India: Emerging Challenges In Odisha – Analysis


By Deepak Kumar Nayak

On April 25, 2024, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres were killed in an encounter during a search operation in the Parhel Reserve Forest area of Boudh District. Following a tip-off about the presence of 40 to 50 ultras, personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG), an elite commando unit of the Odisha Police, launched a search operation in the Parhel Reserve Forest early in the morning of April 25.

The extremists opened fire after spotting the SF contingent. Director of intelligence, Soumendra Priyadarshi, disclosed that the bodies of two Maoist cadres were recovered after the encounter. The Police revealed, further, that the deceased were identified as Sunil and Santu, both party members, and both belonging to the 8th Company of Maoists. Sunil was originally from Sukma and Santu from Bijapur in Chhattisgarh. The Police recovered arms, grenades, and other incriminating articles from the incident site, and a Maoist camp was reportedly destroyed by them. 

This is the first and only fatal incident reported in the district since March 6, 2000, when South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), started compiling data on Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-related incidents in India. 

Moreover, the district had not seen any Maoist-linked incident of violence prior to 2024. 2024 has, however, already recorded two incidents of explosion:   

February 15: At least two SOG troopers were injured when a landmine planted by Maoists exploded during a combing operation inside Nalikumpha Forest in Boudh District. Around 30 troopers were combing the area on a tip-off that movements of Maoist cadres were noticed in the area. 

January 5: At least three SOG troopers were injured when an Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), suspected to have been planted by the Maoist, exploded during a combing operation in the Badepanga Forests bordering Boudh-Kandhamal in the Boudh District.

Also, of the three incidents of arms recoveries reported in the district so far, two were reported in 2023 and one in 2024. These included:  

January 17, 2024: A CPI-Maoist camp was neutralized and a explosive materials and ammunition were seized by Security Forces (SFs) following an exchange of fire with a group of Maoists in the Budhakhol Forest area in Boudh District.

December 16, 2023: A dozen IEDs and other items were seized from a CPI-Maoist camp during a two-day-long Search and Combing Operation (CASO) in Nalikumpha Forest under Manamunda Police limits in Boudh District. According to reports, around 30 to 40 Maoists of the ‘KKBN (Kandhamal–Kalahandi–Boudh-Nayagarh) division’ were there in this camp.

November 21, 2023: The Security Forces (SFs) neutralized a Maoist camp and seized arms and ammunition, following an exchange of fire with the Maoists in Ravaneswar Forest area in Boudh District. The SFs also recovered women’s clothes, condoms, contraceptive pills, and pregnancy test kits from the camp.

Meanwhile, though no arrests have been made in the district yet, three Naxalites [Left Wing Extremists], have surrendered since 2000. Significantly, on February 6, 2024, two women CPI-Maoist cadres, identified as Manisha Thati and Champa Koram, laid down their arms before the Police in Boudh District, to join the mainstream. Thati and Koram, both residents of the Bijapur District in Chhattisgarh, were associated with the ‘Mahanadi Area Committee’ of the ‘Kandhamal-Kalahandi-Boudh-Nayagarh (KKBN) division’ of the CPI-Maoist. Inspector General of Police (IGP), Southern Range, Jai Narayan Pankaj, disclosed that they were tasked with reactivating the North-South corridor from Jharkhand to Chhattisgarh through south-central Odisha. They had been working in the CPI-Maoist organisation since 2018 and were involved in several violent incidents both in Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The other surrender took place on October 9, 2015, when a woman Maoist from Chhattisgarh, Jyoti Madkami alias Susmita, an ‘area committee member (ACM)’ of the ‘KKBN division’ of the CPI-Maoist, carrying an INR 400,000 reward on her head, surrendered before the Police in Boudh District. 

