This article was published on The Times of India. Salwa Judum is a paramilitary force given power by the Indian government to combat Maoist forces. They are well known in India for using brutal methods of repression against villagers and Maoists.
‘Area liberated… No Salwa Judum here’
BASTAR: It was early morning when the phone rang. “Do you still want to meet the Naxals?,” asked the voice at the other end. For the past eight
months, I was waiting for this ”invitation” to meet the Maoists of Chhattisgarh in their den: the Dandakaranya jungles of South Bastar.
We drove down to Kondagaon, a kasbah about 250 km from Chhattisgarh’s capital, Raipur. Our local contact was scheduled to meet us there. Our codeword: ”Hello Mahendroo”. He turned up an hour late. For a while, we thought he never would come. We began our journey in a Scorpio. Expecting cops on the way, we had created an alternate identity for ourselves: we were NGO workers surveying the implementation of the NREGA.
Thankfully, nobody stopped us. It was dark by the time we made our first stop. After resting in a hut for a couple of hours, we took an hour-long motorbike ride over a winding forest dirt track under a full moon.