Mumbai: A five-member team of Maharashtra legislators who were on a three-day official tour of Gadchiroli district may have been on the radar of Maoists, 16 of whom were gunned on Sunday, authoritative sources said on Monday. As a precaution, the legislators’ team, which was scheduled to visit some of the high-risk and remotest areas of Bhamragad, were permitted to travel under a thick security blanket provided by police commandos with escort vehicles leading and trailing their cars.
At one point, expressing a potential ‘grave risk’ based on intelligence inputs, the police even advised the legislators to avoid travelling by road from Aheri to Bhamragad, a distance of around 75 km, running through thick forests and comprising Maoist hideouts and zones. Accordingly, a chopper was arranged for them to fly from Aheri to Bhamragad and then hop into vehicles for a short five-kilometer ride from the helipad to the Hemalkasa Ashram, founded by the legendary social reformer Baba Amte.
The five-member team included Pandurang Barora, Vaibhav Pichad, Anand Thakur (from the NCP) and Shantaram More and Amit Ghoda (from Shiv Sena).”The team, as a Tribal Department’s Committee, had gone to conduct a survey to ascertain the implementation of various government schemes for tribals and backward communities in the region. At one point, the district and police authorities advised us that it may not be very safe to travel by road, so they arranged a helicopter for us,” Barora told IANS.
The local authorities said that this was the first time that such a legislators’ committee had visited the Maoist-infested region to study the implementation of government programmes and how huge government funds running into thousands of crores rupees annually were being actually utilized.
In fact, Barora said that when they returned from their trip and learnt of the massive security forces operations which left 16 Maoists dead on Sunday morning, the legislators expressed their appreciation to the police and Anti Naxalite Squad commandos for their safe trip.
After returning from their trip to Hemalkasa Ashram and other parts in the core Maoist-affected areas, the legislators’ committee returned to Nagpur by road and then flew to Mumbai late on Sunday. In the biggest successes notched while tackling the four-decades old Maoist-challenge, the Anti-Naxalite Squad and its commando units killed at least 16 Maoists including some women in the jungle ambush in the Boria region of Bhamragad-Etapalli talukas borders. Police believe tentatively that an entire ‘Dalam’ (unit) of Maoists, which are usually two-dozen strong, may have been wiped out or decapitated on Sunday.