn’t have a clue why the Maoists would want to kill them.

“We went to the police station where the officer claimed that he sent the letters after he received inputs from his seniors,” said Sonu Usendi. They even approached Gadchiroli’s police chief, they say, but their concerns were not addressed.

These developments have created an atmosphere of terror in Kuthegaon, prompting the men to begin patrolling during nights. The police have chosen not to provide them any security. Gadchiroli’s police chief Suvez Haque said he was busy with elections and that he would “respond at an appropriate time.”

No-go zone
Kuthegaon falls under the Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha constituency. But the candidates of major political parties, with the exception of the CPI, do not dare venture beyond a few villages situated close to good roads. The Maoist boycott of elections makes things more difficult.

It is unlikely that a candidate will land up at Kuthegaon, seeking votes. So there is no election fervour. There is only fear.

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