“I was born in the party”: Women in Maoist Ranks
Kursenga Motibai alias Radhakka, the first woman in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana to join the ranks of the Naxalites of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), or Maoists in short, was enlarged on bail on December 12, 2015. A Gond tribal woman from Adilabad district, Telangana State, she was underground for 28 years and was the Bastar Divisional Committee Secretary at the time of her arrest in Khammam district. As the Maoists have themselves admitted in an internal document, not many women have been able to rise to leadership positions. Radhakka is one of those exceptions. A more striking exception is Anuradha Ghandy, who was a member of the apex and all-powerful Central Committee.
To quote from an internal document of the Communist Party of India (Maoist):
Our work in the women’s front is still far from satisfactory. Recruitment in many States is poor, selection-gradation-promotion of the women cadres is still not according to a systematic plan and our efforts are inadequate given the immense potential and the necessity of building the women’s movement and recruiting cadres and promoting leadership from the women. The trend of patriarchy is acting as a strong deterrent to our efforts in this regard.
In their earlier avatar as the Communist Party of India –– Marxist-Leninist (People’s War), or PW in short, the Maoists had identified the various initiatives they would undertake along the way for building the women’s movement and making them partners in their New Democratic Revolution (NDR). These include:
Equal rights to women from agriculture labour and poor peasantry background in the distribution of land.
Equal rights to women in hereditary and self-earned property to women from well-to-do families.
Equal wages for equal work.
Eradicate physical exploitation of women and completely eradicate prostitution.
Eradicate atrocities on women and severely punish offenders.
Put an end to the dowry system.
Put an end to ostentatious weddings and demand the encouragement of simple, inter-caste weddings.
Fifty per cent reservation for women in government jobs.
Struggle for free, compulsory education for girls and co-education institutions.
Fight against discrimination/distortions against girls in the education system.
Fight against gender determination tests and female foeticide.
Fight against discrimination between young boys and girls.
Fight against religious practices that are humiliating to women.
Fight against ‘personal law’.
Fight against derogatory representation of women in all forms, including in the media.
Similarly, the Maoists have also identified the various long-term tasks the women’s movement would undertake after they herald the New Democratic Revolution. These include:
Full partnership for women in social production; i.e. transformation of relationship between men and women in production.
Collective role in house-hold activities.
Men and women to jointly involve in house-hold activities.
Women to participate in politics and jointly exercise political authority.
Personal wealth/property to be converted into collective wealth/property and struggle for an end to patriarchy.
Abolish private, family business/industry and establish community production and ownership.
Establish fraternal relationship with and support women’s movements across the world.
One of the oft cited reasons for women joining the underground is that, being at an impressionable age, they have been carried away by the exhortations of visiting squads through speeches and the revolutionary songs rendered by cultural troupes. “I was motivated by the fiery, inspiring songs a visiting Maoist squad sung in my village,” Saritha, a bubbling, extrovert teenager and a stickler to propriety, told this researcher in the spring of 2002.
She is one illustration of ‘impressionable minds being carried away’ by the Maoist propaganda machine. Also, some of the women were influenced to join the movement by a family member –– husband, brother or uncle. For instance, Anasuya, wife of Komarayya, a member of the North Telangana Special Zone Committee (NTSZC), which the rebels once showcased as their flagship guerrilla zone, simply followed her husband’s footsteps, leaving behind her toddler son in the care of her in-laws.
Nelakonda Rajitha’s is a different story. An under graduate fire-brand student leader in Karimnagar district, Telangana, she rose to become the lone woman member till-date of the NTSZC. While underground, she came into contact with, and married, Sande Rajamouli, who later rose to be a member of the apex and all-powerful Central Committee, and Central Military Commission. Rajitha was killed in an encounter in July 2002 and Rajamouli in June 2007. The numbers of women cadre among the rebels swelled from the late 1990s and into the current decade.
While an overwhelming majority of the approximately 40 per cent women among Maoist ranks belong to rural and tribal India, and are ‘fighters’, some are highly educated urban ideologues and leaders. Anuradha Ghandy, a university lecturer in Sociology, best illustrates this category. At the time of her death due to cerebral malaria, she was leading the all-India women’s movement and was the lone member of the Central Committee. She was also the wife of Kobad Ghandy, chief of the Central Propaganda Bureau and member of the Central Committee, who was arrested in Delhi in September 2009.
There is no one particular reason for women joining the Maoist ranks. Some have joined the underground due to desperation. Exploitation at the hands of the high and powerful in the village is one reason. In January 2004, this researcher met with a young tribal girl in Karimnagar district who strayed into the Maoist fold after receiving a scolding from her parents. She was spotted in the fields weeping by a passing Maoist squad who consoled her and asked her to walk along with them. In another instance, in Pata Rudraram village of the same district, another young girl, 14 year-old Narsingojula Padma, ran away from home in May 2004 and into the Maoist fold, in an attempt to escape getting married against her wishes.
