Invisible killer stalking Maoists

HYDERBAD: Booming guns and skirmishes with the security forces in deep jungles are not the main sources of worry for Maoists at present. It is the dreaded coronavirus that hangs over their heads like a sword of Damocles in the red corridor spread across Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha. 
Though vector-borne chikungunya, dengue and malaria had claimed several lives of left-wing extremists operating from the jungles, the deadly effect of Covid-19 on top Maoist guns and cadres in the second wave was deep and stark. Sources in Special Intelligence Branch, the anti-Naxalite intel wing, said several Maoist leaders who are aged and suffering from viral arthritis post chikungunya are now ravaged by Covid-19, resulting in deaths and prolonged hospitalisation. 
Confirmation by the Maoist party of recent deaths of Telangana State Committee secretary Yapa Narayana alias Haribhushan and party leader Siddaboina Sarakka alias Bharatakka due to Covid-19 is just the tip of the iceberg, say police. Bhadradri Kothagudem district SP Sunil Dutt told TOI, “At least eight Maoist leaders and cadres have died of Covid-19 in the second wave.” 
Police said around 15-20 others have severe Covid-19 infections, while some Maoists left the cadre due to fear of contracting the virus. 
A senior officer of anti-Naxalite intelligence told TOI, “Couriers or militia members may have met Maoists in the jungles due to which the virus has transmitted.” Lack of access to medical treatment, consumption of expired food, snake bites and constant exposure to vagaries of nature also add to Maoists’ health woes.



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