Life in the Maoist PLGA: Men Cook, Women Patrol
Posted by Ka Frank on January 12, 2010
This article appeared in Maoist Information Bulletin 13, available at Banned Thought.
Maoist country: Men cook, women patrol
DNA, November 1, 2009
The Laheri ambush on October 8, in which 17 policemen were killed, intelligence sources say, was led by Tarakka, alias Vimala Chandra Sidam, an educated rebel from Kistapur village in Jimalgatta area.
Tarakka’s photographs in the police records show a simple, good-looking woman, quite unlike the hardened image of a resolute guerrilla fighter that one would expect. Her husband, Bhupati, a central committee member, is a technology graduate. Police sources claim they had a love marriage.
A surrendered Maoist in Gadchiroli says that the couple is strongly committed to the Maoist cause and that the duo is idols among the youth in the territory they command. He adds, “In the dalams, there is no discrimination between women and men. Men can be asked to cook and women can be asked to do patrolling. So there’s nothing peculiar about women commanders or cadres.”
In many cases, women follow their Maoist husbands to the rebel camp. The classic case is of Diwakar, a top Maoist rebel: his wife Jyoti joined the cadres after their marriage. Jyoti, who is commander of the Tippagarh dalam, was Diwakar’s first cousin. Their adivasi village had ruled their marriage as improper and ostracised them. A disgruntled and angry Diwakar joined a local Maoist group and rose to higher ranks. Jyoti married him, and his cause.
“Women cadres naturally attract more girls into their fold,” says Chandra, a former Maoist who surrendered with her husband after fighting for the rebels’ cause for 18 years. “We were disheartened by the party’s new policies,” says her husband, whose surrender in 2008 was considered a big setback for the South Gadchiroli division of the Maoists. The two live in isolation, away from their families. “They won’t spare us if we return to our villages,” says her husband, Murali.
The trigger for women taking to arms, Chandra says, is the continued physical and economic exploitation of the adivasi community. “There are many girls who join the Maoists to avenge the exploitation by outsiders and the police,” he says. “The poor adivasi can’t approach any system — political or judicial — where they can plead their plight or seek redress against injustice. Maoists have that system, so the villagers naturally support them.” Chandra says that if the administration and the police approach the villages with honesty and softness, things will change.
‘Women get quick justice’
In the Red territory, Maoists follow a time-tested process of initiating a young villager into their fold. “It starts with regular interactions between the Maoist cadres and children,” says Chandra. The Maoist leaders keep an eye on potential recruits during their visits to villages, she says. “They try to convince us to join the armed revolution, and any incident, such as a policeman beating an adivasi for information after an incident, becomes the push.”
“I was impressed with their talk,” says another surrendered woman Maoist, who lives with her husband near Gadchiroli. “They spoke of revolution, justice and equity to women.” A CPI (Maoist) pamphlet pasted in several villages across Gadchiroli on International Women’s Day reads: “No revolution without winning the class struggle. No freedom to women without revolution.”
The powerful infusion of ideology, says a police officer with years of experience with Maoism, can’t be undermined. “There is a political vacuum, which the police can’t fill. If a woman complains of her exploitation to the police, she may not even get heard, forget getting any justice. All these years after independence, this has not changed. In contrast, if she approaches the Maoists for justice, she gets it immediately. This appeals to her.”
No private life
Several women and men in the ranks get married, but don’t raise children. “It’s not necessary that the husband and wife will remain in the same unit,” says Chandra, who got married when she was a soldier with the Maoists. “Though couples are not expected to raise children, it’s not a rule.”
Recent trends indicate female cadres raising children. Police sources say that after a recent encounter at Saunsari village, they recovered medicines that are generally prescribed during pregnancy. The second indicator: A woman Maoist killed near Murumgaon earlier this month, was found, in the post-mortem, to be pregnant. At any rate, there is no private life in a dalam, says Chandra’s husband, only a few private moments. “How can you raise children when it’s a war every day?”
Names of surrendered Maoists have been changed to protect identity.