Ghaghra (Jharkhand), Mar 5 : Jharkhand Police has destroyed large tracks of poppy cultivation, grown by Maoists rebels in the State.
The operation was carried out in Ghaghra of Ghumla District after police were tipped off by plantation officials. The opium crop was subsequently destroyed.
Vinod Kumar, Station House Officer (SHO) Ghaghra-Ghumla station, said the involvement of the rebels could not be ruled out, though there was no clear proof.
"It cannot be said very clearly, but of late, cases of opium farming have come from the militancy-hit areas. It cannot be denied that it is the rebels who benefit from opium plantations," he said.
Kumar added that all plantations would be destroyed and severe action taken against all those involved.
According to police officials, Maoists have been forcing villagers in the eastern parts of the country to cultivate opium on their farms. Te opium is then sold to fund their operations.
Villagers, however, claimed innocence, saying that they did not know they were growing opium.
"We were being told that these were varieties of flowers. Being a villager, how would I know it is opium," said Mangra Urav, a villager.
The Maoists claim to be fighting for peasant rights and a radical redistribution of land in many parts of the country.
About 165 of the 602 administrative districts in the country, stretching from the southern tip to the eastern half, and up to Nepal, are affected by Maoist violence.
Poppy or opium is mainly cultivated in the country in the higher reaches of Himalayas in few northern pockets, but is now largely state-regulated and illegal cultivation is mostly destroyed.