Both young girls actually qualify being termed as child soldiers and the rebels should not have taken the girls with them at all, in the first instance. Immense pressure and protests by parents and villagers forced the Maoists to, eventually, let-off both the girls. In yet another instance that came to light in Bihar, the Naxalites targeted girls, as well as boys, in 2002; at that time, parents in the vicinity of Tanda and Bagh Rivers sent away their children to help escape forcible recruitment. In 2004, in Bihar, the police reportedly rescued a group of girls from the Naxalites and admitted them to a local vocational training institute run by missionaries. There have also been instances of all sisters from a single family joining the Maoist ranks, or an entire family taking the revolutionary path.
Very peculiar as it may sound, as one surrendered woman cadre told this researcher, “I was born in the party”. Her parents met in the underground and got married. She was born some years later. She was educated in schools run by the Welfare Department of the government and would visit her parents during vacations. Eventually, she, too, joined the underground. The conscious efforts of the Maoist organization in Dandakaranya to put an end to various forms of patriarchy had also helped in women joining either the underground or mass organizations.
The Maoists had largely succeeded in putting an end to ‘forced marriages’ and marriage among cousins. Women join Maoist ranks for a variety of reasons. They do not admit or really feel that they have erred in joining the underground. Impressionable age, the then existing social milieu and circumstances, personal reasons, influence of kin or family and the inspiration of ideology prompt them to join the rebels. The urge to change society becomes so strong at that point that they cannot be dissuaded from joining the Maoists. Women Maoists who surrender, as well as those arrested but are willing to join the mainstream, are rehabilitated by the government. The government should encourage surrenders and effectively implement the rehabilitation package to provide succour to those who choose to join the mainstream.
‘Ready for armed struggle against bauxite mining’
The opposition and resentment with the political leadership is widespread. Men, women and youth are clear in their stand that they would not allow mining of bauxite. Around 8,000 tribals, who would be directly affected by the proposed mining of bauxite in the 1212 hectares in Jerrila and Chintapalli Reserve Forests for which the government issued orders for diversion of forest land are up in arms. The opposition and resentment with the political leadership is widespread. Men, women and youth are clear in their stand that they would not allow mining of bauxite in their areas. Significantly everyone is aware of the issues involved. Men and women are unanimous in their call to the government to withdraw the GO 97 of November 5.
“Any move to mine bauxite would be met with an armed opposition,” the youth and women said and to prove their seriousness they attended the public meeting organised at Jerrila Panchayat carrying their traditional arms. “The protest against the move to mine is not new, but the government officials have been carrying on with their exploration of the place and now the GO has been issued, we will not allow them to bring down these mountains,” Chinna Abbai, an elderly tribal said giving a voice to the tribals at the public meeting.
“The government has been able to carry on with the exploration and also pass the GO on mining only because some of the tribals have sided with the political leaders. We will not allow the tribals working against the interests of fellow tribals to continue. We will drive them away,” another tribal Ashok said. The tribals, who had come from all the 73 habitations that would be directly affected by the first phase of mining, agreed with each statement being made against the government move, reflecting the fact that they were aware of the fact that their lives and livelihoods were at stake. Once mining starts it would affect the flow of water to Sileru and that would not only affect the lives of tribals in the Agency area but also the people living downstream, Adapa Vishnumurty, resident of Jerrila, said.
“The political leaders are not interested in development of tribals, they are only making statements for public consumption. We do not trust them,” Korra Ganjibabu of Boddalagondi in Jerrila panchayat said. “The then Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy sold the mining rights to these areas. How can we trust the YSR Congress not to allow the bauxite mining,” he added. He buttonholed Paderu MLA Giddi Eswari with a pointed question: “what guarantee is there that you would not go ahead with bauxite mining if your party comes to power in the next elections and you become a Minister?” The MLA gave a solemn promise to continue with her stand opposing any move to take up mining in Agency area.
Mining for bauxite will lead to displacement of adivasi communities like the Khond, Nooka Dora, Bagata and Manne Dora. Some of these tribes are identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups. Further, some of them would be suffering multiple displacement as they had moved into the hills of the Visakha Agency due to several projects in the erstwhile Koraput district of Odisha. They would again be forced to abandon a habitat that gave them land for farming, adequate water and forest for sustenance, Human Rights Forum general secretary for AP and Telangana V.S. Krishna said demanding that the government withdraw its move to mine bauxite in the Agency areas.
Maoists condemn ‘fake surrender’, death of naxal leader in Chhattisgarh
RAIPUR: Terming the recent surrender of 26 Maoists as fake and alleging police atrocities, South Bastar Divisional Committee CPI (Maoists) has stated via pamphlets that Bastar police was framing wrong information of death of naxal leader Papa Rao due to snake bite. Pamphlets were found strewn at roads in Sukma district on Tuesday. Addressing the public, Maoists said that police have been making tall claims of large number of rebels surrendered in past three months and have got hold of 26 common men from weekly market at Pollampalli market to label them as hardcore Maoists before public.
“Many other fake encounters were also propagated by police claiming to have killed a rebel with reward of Rs 8 lakh on his head, who was actually a farmer at Adlempalli. Moreover, there’s no truth in security forces’ claim on death of Papa Rao or that our party was going weak,” reads the note.
It further mentions that those fighting strongly against the system and atrocities of police were being forced to weaken by police through fake surrenders. Maoists further allege that forces, on the pretext of search operations, visit villages and have raped and assaulted women and girls in the past. Mentioning the recent encounter – on December 8 at forests of Tetemadgu, Maoists said that the police had also made false claims of killing 20 rebels who were transported on tractors to remote villages for cremation. Soon after finding pamphlets from several parts in Sukma district, police and security forces have become more vigilant and have launched combing operations in the region.
Maoists Call for Bandh in Agency on December 26
VISAKHAPATNAM: The Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) gave a call for Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) bandh on December 26 and urged the tribals to observe December 21 to December 27 as a protest week against the proposed bauxite mining in Visakhapatnam agency. In a letter which was released to the media at Visakhapatnam agency by the AOBSZC official spokesman Jagabandhu, he requested the tribals to fight against those leaders who have been opposing the bauxite mining while still continuing as leaders in political parties. Jaganbandhu asked the leaders to resign from the parties, failing which he suggested that the people should drive them away from the agency areas. The ultra alleged that the government has joined hands with private companies and is trying to benefit from it by hitting the lives of tribals.
The TDP government has been trying to divide and rule the tribals to lift the bauxite reserves. As part of the strategy, the State government has deployed huge forces into the agency and trying to intensify the attacks. The naxal leader in his letter also mentioned that Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has temporarily kept the bauxite issue on hold, which is his strategy. Very soon, he would announce packages and will impress the agitators to pave the road for mining. The red-rebel also stated that the opposition parties who are now actively participating in anti bauxite agitation are just doing so in order to get votes in the coming elections. “Both the TDP and Congress, when in power had tried to mine bauxite and disturb the agency. The YSRC party is a child of Congress,” he alleged.
Odisha human rights body seeks report on alleged police excesses on tribals
The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has asked the State government to explain the alleged police excess and neglecting of a Dongria Kandhs, a particularly vulnerable tribal group residing in Niyamgiri Hill Range in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts.
The commission on Monday issued a notice to the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary and Chief Administrator of KBK administration calling for a report within six weeks. “Tribal communities residing in bordering areas of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts have been consistently opposing bauxite mining under the banner of Niyamgiri Surakshya Samiti (NSS). In the past, tribals opposed proposal of mining in Palli Sabhas conducted at the direction of Supreme Court. The government, however, continued to terrorise tribal leadership for paving the way for mining,” alleged Dadhi Pushika, NSS secretary, drawing attention of OHRC. “In continuation of unleashing reign of terror, tribal leader Haribandhu Kadraka, who had extended support to resistance to proposal of bauxite mining, was arrested and other leaders such as Lada Sikaka, Dadhi Pushika, Subhash Kulusika and Ganesh Jakasika have been implicated in false cases,” charged members of NSS.
They added: “Other frontline leader of NSS, Drika Kadraka, had committed suicide after succumbing to police torture. The suicide note found near the body says he was ending his life due to torture of Muniguda police which was threatening to implicate in false naxalite case.” The NSS said no action had so far not been taken against the accused police offers. Mr. Kulusika also alleged: “Dongria Kandhas in Niyamgiri are deprived of minimum welfare programmes such as education, drinking water, health services and electricity. It is violation of human rights if police torture us.” NSS members demanded thorough probe into alleged police excess in Niyamgiri hill range.
