Youth in former ‘liberated zone’ are still drawn to Maoists
In a small clearing in the forest, the village barber gets down to work, shaving the stubble of a man in a brown sweater and olive combats. Three young women in dark green uniform stand at the centre of the clearing, soaking in the late afternoon sun, rifles slung over their shoulders. These young men and women are members of two local guerilla squads of the CPI (Maoist). Almost all of them grew up in villages nearby and were recruited in the last one year, they said, sitting down on two black plastic sheets spread over fallen leaves.
This forest in Jhumra in central Jharkhand is one of the areas that according to the government was once part of the Maoists’ ‘liberated territory’ but is now under government control. But the village youth continue to be steadily drawn to the movement. After undergoing military and ideological training for 12 to 18 months, these recruits are placed in the rebels’ People’s Liberation Guerilla Army.
Soft-spoken and with a broad smile, Babita Mahto, who has been with the squad for a year, said that joining the party gave her a sense of purpose and immortality. “So many women in the Mahto community kill themselves due to the stress from dowry, tilak [social ceremonies]. If I die at home, my parents will mourn for some months; we had a daughter who died, they will say. But here, there are so many of us who will remember — there was such and such didi [older sister], our comrade; she died for the people.” Babita attended several of the outlawed group’s meetings in her village, hearing stories of their strength.
After appearing for her Class X exams, she left home to join them without informing her parents. “This is what I am interested in. Why are people hungry, or deprived? Here, we have decided that we will fight. If they have weapons, we do too. If they kill, we will too.” “The forest makes a better home. We are always the first to breathe the air here,” said Anita Mandal, a recent recruit to the squad. “When I go back to my village, after say two, three minutes I want to get back here. Everything is messy in my village — the streets, the drains. Here it is fresh,” she quipped.
She wore a cap bearing the insignia of the CRPF’s Jharkhand Jaguar Special Assault Group. The squad has not been in an ambush yet. The caps were purchased for the group from the market. The young women speak up, almost in chorus, that in the squad men and women must do all tasks equally. Their day begins at 4 a.m., when they head to their post or their “bunker.” After a physical training drill of swiftly climbing up and down the hills at the base of which they are staying, in which Anita says “the girls perform as well as the boys”, they attend classes.
They are taught Communism, as well as mathematics, science and geography, said a senior member of the squad. “Both regular schools’ textbooks and our own are used,” he said. Like similar areas in Jharkhand brought under government control after paramilitary operations, the Ministry of Rural Development set up CRPF camps here and announced a Rs. 250-crore development plan to implement Central government schemes. The plan is still being chalked out. The young guerilla squad members, either due to their training or from their experience of the state, express scepticism. “Such plans are a guise to repress people’s movements. When our movement demands haq, izzat, adhikaar [rights and respect], [the] government suddenly starts talking of vikas [development],” said Dinesh Mandal, one of the three supervising the squad.
Rifles, ammunition looted from police seized from Naxal hideout in Odisha
Rifles and ammunition, possibly looted from police, have been recovered from a Maoist base in Ganjam district of Odisha. The recovery was made by paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) when joint forces were on patrol duty in the Adipanga-Saroda area of the district on Thursday. Officials said that three INSAS rifles, two bolt action guns, 119 rounds of ammunition, four live magazines of INSAS and three other such bullet cases along with ten kgs of iron splinter used for making IEDs were recovered late yesterday during the operation. Security officials said the arms were possibly looted from the police or security forces. The seized dump has been handed over to the local police, they said.
Suspected Maoist nabbed
One suspected Maoist has been nabbed from the Merikote forested area near Sorada in Ganjam district and a huge cache of arms seized, during a combing operation late on Thursday, sources said. The man was caught when a CRPF patrol unit was combing the area and was taken in custody on the suspicion of being a Maoist, sources added.
MHA tells Election Commission to deal with the Red zone first
Gearing up for the upcoming parliamentary polls, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent a straightforward message to the Election Commission (EC) – handle the toughest areas first. The MHA believes conducting polls in difficult zones first would be helpful as the forces would be “fresh” then. The security blueprint prepared by the MHA and submitted last month, a copy of which is available with Mail Today, spans 79 districts of nine states and flags 33 among them as the most sensitive. Not just that, but a troop surge of over two lakh paramilitary personnel has also been proposed for the elections, it has been learnt.