Wednesday, August 27, 2014

48 hours in Maoist Captivity (Part-IV)


The Maoists, all dressed in their olive-green uniforms, retired at night below the Mohnar trees. The Republic Day had passed, and the uncertainty had returned with the morning. Vamsi had no clues what Maoists had demanded and what if the demands would not be met. In this Part IV, the leader of the Maoists, ML, revealed the deeper insights of their organization and many incidents that shaped their movement in Giridih District.

Other parts of '48 hours in Maoist Captivity' (Part-I, Part-II, Part-III) could be read here. 

It was probably midnight when I realized that my spine had turned stiff like a stone. My best efforts to keep eyes closed went in vain. I turned my head right and saw ML-the leader of the Maoist group, Chandradeo-VLW and Maksood-PS comforting themselves with fire. GRS-Shambhu Pandit slept on his bed a few feets away from me. Shivering with cold, I too squatted like them facing fire- burning dry Mohnar leaves kept inside small pieces of rock- and held my palm towards the dwarf yellow flames.

With his two hands that barely came out from the blanket, ML rubbed tobacco attentively and soon held his palm toward Maksood to offer it. Maksood picked up whatever he could with his thumb and forefinger; stretched his lower lip with the other hand and put tobacco between his lower lip and gum.

I fastened the blanket around my head to prevent air from entering and stretched my hands and held my palms toward fire. Meanwhile I was confused as why he lit or allowed anyone to lit fire.  “Dada… Don’t you think this fire could serve as a hint to the security forces about our location? ”, I asked.

“No. Generally, they conduct operations in the morning.” ML replied and filled tobacco behind his stretched lower lip, held with one hand, while he rubbed away the tobacco fines from other hand on his blanket. “These forest and terrains, quite acquainted to us, offer them great resistance at night. We are at an advantage, in the darkness. Also this location is difficult for them to guess.”

Few minutes of silence followed his answer. The answer made him look like a careful planner and a lover of adventure. A small gush of freezing wind got anyhow inside the blanket and sent a chill down the spine. Silence was broken by the snapping and rustling of leaves. Dry leaves carried away with wind made a scratching sound and the flames bent in one direction as if they bowed ML. We surrounded the fire from all sides to keep it from wind. VLW brushed flames with his palms and then passed them over his face many times. This ritual was soon adopted by Maksood and I, and there arrived a gentle smile on all the faces, probably because of the awareness of the act being copied.

The speed of wind increased and ashes began becoming airborne. We all stood up and ML cooled off the fire with water. The time to go back to bed had come. We marched and lay on our beds. I covered my whole body with blanket so as not to have any aperture through which air might enter.

Soon I found someone shaking my shoulders. I rubbed my eyes and wore my glasses. Maksood said, “Sir! Sirrrrrr! Wake up Sirrrrrr., you sleep too much.” his voice mixed with sarcasm. I looked blankly at him without any word. Uncertainty appeared again in the calm morning of the deep jungle. Birds chirped. The water stream, quite far away from this place, was audible to deep attention. Sun was nowhere to be seen but its presence was noticeable behind the mild orange clouds. I rubbed my eyes and wore my glasses.

The Republic Day had passed and I thought that the administration would have begun the search operation. Maksood (Panchayat Secretary), Chandradeo (Village Level Worker) and Shambhu Pandit (Gram Rojgar Sevak) sat on a low hanging tree branch facing M1 and MM who were heating water over a temporary fireplace. Meanwhile, a male and a female cadre, not of age more than 20 years, put two plastic jars, full of water, near the fireplace and took away the empty ones.

Had they been studying somewhere, they would have passed +2 Board Examinations. What made them take this path at such tender age? It made me curious and concerned. And I wanted to speak to them but my fears of being perceived as over curious journalist held me back. Now, I repent why I didn’t speak with them.

M1 offered me a jug of warm water. I gargled and washed my face.
“Sir, Do you want to shave? I have razor and blade with me.” ML said.
“No, Dada. I am okay.”  I said.
“Do you want a paper soap to clean your face?”
“No. not now.”
“Only NOs. So, I guess you would not want tea too?” ML said knowing my penchant for tea.
“No. I mean, yes. I’d like to have tea.” I said with a smile.
ML smiled and I reciprocated with a bigger smile.

Suddenly, a sound, maneuvering through shrubs walking on dry leaves, approached us and ML turned alert increasing his hold on the gun. The first thought that had come in everyone’s mind was that security forces had arrived. As the sound came closer, everyone became alert; At once, M1 and MM left tea-making and took their positions to face the situation. It appeared as if someone ran restlessly.
  “Cuk…oko Cuk…oko Cuk…oko..” the running wild chicken made sound and I couldn’t suppress my laughter seeing the situation. M1 and MM went back to making tea; ML and I started our conversation. M1 poured tea from a long container into steel glasses and we all sat together on my bed. I fixed my gaze at the fireplace. The leaves turned into ash slowly and lost themselves with a flame.

