Jungle Terror 1
Kalumu Bheema, Headman of Dogpadu village
While making our way to Palod village, we stop Bheema to ask for directions. And strike up a conversation with this man who has a chicken tucked under his arm. He says that two men had been murdered in his village as well. He won’t answer our questions until we reach his village Dogpadu, he says, before setting off at a blistering pace on winding jungle paths. Two kilometres later, we reach his house and Kalumu Bheema sets down the chicken. He is the village headman, he says — and witness to murder.
THE JUDUM reached the outskirts of Dogpadu on the evening of November 8, 2009. Our village was the first stop in their trail of destruction — we heard much later that the Judum attacked Palod and Tetmadagu villages on November 9. All three villages are about 8 km from each other. It was dark and most people had fallen asleep by the time the Judum reached the village. I had just reached home and was about to eat dinner when I heard them — several people talking at the same time, their voices reflecting a sense of urgency.
A minute later, I saw two men from our village, Madkam Budra and Vando Mangdu, torches in hand, walk towards the Judum on their way to the fields outside the village. I wanted to call them back, warn them of the Judum’s presence. I didn’t. If I had, the Judum would have realised how close they were to the village. Maybe I was afraid for my own life as well.
I heard the Judum capture the two men. I heard Budra and Mangdu ask the Judum who they were. In response, they were beaten up and abused in Gondi. “How dare you question the Judum. Who are you to ask us who we are,” the Judum men shouted. Within minutes the entire team marched off along with Budra and Mangdu into the forest. Much later, at night, I heard a noise I couldn’t identify then, like a series of explosions. It was too dark to go and investigate.
• KILLED: MADKAM BUDRA. LEAVES BEHIND A SON AND THREE DAUGHTERS
• KILLED: VANDO MANGDU. LEAVES BEHIND WIFE VANDO PUJI AND THREE DAUGHTERS
In the morning, at the first sign of daylight, a few of us from the village went towards the place we had heard the noises in the night. Half a kilometre from the village, we saw bloodstains. A little distance ahead, we found a bloodstained gamcha (towel) that belonged to Budra. I realised then that I had heard gunshots the night before. We walked on and met some people from Palod village who told us that the Judum had killed a man there. We then met people from Tetmadagu village who told us that the Judum had attacked there as well.
All of us went to Kishtaram police station. At first, the police denied any knowledge but then said that seven people had been shot dead. The Judum had shot dead Budra and Mangdu. For a long while, we remained outside the station. We were in shock. The police later told us a helicopter had taken away their bodies for post mortems to Dantewada.
How do I know that the men who dragged them away were Judum and not Naxals? I heard them say so themselves. While beating Budra and Mangdu, they yelled at them, telling them they had no right to question the Judum. And besides, a few kilometres outside the village, they had feasted on goats and chickens they stole from us. Naxals wouldn’t steal from us; they would have asked us for food.
We are battling drought on one hand and sickness on the other. The nearest hospital is 30 kilometres away and the only way to get there is on foot. On top of all this, we’ve to face the Judum. The Judum don’t kill Naxalites but only poor people like us. Couldn’t the government think of any other way to announce its presence in our village? Our only source of drinking water — three bore-wells — stopped working two years ago. All we get from the government is people who will kill us, without telling us why.