Tricolour is slowly replacing the black flag in Chhattisgarh’s worst Naxal-hit regions as villagers embrace peace and development: Report

File image of villagers hoisting the national flag in Sukma, Chhattisgarh (courtesy: Indian Express)

The winds of change have begun to blow in hundreds of villages in Naxal-hit Bastar division in Chhattisgarh. The black flags, which suggested the dominance of the Naxals in these regions are gradually being replaced with the National flag.

According to a report by Dainik Jagran, ignoring all the threats coming their way, the brave villagers of Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur, Dantewada, Sukma, Bastar, Kondagaon, Narayanpur and Kanker districts have been instating national flags in different parts of their villages during various occasions. This initiative is helping to cripple the supremacy of Naxals in these regions.

Oppressed villagers discarding the threat of left-wing terrorism

The unfurling of the Tiranga seems to be a way in which these oppressed villagers are expressing umbrage against left-wing terrorism domineering these Adivasis for decades. This small change marks the elimination of Naxalism from these areas in Chhattisgarh. Many schools in the Bastar district, which is considered a core area of Naxal activity, have started initiating flag hoisting ceremony on occasions like Independence Day and Republic day or any other national festival, in which the villagers participate extensively. In some villages, the Prabhat Pheri (early morning rounds) ritual is also being performed.

In 2017, the villagers in Chandameta and Mundagarh near Odisha border had hoisted the national flag irrespective of Naxalite threats. Naxals expect the villagers to boycott celebrations and raise black flags to protest against what they claim are imperialist designs to encroach upon their jal, jangal and zameen (water, forests and land). However, despite the threats, in 2017, the villagers in Chandameta and Mundagarh in Bastar district had hoisted the national flag on Independence day.

In the same year, over 12,000 people in Dantewada, the Naxal hit southern region of Chhattisgarh had sung the National Anthem together at the local Stadium on January 25- the National Voters’ Day. Having witnessed Naxal violence in the past, the District has been taking progressive steps to promote civic engagement and providing a nurturing environment for all its residents and officials.

Gompad in Sukma district of Bastar, Chhattisgarh, made headlines for the first time in August 2016 when villagers hoisted the tricolour for the first time since independence. Earlier, Naxalites used to hoist black flags in these villages and register their opposition to the country and the government, and also force people to hoist the black flag. Gradually, the tricolour has replaced these black flags, as villagers have started unanimously rejecting the left-wing extremism.

National Flag unfurled for the first time in Gompad in Sukma district of Bastar, image via Dainik Jagran

The national flag unfurled on a 100 feet high flag mast in a CRPF complex in Naxal-hit Sukma region in Chhattisgarh

On June 13, 2019, the national flag was unfurled on a flag mast that is 100 feet high at a new CRPF complex in Konta in Sukma. The flagpole is the highest in the entire Bastar Division.

Bastar has been a hotbed of violent Naxal activities. Just before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was used by the Naxals to attack a convoy. BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi and four security personnel were killed when their convoy was attacked by Naxalites. 

Decline in violence in Naxal-hit regions in Chhattisgarh with tribals returning to the mainstream

Gradually, Chhattisgarh has seen a decline in Naxal violence. The authorities have been encouraging the tribals to give up arms and return to the mainstream. In June this year, the police in insurgency-hit Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh had launched a novel initiative, named in local Gondi dialect as ‘lon varratu’, meaning ‘return to your village’, to encourage Naxals, who carried cash rewards on their heads, to give up arms and join the mainstream by urging them to return to their villages.

Last month, it was reported that five Naxals, three of them collectively carrying a reward of Rs 5 lakh, had surrendered in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district. Since the initiative ‘lon varratu’ was launched in June 2020, 58 Naxals had surrendered in Dantewada until July 15, Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallava said.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia