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The terror of Maoist (Naxalbari) women

Sometimes there are pitched battles between the Indian forces and the Maoists, including women. 

by Amjed Jaaved

Every now and then, Indian newspapers flash news about Maoist insurgents, including women being killed. Here is a glimpse of such news: A woman fighter, along with a male c-fighter, was killed in a clash with government forces in Odisha’s Malkagiri district (Press Trust of India, December 14, 2020).



In another incident, a woman Maoist was killed in an encounter with India’s security forces in Sukma district of Chhatisgarh  (PTI, October 13, 2010). A woman Maoist was killed near Anrapali forest (Visakhapatnam, Andhrapradesh). And, another woman Maoist, carrying Rs. 16 lac reward on her head was killed in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

Sometimes there are pitched battles between the Indian forces and the Maoists, including women. For instance, there was a head-on confrontation between a Maoist group and government forces of over 1500 “jawan”, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons and helicopters at the Bijapur-Sukma border. Sans air power, the Maoists, armed only with machine guns, gunned down 22 soldiers belonging to Central Reserve Police Force, Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (Cobra), and Bastariya Battalion of the Central Reserve Police.

Why do women join the Maoist Movement?

The Maoist ideology ingrained the sense of empowerment in them. The Maoist manifesto teems with such words as “mahila sasahktikaran” (women’s empowerment), “raise their voices'' (awash uthaunne), “get their voices represented” (mahilako awaj ko pratinidithyo) and “understand women’s grief” (mahila ko dukka bhujnne).

The Maoist struggle is commonly known as “the people’s war”. The “war” aims at abolishing the feudal system, and creating a democratic egalitarian society. The bulwark of the Maoists is rural population, lower castes and women. Women and men of all castes, classes, ethnic backgrounds and education levels joined the movement.

Pro-women manifesto

The Maoist has incorporated women’s emancipation in their ideological manifesto, actually a “40-point demand-document”. The gender equality is enshrined in points 19, 20 and 21, mentioned heretofore:

“19. Patriarchal exploitation and discrimination against women should be stopped, girls should be allowed to access paternal property as their brothers.

20. All racial exploitation and suppression should be stopped. Where ethnic communities are in the majority, they should be allowed to form their own autonomous governments.”

People’s courts

The Maoist proved their heart-felt commitment to the manifesto by punishing rapists, wresting back the usurped land of single women, penalising men for polygamy, and prohibiting the sale of liquor as drunken men more often beat the women.  Jan adalats (“people’s courts”) ferociously uphold women’s rights on issues of social and domestic violence.

In 2002, in recognition of their female constituency, the Maoists introduced the so-called “prachanda path,” creating a women’s department in the Central Committee. In several cases, it is the women who slay the incorrigible feudal tyrants. The women realise that they are “agents of change” who have to fight out repression in all its manifestations.  The women have become politically aware that they have the right make decisions about their marriages, children’s education, and other everyday gender needs.

Indian police admit it was the women fighters who were in the vanguard of a deadly attack in Chhattisgarh, where 24 people, including some top politicians, were killed.

 Because of its liberal manifesto, the insurgency has spread to 11 states, with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha as epicenters. It has become entrenched in all central and eastern Indian states, often referred to as the “Red Corridor.

Gurkha trainers

In addition, India launched Special teams for simultaneous searches in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka at suspected Maoist training centres and hideouts. The effort was counter-productive because India’s national Investigation Agency framed charges against the innocent people.

During searches, the Indian forces were surprised to know that the retired Gurkha soldiers of both British and the Indian Army harbour sympathy for the Maoists. The general impression in people’s minds is that the Indian forces dare not pursue the Maoists in forests. The insurgents pick up places where to ambush the security forces, and make off with booty with impunity.

Salwa Judum (purification hut)

Having failed to arrest the momentum of the movement, India organised a private army of Salwa Judum led by Mahendra Karma From among the villagers.  To boost their morale, they were given the honorary rank of “special police officer. "As a workaround, the government sponsored counter-militias and split tribes into those “for” and “against” Maoists. Those willing to fight the Maoists were offered guns, money and honorary police ranks.

The Maoists shot dead Mahendra Karma and several members of the ruling Indian National Congress whose brainchild the Salwa Judum was.  It later transpired that the salwa judum had been cobbled up with help of child soldiers recruited under duress or financial allurement. It was involved in gross human rights violations. When the People's Union of Civil Liberties in India brought its atrocities to the Supreme Court’s notice, it declared it illegal in 2011.

Concluding remarks

The Naxalites want to carve out an independent zone extending from Nepal through Bihar and then to the Dandakarnaya region extending up to Tamil Nadu to give them access to the Bay of Bengal as well as the Indian Ocean. 

Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free lance for over fifty years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944).


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