Meanwhile, ML tried to strike a conversation, “Why Indian Government is promoting SEZs (Special Economic Zones)? Do you know there are no trade unions there and the labor laws are bent to benefit the rich capitalists who care about nothing except their profits? It is like creating a foreign country in your own by selling off your land.”

I had read about SEZs but didn’t know this much. “SEZs help us increase our foreign exchange reserve. That is good for our economy.” I answered. My answer turned him angry and his voice mixed with resentment came out “Do you know at what throw away prices lands are sold for SEZs? In the name of money, would people sell their mothers and sisters?”
This knowledge of trade-unions and bent labor laws shocked me and I felt ashamed to realize how less I knew. 
Silence followed. 
And soon, I broke it.
“Dada, I want to go to loo.”
After walking over to some distance, I chose a place to relieve. After I was done, we both moved to a place where sunrays successfully crept in and made long shadows of the small shrubs. In a small area, which could barely accommodate three persons appeared like a poultry filled with chickens when the other three also joined us.

Chandradeo (VLW) said “There is no polytechnic in this district. The government is least concerned about creating opportunities for the youth. ”
But in fact, there was a government polytechnic college in Giridh- a college with buildings but not with teachers to teach. I didn’t reveal for I wanted to see how ML responds to this question.

ML grinned and said “Suppose you give them ITI training. Now, who will give jobs to them?”
Nice answer, I thought.
Chandradeo said, “Why don’t you sit with government and talk?”
Suddenly his face filled with lines and he spoke out spontaneously, “Who the hell in government is ready to address our concerns? The government would put only conditions. Would they answer why Public school children can’t compete with Private school children? Would they answer why the quality of education has been dismally deteriorating? Do you think a Santhal (name of a tribe) boy or girl from Nukania can get into IIT or UPSC? Would the CM answer why he is spending 81 crore on the bungalow for himself? ”

“Dada. I agree with what you said. The system has its practical faults but don’t you think peaceful protests can lead the way to change.” I directed the matter in the direction where I had long thought of. i.e. peaceful protests.

 “Do you think that the Government actually listen to peaceful protests? They don’t. I can name a dozen serious protests, concerning vital matters, happening now in country that Government cares nothing about. And now, they are against protests too. Do you know about the protests by tribals in Polavaram area and that of the people of Kudankulam? ” He paused again.

And then added, “And you talk about the system. What kind of system is this where the DC doesn’t listen to complaint of VLW against the BDO? The truth is that the Government has failed but doesn’t want to acknowledge its failures. And when they are not ready to listen to their failures, how can they really work for people? They just want to maintain a poker face of good governance when everything has rotten from within. ”

He added, “I know they can’t answer. Because they don’t have any answers. They are not committed to serve the people. The problem is with this rotten system. This has to be demolished. We need a new system. ”

While we discussed, Maksood (PS) and Shambhu Pandey (GRS) lit the fire in the fireplace to warm themselves, but were stopped by the leader. “The daytime is not safe. Most of the Police operations are conducted during early mornings. And fire may easily serve as a hint for them to guess our location given they have technologically sophisticated equipments.”

Chandradeo (VLW) wanted to relieve himself and M1 accompanied him to his brief journey inside the woods.  For breakfast, the other cadres were preparing their plates with the last night leftovers: Dal, Rice, Vegetable curry.
After coming back, Chandradeo sat with his legs crossed and assumed Baba Ramdev’s posture. Slowly, with his abnormally squeezed stomach, he seemed like a lean man kept hungry for many years. His face had turned stiff and eyeballs waited to pop out any moment.

ML said to VLW, “When would you take breakfast?”
VLW replied, “I will do Yoga for some time. You people carry on.”
While VLW performed weird difficult yoga aasans adeptly like Ramdev’s disciple, I brushed my teeth with Sal twig, PS and GRS warmed themselves with fire leftovers in the fireplace and Maoists had their breakfast.
“He is a unique personality and the best man of this block. ”I said to GRS.
“Sir, I am also a very good person. I used to give free tuitions to children free of cost few years ago.” GRS said.

