Woman PLGA Commander: “Our Party Has Benefited from the Salwa Judum”
Posted by Ka Frank on January 31, 2010
This article appeared on Tehelka on January 29, 2010.
‘Our Party Has Benefited From the Salwa Judum’
In a meeting with the leader of a 100- member Naxal armed squad, the last thing you expect is to be giggled at. That is what we were faced with within a minute of meeting Comrade Savitri of the CPI (Maoist). The reason? Comrade Savitri is tickled that because we lost our way in the jungle — the only territory she claims she has ever seen — we were seven hours late for a meeting with her. In a candid and forthright conversation that lasts over five hours, she discusses her party’s stance in a self-declared Maoist stronghold in Chhattisgarh. Excerpts:
Is Operation Green Hunt a reality? On the ground, is there a war or war-like situation in Chhattisgarh? Home Minister P Chidambaram has consistently said that Operation Green Hunt is a media creation.
Maybe he means that the term ‘Operation Green Hunt’ is a creation of the media because for the last four years, since the Salwa Judum started in Chhattisgarh, there has been an increase in the violence inflicted on the masses. We have not seen a dramatic increase in the number of troops in the last year but the level of violence and the severity of the crimes have risen dramatically. The number of innocent men and women being killed and raped by the Judum has gone up five-fold.
What is your party’s reaction?
In the last two years, in the area under my control, we’ve tried and executed seven people who were either with the police or the Judum. They were stealing from the Adivasis and betraying them to the police. I can sense your next question; we understand that the police and the Judum are also poor Adivasis in many cases. But they choose to betray their own people. Even if you don’t believe in our party’s ideology, you cannot equate revolutionary violence with state violence. Besides, armed squads are not the only way we’re fighting against the Indian State.
Tell us about the reactions of the Adivasis. Have Adivasis ever held you responsible for the rising violence?
Interestingly, since the start of the Salwa Judum, the support for our party has gone up tremendously. We’re seeing a steady increase in recruitment and additions to our armoury. From the seven executions we conducted, we gained six rifles and a lot of ammunition. The State should think about that before handing out arms to the Judum.
Are you saying that your party has benefited from the Salwa Judum?
Yes. However, the violence they inflict on the people is condemnable.
Let us talk about this area. You say that you have a 100-member armed squad. Some people say they expect protection from you. Did you attempt to prevent the Judum attacks?
We were badly outnumbered. On one occasion, our firing prevented the Judum from entering the village.
Why are there no hospitals or schools in this area? If this area is under your party’s control and if your party is committed to serving the interests of the people, surely these are absolute necessities for the Adivasis here?
This area is not entirely under our control. Yet. In other areas, we have initiated and implemented these along with a lot of other development activities. Have you asked the Indian State this question? We have been here only for the past 20 years.
Surely the presence of your party acts as a deterrent for the government to step in and provide these to the people?
It’s a convenient excuse. We have never stopped doctors and teachers from entering these areas. Anybody who wants to serve the people is always welcome here.
But three years ago, your party destroyed the school building and an anganwadi centre in the area along with the police outpost and forest department office. I went to that village.
In that particular village, the police was using the school building as a shelter. Besides, two years ago, we decided at our conference to stop destruction of schools and hostels. You will not see that happening anymore. We are not vikas virodhi (anti-development). That is the image created by the State.