31 July, 2010
After the arrival of the Monsoon, the city dwellers are enjoying the cool weather. The farmers are busily preparing their paddy fields. However, the atmosphere in the red corridor is more or less the same, a mood of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, pain and shock prevails in the region. Perhaps, one could hear the endless cry in the village like Sosokuti, which is an Adivasi dominated village comprises of five hamlets – Barulata, Hesahatu, Kochasindri, Sosohatu and Sosokuti situated in the middle of Balanda, Mosanga and Sosokuti forests in Arki block, which comes under Khunti district in Jharkhand. These forests are also known as the abodes of the Maoist Guerillas. Interestingly, Sosokuti is merely 75 kilometers from Ranchi the capital city of Jharkhand however the state has completely failed to content the discontents. Consequently, the Indian State included the village in the part of the red corridor and a camp of the Security Forces was established in the Primary School, at its neighbouring village Mosanga. Now both the parties – the Security Forces and the Maoists have been exploiting the innocent villagers but they can do nothing except shouting, weeping and crying.
It is obvious that the Security Forces have terrorized the atmosphere in the villages. Frankly speaking, when a vehicle enters a remote village, it becomes fun for the children. They start running behind the vehicle. However, the situation is just opposite in Sosokuti village. Whenever, a vehicle enters the village, all the villagers including children, women and men run away to hide, shield and protect themselves. These days, the police visit the village almost everyday and humiliate, beat and torture the innocent villagers and also destroy their food and shelter. Therefore, they assume that each vehicle entering their village belongs to the Police. However, there is some special rule, which only few people know that if anyone blows the vehicle’s horn before entering the village that means the vehicle does not belong to the police therefore the villagers have nothing to worry about. Once the vehicle enters the village by blowing a horn, the villagers gather nearby the vehicle immediately assuming that someone is there to hear them in the village. Once you start hearing them, almost everyone wants to tell you the painful, shameful and heartbreaking experiences, which they face almost everyday in the red corridor.
Creating livelihood crisis:
There are about 2500 people living in Sosokuti village, whose livelihood is based on agriculture, forest produce and daily wage. However, there is a huge livelihood crisis in the village after launching of the anti-Naxal operation widely known as ‘operation green hunt’. Earlier, each and every family used to earn Rs.100 to 150 per day by selling firewood, leaf and other minor forest produce in the local markets. Now the villagers have stopped going to the forests in fear of losing their lives while collecting the forest produce. According to Sufal Muda of Sosokuti, who used to sell the firewood, the police exploit the villagers in the forest. He says, “Police can catch us, shoot and present it as a case of encounter therefore we cannot dare to roam in the forest”.
35 year-old Etwari Devi of Sosokuti village is a daily wage labourer living in the village with her husband Arjun Lohra (40), mother-in-law Sokhi Devi (70) and 14 year-old son Rajan Lohra. Her family earns the livelihood through daily wage and selling of the firewood. Presently, she has been working in the road construction scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). On July 8, 2010, when she was busy in road construction, the Security forces entered her house after breaking the locked door, poured the cooked food (rice and vegetable) into the wood-burning stove and scattered the utensils. In the evening when Etwari returned home with a hungry stomach, she was stunned to see the broken door, scattered utensils and spoiled food in her house. She says, “I knew that the Police must have done this. However, I wanted to be confirmed therefore I asked my neighbour Ambika Devi who was present in the village when the incident took place who told me that the police had entered my house”. Suddenly she became angry and said, “Ask the police to give us food, clothing and shelter. We’ll desert the village if living in the village makes us Maoists. She asked, “The police torture us in the day and the Maoists in the night, what is our crime we want to know?”
A meaningless war between the State and the Maoists has terrorized the village atmosphere, which is resulting in migration of youth to the cities to ensure their livelihood. Three youth of Kochasindri, which is a hamlet of Sosokuti village, migrated to Panjab where there was no such case of migration before. A brave woman of Kochasindri, Shanti Devi, who fights against the police torture says, “The police humiliate, exploit and torture the innocent villagers after branding them as Maoists therefore the youth think that it is better to ensure livelihood from the outside of the village rather than facing police torture while collecting the firewood in the forest”. She asks, “Why don’t the police go to the forests and fight the Maoists instead of exploiting the innocent villagers?” Indeed, the villagers are facing a livelihood crisis, which will increase day by day and the failure of monsoon would just add fuel to the fire.
Happiness is a crime in the red corridor:
Can anyone be surprised to hear that the Security Forces do not want the villagers to lead joyful lives in the red corridor? The painful reality of Sosohatu, another hamlet of Sosokuti village, reveals the truth. 28 year-old Satnarayan Munda of Sosohatu and 20 year old Basanti Kumari of Nawadih village of Tamar block got married on 30 June, 2010. Thereafter, Satnarayan Munda returned to his village with his newly wedded wife Basanti and the villagers who were part of the marriage ceremony in Basanti’s village. There was a reception party in Satnarayan’s village on July 1 therefore the villagers and Satnarayan’s relatives had gathered in Satnarayan’s house. They did the reception rituals and thereafter ate, drank and danced till late at night.