Watching the jealousy turn vocal, I couldn’t suppress my smile, “Oh! I didn’t know that. So, this block is lucky to have too many pro-people people”. I said.
By that time, ML came over to me after finishing his breakfast and requested, “Sir, please have your breakfast.”
“We’ll take breakfast with Chandradeo.” I said.
“Don’t you worry, sir. I’ll serve him.” ML said.
VLW said, “Give me some time to walk.”
This casual reply triggered a mild laugh. “He He He. Please leave it for now. We have to change places. Take you breakfast now.”ML said, his voice containing mild air of authority.
ML and M1 served us our breakfast in dona patta which included puffed rice (moodi), namkeen and rasogulla. The breakfast was delightful and I liked the taste of the sweet.

While I was enjoying the taste of the rasogulla in the forest, the District Collector in the district headquarters was much stressed to get us freed from the Maoist captivity. He was trying to fetch as much information as possible from people of Tuyyo panchayat. Neither Jechonia nor Mr. Lal had slept on the nights that followed our abduction. Adding to their woes, my sister kept pestering Jechonia and the DC about update on our status.
My childhood friend Mr. Rajesh also tried his best to get me free. He was informed about my abduction by another friend of mine, Ms. Madhavi, whom Jechonia informed on 26th January. Rajesh’s father (a former district secretary of CPI) phoned some of his colleagues and informed about the incident. They were advised to meet one of the lady social activists (member cum state secretary of VIRASAM). My friend and his father immediately started off to the college she works in to inform her about incident. Referring to my past work devoted to society, my friend termed me as a person who wants to do good for society. He tried hard explaining her about me and AaKanKsha (An organization that gives scholarship to poor students), we both started some 2 years ago and the way I left my job in TCS to take up the fellowship. She advised him to meet Prof. Haragopal (a veteran human rights activist famous in the country and even the Maoist cadres respect him) from Hyderabad Central University immediately. She spoke to the professor and informed him about the incident and requested to meet him the next day, 27th Jan. My friend set off to Hyderabad to meet the Professor.

Suddenly GRS reflected, looking into woods, “Never ever in my life I had taken breakfast without bathing”.

ML responded, “Hmm…. We can let you bath, but the water in the stream is so freezing cold that you may get ill. This is why we are restraining you from taking bath.” He continued “Can you people please do a favour for us once you get out of the forest?”
“Sure dada!” the team of four hostages voiced together.
“Please try to explain to the media and your friends the cause that we are fighting for. Please tell them who we are, what we are doing, what we are aiming at. Tell them that we are fighting against the systemic evils that prevail in the present system. We are not against the people but we are fighting the system which is exploiting the poor and serving the capitalist interests at the cost of the poor.”

There was a brief pause. 
Then, ML said, with a smile on his lips “No yaar!! You can’t tell. The system won’t let you. Though you’d try to say, the DC and SP will, for sure, fabricate the message and the same message will be published in the media and not yours. I think you people may not even get a chance to speak to media.”

I replied “No dada! I will surely explain the media and my friends about the entire experience without changing a single word. To my best I will even try to pen it down.”
ML said with a satisfied look “Sir, you are the person working closely with the DC and so you may get a chance to speak out, and you may even speak once you get out of the fellowship. What about these three? Would the media listen to them? Do they get a chance to speak? Will the administration spare them if they speak out? NO. Nah!!”

I thought he was right. I was very less sure if Police will allow me to share my experiences with the Media. But I was sure DC sir would listen to me and may even let me speak some part of my experience. My mind was fast enough to pose many questions and answer them itself. And then, my mouth too took on the trend of posing questions to the leader of the group (ML). I genuinely wanted to know about him and his struggles. I asked him a few questions and he answered a few.

ML – Leader of the Maoist group who had abducted us. Though he has been frequently referred to as ML, in earlier parts of this story, no where his personality has been detailed. 
He was around 50, dark complexioned, with average physical strength and dressed in olive green uniform casually unlike others who tucked their shirts into pants. He carried an American Tourister bag -Opposing the USA and carrying American Tourister, I didn’t know the logic behind the use. Even thought of asking him but didn’t risk much on this seemingly unimportant question- full of clothes, blankets, plastic sheets, Maoist ideology books, a plate and a glass with some miscellaneous items. An AK47, with PLGA (People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army) written over it, hung about his shoulders. Always calm and composed, his grave demeanor mixed with logical bent of mind automatically anointed him as a leader. He held and defended the radical ideologies with a handle of logic sometimes supported with emotions. Every moment, he made sure we were comfortable and now, I feel very sure that it would have been difficult for us to return without any loss- physical or financial, had someone mature like him didn’t led the abductors.

 “Dada, why do you people oppose the elections? Why don’t you enter into politics?” I questioned him.

