Authorities in the eastern Indian state of Orissa are complaining that "huge tracts" of marijuana are being grown to finance the activities of Maoist rebels in the state and neighboring territories, the India News reported Monday. Police reported discoveries of "massive cultivation" in at least eight villages in the Chitrakonda and Kalimela blocks in the Malkangiri district, the agency reported.
Chitrakonda and Kalimela are considered strongholds of well-established Maoist rebels who have been operating in the area for years and who have considered the forested areas of Orissa and neighboring Andhra Pradesh a "liberated zone." From their forest bases, the Maoists have been attacking police and landlords for years.
And local authorities are not having much luck persuading farmers to stop growing pot or even cooperate in their efforts. "We are unable to arrest many of them because we do not get enough information. People do not come to us, fearing that the Maoists would kill them. We have arrested 41 persons and seized 27 quintals of ganja over past weeks," district police chief Jani Koil told the news agency." Even if we conduct raid and arrest people, the cultivation and business that are offences punishable under the country's anti-narcotics laws never stop," Koil said.
Another anonymous Indian official complained that peasant farmers are working with the rebels. "The tribals cultivate them and share a major chunk of the revenue with the Maoists. This becomes a headache for us," the official said, on the condition of anonymity. "We are upset because the illegal activities are not only growing rapidly, it is also contributing in increasing the financial strength of Maoists operating in those areas," he said.
The peasant farmers number at least 500 families in the area, officials said.
According to the official, about 500 families of the Gunthawada and Nalagunthi panchayats (village councils) alone depend on marijuana cultivation. The crops are financed by smugglers from Orissa, Andrha Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Madyha Pradesh who provide farmers with seeds,equipment, and cash advances, the official said.