The Boudh District is located in the central region of Odisha and is bounded by the Mahanadi River and Angul District on its north, Kandhamal District on its south, Nayagarh District in the East and Tel River and Subarnapur District in the West. Boudh is spread over an area of 3,098 square kilometres and was part of the undivided Phulbani district till early April 1993. The present Boudh District comprises one Sub-Division (Boudh); three tehsils (Boudh, Harbhanga, and Kantamal); and three Community Development Blocks (Boudh, Kantamal and Harbhanga). The district headquarters is situated at Boudh. Out of three blocks, two blocks have plain lands and one block has got mixture of plain and hilly ranges. Further, the total forest cover area of the district is 1,277.17 square kilometres, which is 41.22 per cent of total geographical area of the district, is difficult to access and offers decisive tactical advantages to the extremists, making Boudh an ideal spot for a rebel safe haven. 

The Maoists have allegedly tried to use strategically located Boudh District as a buffer or transit zone to extend their activities in the state. Boudh District is surrounded by Kandhamal, Nayagarh, Angul, Subarnapur, Sambalpur, and Bolangir Districts, each of which has a Maoist presence. Most important, Boudh District is the link between the western and southern parts of Odisha.

As early as February 10, 2013, reports of Maoists trying to regroup in the district had emerged, following some Maoist posters found pasted on a hume pipe along National Highway-57 near Sahajpal village under Baunsini Police Station limits in Boudh District. Significantly, with Boudh strategically located – connecting Sambalpur, Angul, Phulbani, Nayagarh, Bolangir and Sonepur – the Maoists have long been planning to set up a base in the district. However, then Boudh Superintendent of Police (SP), P. Bhawani Shankar Mishra, had ignored such reports, claiming that the poster was the handiwork of some ‘mischievous elements.’ 

Later, on May 5, 2014, security operations against the Maoists were carried out for four days with the support of the Nayagarh District Police, especially in the Harbhanga Police Station area in Boudh District. The operations were also carried out in the Gania and Banigochha areas of the adjoining Nayagarh District. The Maoists were found to be using Boudh as a buffer or transit zone to carry out their disruptive activities in the district and adjoining areas. 

Meanwhile, the state government is trying to further strengthen intelligence-gathering mechanisms so that anti-Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) operations could be further intensified in the affected areas, with a special focus on Boudh. Significantly, on December 19, 2023, while inaugurating the ‘strategy conference’ on LWE, former Director General of Police (DGP) Sunil Kumar Bansal stated that Boudh, Kandhamal, and Kalahandi districts had emerged as the new flash points of Naxalite activities. He emphasised greater focus on these regions. Further, Police sources accepted that Naxalites were using the Boudh-Kandhamal-Kalahandi corridor so that the ultras in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand remained connected. 

Meanwhile, the Odisha Police planned to procure six high-tech drones to carry out surveillance in Naxalite-affected districts such as Boudh, Malkangiri, Koraput, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Nuapada, and Rayagada, especially for the ongoing Parliamentary Elections of 2024, to keep a close vigil on Naxalite movement. The drones will give security agencies a boost, particularly in view of the possibility that the Maoists may try to carry out demonstrative acts of violence to make their presence felt and boost the morale of the rank and file during the election process. It may be noted that, Boudh will be going to vote on May 25, 2024. 

According to a March 22, 2024, report, nearly four years after Boudh District was identified as a Naxal-free district, the Centre has re-included the region as Maoist-affected following a resurgence of rebel activities in the area over the past few months. The state government recently sent a proposal to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) to include Boudh under the Centre-sponsored security-related expenditure (SRE) scheme, which is exclusively meant for capacity building and infrastructure development in Maoist-affected districts of the country. Significantly, Boudh along with Koraput and Bargarh (which have also witnessed similar increase in Maoist activities in recent times) have been categorised as districts of ‘legacy and thrust’. According to an unnamed senior Police official, these districts have a legacy of LWE presence and therefore, the Centre’s support to such states is required for consolidating the state’s position. Continued support in respect of security and development measures for some more time is consequently necessary.  

Following the containment of Maoist activities in Odisha over recent years, the rebels have been struggling to find a safe haven. This is where Boudh District fits in, with all its strategic centrality. The residual capacities of the Maoist are sufficient to undermine plans to establish an enduring peace in the district, as well as the state at large. Sustained SF operations and a determined push to take developmental and administrative activities deep into hitherto marginalized regions is, consequently, necessary.

  • Deepak Kumar Nayak
    Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management


SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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