Meanwhile, the Security forces assumed the marriage function was a celebration party of the Maoists and therefore they went to the village in search of the Maoists. It was 4 o’clock in the morning on July 2, nearly 150 security persons blocked Sosokuti from every corner. Satnarayan Munda’s father Dhan Singh Munda was lying on the bed in his courtyard when a team of the Security forces entered into his house and asked him, “Is it the party of the Maoist? He was stunned to hear the question but replied humbly, “Today, there was a marriage function of my son”. Perhaps, the security forces didn’t believe in Munda’s words therefore they continued their operations for hunting the Maoists.
Suddenly, some policemen entered into a bedroom where Satnarayan and Basanti were spending their first night. Basanti states about the nightmare saying, “I was shocked to see the Policemen entering into my bedroom without permission.” She asks, “Can any one do this? Who has given right to the police to take away our personal freedom whenever and wherever they want?” The police dragged out Satnarayan Munda from his bedroom and severely beat him in front of his wife. Basanti says, “My husband started vomiting and he fell down to the ground. I asked the Police, “What is his crime?” They replied, “He is a Maoist.” After a few minutes, the policemen took him with them.” “I don’t know what is his crime but of course, I know is, the police blocked my life before the beginning of a new adventure of my life”, ‘She added and started weeping.
The police also arrested Dhan Singh Munda, Rekha Kumari, Sunita Kumari, Devilal Munda and another two villagers who were part of the wedding party alleging that they supported the Maoists. Later on, the police released five of them but Satnarayan Munda and Rekha Kumari were sent to Jail. Ironically, Satnarayan was booked in 17 CLA though the FIR claims that he was keeping pamphlets of a banned Naxalite organization and working for it but it doesn’t mention arms. The interesting part is, the pamphlet which the police found from Satnarayan’s residence is issued by a forum called “Operation Green Hunt Virodhi Nagrik Manch”, which is headed by a pioneer Human Rights Activist Stan Swami and of course, the pamphlet is also drafted by him only. In fact the police have taken for guaranteed that the every party, function and marriage ceremony to be organized in the red corridor is of the Maoists. The million-dollar question is, do the villagers have no right to enjoy their lives? The villagers are between the sword and the sickle but where will they go in this situation? Who is there to hear their grievance? Do they have the right to live with dignity too?
Dress code in the red corridor:
We have heard so many times about the dress code imposed on women by the fundamentalist groups, of course, which is counted under the purview of violation of the liberty of individual. However, anyone would be shocked to hear that the Security forces have imposed (unofficially) a similar kind of dress code in the red corridor. Can you dare to wear a dress, which would be enough to brand you as a Maoist? 14 year-old Lalita Munda of Sosokuti village reveals the terrible experience which she had undergone and of course, there are many who go through the ordeal every day.
Lalita left her school after the death of her mother a few years back and now plays the role of mother. On July 8, 2012, about 100 security forces arrived to her village in the afternoon when she was boiling the paddy grains so that she could make rice out of it and cook it later. The security forces entered her house without permission (remember common men cannot enter the camps of the security force without permission but they can do anything with the power of the gun). She heard a voice coming from outside of her house, “Take her out if she is in ‘salwar suit’ and leave her if she is wearing a school dress”. Fortunately, Munda had on her old school dress, which protected her for the moment.
She says, “The security forces brand those girls as Maoists who wear salwar suit and take them to the police station, torture, molest and even rape them and finally put them behind bars therefore we cannot wear salwar suit”. After a few moments she gets angry and says, “If police want us to be naked, just tell us we’ll go naked. We’ll throw our clothes into the bay if clothes make us the Maoists”. After seeing the rapid growth of anger, one should not be surprised if these girls and women of the red corridor decide to walk naked in the capital city of Jharkhand. Are we ready for that? The Indian State must respond to the question very seriously because the same villagers have given their mandate to protect their rights.
The peculiar thing about every village situated in the red corridor is: there are more or less the same terrible experiences of humiliation, torture, molestation, rape, and cold-blooded murder of the innocent villagers by the security forces deployed in the anti-Naxal operations. However, no one goes to the police station for filing a FIR against the perpetrators for the obvious reasons. If anyone dares to speak against them they are labelled a Maoist and put behind bars. Xavier Soy of Shiyadih village comes under Kuchai block of Saraikela-Kharsawan district was put behind the bars for raising questions against the police atrocity. The Superintendent of Police (Khunti) Manoj Kaushik says, “The villagers speak against the police due to immense pressure from the Maoists, which is part of their strategy to use the villagers in their favour”. The pertinent question is why are the people not favouring the police? Is it only because of fear from the Maoist menace? Does it mean the villagers are voiceless? If so, it is a shame for Indian democracy, which could not empower the villagers for last 63 years?
The most worrying factor is, the way discontent has been growing against the Indian State and the victimization of the innocent villagers by the security forces is just multiplying the anger of the angry masses. The villagers are not against of the Maoists though they have also terrorized them but the villagers are going against the security forces. Therefore, one can only imagine what would happen if every discontent takes up the gun and joins the Maoist folk? In that case, the Indian State won’t be able to deal with the situation. However, the India’s corporate Home Minister P Chidambaram has publicly claimed that he will be eliminating the Maoist menace within the next three years by serving the development cola and organizing the licensed killings in the red corridor. But the question that may remain unanswered is will he wipe out the discontent of the villagers without addressing the issue of injustice?
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand, India. He can be reached at:
Source: Sanhati and Countercurrents