Tribals upset over ban on traditional weapons

Tribals in Chhattisgarh are furious over police moves to ban their traditional weapons in public places, particularly in village haats, or markets.

Bastar Range Inspector General of Police T.J. Langkumer told IANS that the ban was being implemented only in Narayanpur district in a bid to prevent Maoists from attacking security personnel.

"However, it would be our endeavour to extend this arrangement throughout Bastar region," he added.

Tribal leader B.P.S. Netam warned that the government was playing with fire. Netam, coordinator of Sarva Adivasi Samaj, told IANS: "The government will face stiff resistance if it tries to curb the practice of carrying traditional arms by members of the tribal community.

"Tribal people carry these arms for self-defence and use them only if they are attacked," he added.

Notably, Narayanpur and Bijapur, both parts of old Bastar, are the two very sparsely populated districts of Chhattisgarh and have witnessed several deaths of security forces and civilians at public places.

In almost all cases, Maoists used traditional tribal weapons to carry out the killings.According to police officials, tribals visit weekly markets armed with bows and arrows, spears, knives and axes.

Normally, police turn a blind eye out of respect for tribal traditions. Taking advantage of the situation, Maoists too began coming to the weekly markets equipped with these weapons and ambushed their targets.

Once the victim was killed, the insurgents would vanish from the market. With no one ready to identify them, police were in a bind.

The latest murder of a policeman took place at the Orchha weekly market in Narayanpur district Aug 1.

Soon after, policemen went on a rampage, assaulting traders and locals. A girl was killed in the melee. The mayhem attracted widespread criticism.

A notice has been put up at the Bakhrupara weekly market at Narayanpur asking people not to carry such weapons.

Chhattisgarh's Bastar region has emerged as one of the biggest strongholds of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist.

With security forces determined to crush the Maoists, the rebels use any opportunity to hit back - and isolated village markets are also visited by police personnel and those the insurgents say are spies.

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