Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Angul, June 5:
Security personnel have intensified combing operations in areas falling under the jurisdiction of Handapa and Thakurgada police stations in Athmallik sub division of Odisha’s Angul district in the last four days following intelligence inputs of Maoist movement in the area.
Personnel of India Reserve Battalion (IRB) and Special Operations Group (SOG) have launched joint combing operations in the area since last Monday. A total of 12 platoons of security personnel have been engaged in the operation.
However, senior police officials of the district are reluctant to speak on the operations by the security personnel.
According to local sources, the dense forest around 20 km away from Thakurgada police station adjacent to the villages of Ghati Tenduli, Lakhimpur Tenduli and Batrakhol under Sapaghara panchayat has become a den for some suspected youths in the last six months. This forest extends to the Satkosia sanctuary.
Walking through forests and hills for merely eight km, one can access National Highway no. 55 and after crossing over the highway again, the dense forest cover stretches through areas under Handapa police station up to Redhakhol. With locals rarely venturing into Lakhmipur dense forest, the area has turned out to be a safe haven for the unknown suspected youth.
Locals said there are more than 20 youths in the gang, who happen to speak in a language, which is a mixture of Odia and Hindi. The gang has been collecting cooked rice, rice and vegetables from the nearby villages, locals revealed. Reliable sources said they are even collecting rice meant for mid-day meal programmes in the school.
Locals confide that the gang has promised not to harm them while asking them not reveal their whereabouts to any outsider.
Earlier, the police had twice made superficial efforts to investigate the matter, but had failed to get hold of the suspected youth as it had failed to enter the dense forest. Though villagers are having some information about these youth, they are scared to share such information.
Two months back, leading Odia daily ‘Sambad’ had carried a detailed report on the issue. After two months of investigations into the matter, police now strongly suspect that Maoists are regrouping /camping in the area and hence the intensive combing operations.