By Kunal Majumder
ON JUNE 29 at around 8 am, Maoist leader Ramanna, alias Ravula Srinivas, made a surprise call to TEHELKA. The mastermind of the deadliest Naxal attack ever — the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans on April 6 — sounded furious. Speaking in his usual Telugu-accented Hindi, he said, “The CRPF and state police are spreading terror in the region. They want to drive out all the tribals so that multinational companies can happily mine here.” Unaware of the impending attack in the afternoon, this correspondent took note of the angry statements from Ramanna, the secretary of the south Bastar regional committee of the CPI (Maoist).
“The security forces are now torturing and raping innocent tribal women and girls,” he said, citing many instances.
Ramanna went on to issue a threat against the security forces. “I know most of them (the forces) are from poor families. Some of them are also tribals. But that is no excuse for the kind of atrocities they are inflicting on women and girls. We will conduct a similar ambush like the one we did at Chintalnar and Chintagufa and teach them a lesson,” he said. Within hours of the call, Maoist cadres ambushed 63 security personnel, killing 26, just three kilometres from the CRPF camp in Narayanpur district.
In the unforgiving jungles of Bastar, ill-trained and ill-equipped security personnel are being pitted against desperate tribals. When TEHELKA visited the village of Mukram, just a few kilometres from where the April massacre of 76 CRPF jawans took place, we found the village deserted. Facing a blacklash from the troops, most of the 115 families had fled to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Villagers claimed that on May 22, three girls were raped and five people including the Sarpanch picked up (See TEHELKA, The Line of No Control, June 26). In Lacchipara, barely a few hundred metres from the Chintalnar CRPF camp, villagers say one woman was raped, and attempts were made on two others.
Vijay Raman, Special Director General of CRPF, is a worried man. This is the third such incident since he took over. Since January 2010, more than 450 lives — including around 150 security personnel — have been lost in anti-Naxal operations. However, he rubbishes the rape allegations against the security forces. “There is no substance to these accusations,” he says. Inspector General of Bastar TG Longkumer has a similar answer. “We have no knowledge of any rapes last month,” he says.
But GN Saibaba, the Maoist negotiator in the talks with the government, insists the jawans are not innocent. “It is the forces that are creating law and order problem by engaging in cruel acts against innocent tribal women and girls,” he claims. “They are acting like mercenary forces instead of providing security.” He feels such bloodbaths will continue till a ceasefire is announced. “Until the government changes its approach, innocent people from both side would continue to lose their lives,” he says.
Writer’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org