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CRPF helps tribals in Maoist bastion of Abujmarh fight Covid-19

CRPF helps tribals in Maoist bastion of Abujmarh fight Covid-19

Known as a Maoist bastion in the hills of south Chhattisgarh, Abujmarh, where two state security personnel were killed in a face-off with guerrillas on yesterday, the people are being taught by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to follow the lockdown norms to beat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The credit goes to the CRPF's 195 Battalion that has broken the local languages barrier to teach social distancing, hand sanitizing and home stay to tribals, living in hamlets deep in hilly, forested Abujmarh, which is larger than Goa in terms of area.

Spread over 1,500 sq miles (3,900 sq km), covering Narayanpur, Bijapur and Dantewada districts, Abujmarh is home to indigenous tribes—Gond, Muria, Abuj Maria and Halbaas.

It was only in 2009 the Chhattisgarh government lifted restrictions, imposed in the early 1980s, on the entry of common people to the area.

Geographically isolated and largely inaccessible, the area continues to look bereft of the civil administration, and is also known as “liberated-zone.” It’s an alleged hub of Maoists, the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its military wing, People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), which runs a parallel administration there.

Strengthening fight against the coronavirus, the CRPF's 195 Battalion took upon itself the task of protecting tribals from Covid-19 by making them aware of precautions. The CRPF has succeeded in teaching lockdown norms and Covid-19 precautions to people in over 60 villages.

Commandant Rakesh Kumar Singh told IANS the 195 Battalion was not only providing security but also teaching people with the help of Bastariya units, comprising local Scheduled Tribes (ST) men, ways to fight coronavirus.

"Around 10-12 members of the Bastariya units are on the job with different companies of 195 Battalion. Like Maoists, we teach tribals through Natya Mandali shows," Singh told IANS. Setting up of Bastariya units was approved in 2018 to bolster the fight against Maoists.

According to the commandant, residents of two-three villages are gathered with the help of village head at a place and given lessons in social distancing and other Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Singh said people were, surprisingly, aware and themselves followed social distancing norms. "They have blocked entry points of villages by felling trees to prevent outsiders and curb the spread of infection."

Puspal, Malewahi, Erpund, Pichikodar, Harrakodar, Koya, Bengaluru, Bodli, Gotia and Gufa were among the villages where the CRPF had been able to teach Covid-19 precautions, Singh said.

The officer said the 195 Battalion was honored as the best anti-Maoist operation battalion in 2019 as it had persuaded 35 Maoists to surrender. This year too, it had been able to cause surrender of 10-12 Maoists, Singh said..