‘Maoist sympathisers’ get bail
The Principal District Judge, Coimbatore, R. Pongiappan on Monday granted bail to Masanamuthu (21), a fisherman from Vellalore, and Nagamanickam (20), a painter from Sowripalayam. They were arrested in June this year for allegedly threatening the ‘Q’ Branch policemen following the arrest of Maoist leader Roopesh, wife Shyna, and three others in May. At the time of their arrest, the police claimed that they had seized materials from them to prove their pro-Maoist ideologies. The police had registered a case against them under sections 294(b) (reciting or uttering obscene songs or words in or near a public place), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge his duty) and 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code and 10 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The judge granted the bail to the youth for a surety of Rs. 1 lakh. They were asked to appear in Peelamedu Police Station at 10.30 a.m. every day. A few weeks ago, the court had quashed the invocation of provisions under the Goondas Act against them. Peelamedu Police Station Inspector J.K. Gobi said that the charge sheet against Masanamuthu and Nagamanickam will be filed soon. They were arrested in June this year for allegedly threatening the ‘Q’ Branch policemen
Bijapur villagers recount widespread assaults by men in uniform
While filing an FIR against security personnel for rape this month, Chhattisgarh police invoked for the first time in the state a clause that became law two years ago after nationwide outrage over a fatal gang rape in the capital forced politicians to act. Large-scale violence and looting was reported between October 20 and 24, when 200 men in uniforms undertook an anti-Maoist military operation in the villages of Pegdapalli, Chinnagellur, Peddagellur, Burgicheru, and Gundam in Bijapur district. The villages where the crimes have been reported lie 18 to 25 kilometres from the nearest road and a CRPF camp, a veritable outpost of the Indian state in a region racked by a decade-long conflict which has claimed nearly 8,000 lives.
The fear of violence and death stalks combatants and civilians alike. It’s a sparsely populated area – with far-flung hamlets of mud, tiled and thatched homes sprinkled amid tracts of jungle, freshly harvested paddy fields, streams and low mountains – that the state describes as Maoist-held territory it is currently trying to militarily reclaim. Since no investigator or official has visited the villages so far, the scale of the violence remains unknown. HT is reporting a partial account of incidents based on some of the interviews it conducted in three villages last week, assisted by a female Gondi translator. In Peddagellur village, the aunt of a teen who reported being gang-raped said, “Four of us were grazing our cows that morning when the force (a generic term used by villagers to refer to police as well as paramilitary personnel) arrived and started chasing us. There must have been 15-20 men.”
Holding her head in her hands, she said, “They beat us severely, with sticks and rifles. I was hit on my buttocks, thighs and legs. Our cows were running. We fled scared, but they had surrounded her (the teen). Later that day, Sodi Lakshmi and I found her. She was badly bruised and swollen. Both of us brought her back home. I applied jungle medicine to her body.” Fact-finding reports from three different groups of activists, Adivasi Congressmen including the area’s legislators, and Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an Adivasi civil society group who visited the area in November contain additional accounts of violence. Over 15 women reported to the teams that their lower clothing was lifted, and they were threatened with sexual violence, including chilli being pushed into their private parts.
Others said they were stripped and chased. Victims reported being chased out of their homes, occupied by security forces. In some instances, security men allegedly took off their clothes and told the women they could come and sleep inside with them. Women said even those holding infants were beaten and their hair pulled. Some children were also beaten and their clothes removed. When women tried to intervene, they were also beaten, they told the teams. Several villagers said the personnel looted money ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 27,000 from their homes. They also reported destruction of possessions like clothes, bicycles and utensils, as well as looting of chickens and essentials like rice, pulses and cooking oil, which the security men ate during the days they stayed in the villages.
Satkosia New Transit Route of Maoists: DIG
ANGUL: The Sambalpur-Deogarh-Sundargarh division of Maoists has made Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary its new transit route to operate between Kalahandi district and neighbouring Jharkhand. This was disclosed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG), North Central Range, Yatindra Koyal, at a press meet here on Monday. Angul SP Rajesh Pandit, CRPF Commandant SK Pradhan were also present. Briefing mediapersons about the encounter at Chutkei under Katarang Reserve Forest under Purunakote police limits, 30 kms from here, the DIG said at about 9 am on Sunday a patrolling team of Special Operation Group (SOG) detected about 25 armed cadres led by their leader Kunu Dehuri at Chutkei.
The SOG ordered them to surrender introducing themselves as Odisha Police. “The ultras, armed with latest weapons, instead opened fire on the SOG forcing the jawans to retaliate. The firing lasted for about 30 minutes and the Maoists fled from the spot leaving behind three wireless sets and other materials which were seized from the camp, the DIG added. There was no report of injury from security forces and no casualty or injury was learnt from Maoist side. District SP said “Vigorous combing operation has been launched in the area under Purunakote police station to nab the rebels operating in Satkosia taking the advantage of the dense forests.” This was the second encounter between Maoists and security forces in the industrial district which was out of reach of the ultras till 2013. In 2013, an encounter had ensued in a jungle under Chhendipada police station. A camp of the Maoists was destroyed but they managed to flee.