Forces tread minefield in Bastar

Forces tread minefield in Bastar

Freshly dug-up soil, road or a bypass on the Raipur-Jagdalpur-Dantewada highway 43 and 16, could easily send chills down the spine of a policeman or a visitor. The recent blasting of a private bus in the Sukma region in south-east Dantewada is just one instance of the killing potential of the otherwise scenic forest land, according to senior police officials.

Movements of security forces in the interiors of Kanker, Narayanpur, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Bijapur and Dantewada, stretching up to Konta on the Andhra Pradesh border, is not without a high risk of the personnel setting foot on mined land. The mines are set four to six feet deep in the soil and are difficult to detect unless the entire area is physically scanned “on a continuous basis”. Besides remote-activated mines, police suspect wide distribution of pressure mines in the area which set off automatically with any intended or unintended physical pressure.

According to Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan, around half of the 40,000 square kilometres of Bastar region, which houses the tribal population of Gonds, Bhatras, Unarvs, Korvas, Kols, Halbas and Madias are “extensively mined”.

An aerial scanning with hi-tech cameras could help identify the mined zones but it is not easy to do that in the Naxal-dominated areas which have “thick forest cover”. The police are currently using hand-held instruments and trained dogs, including strays, to ferret out the mines planted in the deeply dug land.

“Mines cannot be cleared without heavy encirclement of the Maoist-dominated zones and police penetration and establishment of camps in their areas, which are happening now,” officials said. The Army, which is keeping abreast of the situation in the area, is learnt to have worked out some kind of “synergy” with the security forces on the issue. In an important development, a sub-area level headquarter, headed by a Brigadier, will shortly come up at Jagdalpur to keep a watch on the “Red spread.”

Bastar, which is promoted as as the “Kashmir of Chhattisgarh”, is now “dreaded” by foreign or outside visitors.