“You see, it is not about forming the government, sir. It is about the present system of functioning. The present system of bureaucracy right from the centre to the panchayat is rotten. This system itself is the major hurdle to implement the policies. Sir, this changes the policy makers even. No policies are implemented in the spirit they were thought to be implemented. The ideals of the policies framed for the people gets diluted midway.”

He continued “This system needs to be redesigned. You see, Arvind Kejriwal has formed the government very recently in Delhi but pity on him. How would he implement his ideals/policies with the same traditional working style of bureaucracy? Trust me; he will end up in a total mess. Even if it is me at the head of the government, I am sure that the existing system will change my mind and heart.”

“Sir, please answer my doubt. What is the need of this complex system for the developmental work – to distribute the percentage of share among officials and politicians? You must have listened to the fable of two cats fighting over a piece of bread where a shrewd monkey intervenes and tries to resolve the issue.”

I nodded.

“The same is happening in our villages today. When two people fight, police will enter and take bribe from both the families; shut them into some district or state jail making both families miserable. What mockery the word ‘government’ is doing to them?”

There was a silence, long enough to be considered a break from the on-going flow of discussion. I stroke the question I had long on my mind.

“Dada! Does Marxism allow violence?” I looked at ML.
“Yes Sir, it does. Mao said that political power flows out of the barrel of a gun. I don’t understand why some people and mostly politicians demand us to drop guns? I wanted to question them on why do we allow the police to carry the guns? If the police are allowed to carry guns then why shouldn’t we? ”

I smiled. I had never thought of Police not having guns. While he spoke, I imagined. How strange the world would look if the Police don’t have guns on their belts and shoulders?

 “Dada! You people stay in the forests, right? What do you.......”
ML interrupted me abruptly. “No sir. It is a wrong notion that we stay in the forest all the time. We stay at our homes and in our villages. We come to forests on assignments.”
 “Hmm… So, when you come to the forests what health precautions do you take?”

“A few. Everyone among us is trained in first aid techniques and basic herb-knowledge. And regularly we undergo medical checkups at Delhi and Kolkata.”
Meanwhile, one of the girl comrades held a jug full of water towards ML.
I asked “What could be the age of that girl?”

“18 years, or may be 20 years. She is a tribal girl. Ha! People say that we forcefully recruit people. You see, everyone is armed here. If I recruit any cadre against their will, can’t he or she shoot me and run away while everybody is asleep? There are no forceful recruitments in our cadres. This girl you see, had I recruited her forcefully she could have shot me long back with the gun that she is carrying now”, he replied

I hmmmm…ed and brought on my face a thoughtful expression indicating the nature of this insight that was so evident and yet so difficult to see.
“Dada, I have few questions I don’t know if I should ask this? You may choose not to answer.” I asked.

“No. No. Go Ahead. Ask.”
 “In terms of physical stronghold, how strong is PARASNATH hills when compared to other places that relate to your movement now?”
“A weak point. In fact, very weak as compared to others.”
“Who decided or who ordered you to take us hostage?”
“In The Party, positions have been created as per commanding areas and accordingly the decision-making powers have been devolved. This is my commanding area and I am the head of this area. I have the power to take any decision and taking you hostage was my own decision.”

He continued “But we have to report our important decisions to our seniors. Just like, we have reported this incident to our seniors.”
“What is the prime reason for taking us hostage?”
“Hmmmmmmm!!! As the area in-charge, it is my responsibility to maintain the Party’s activities and from time to time showcase the strength of its ideologies. My authority will be questioned by my superiors if I’m not able to handle the entrusted responsibility effectively. This is my den. And DC enters along with security forces; showcases his drama and returns back safely, and that too, twice. The next day, newspapers are adorned with bold headlines singing glory of the brave achievement of the District Administration. Will my Party spare me? No, it won’t.
Taking you people hostage is a message. This way we showed our presence in this area.” He added “But if we have taken someone hostage, taking care of them is our prime responsibility. We have to treat our hostage as guests. We have to respect them. We have to make sure that they don’t lose a single drop of blood. And the Media is such a big nonsense that in case if you slipped and hurt yourself while walking, they will write that Maoists were cruel to the hostages. You can’t imagine how much humiliation it can bring to us in front of our Central Leadership. Our Central Committee will plunder my self-respect with their simple questions – if you are not capable enough why did you take them hostage? And there are no answers to these simple heart-tearing questions. No words would prove my innocence.”

Sometime back I read an article on internet that CPI (M) has changed their hostage policy and so no hostage will be left alive.’ I thought of quoting that article but I couldn’t dare. Frankly, I thought it would be stupid of me to remind him of the taken resolution at this unfortunate moment.

He paused and added “Then, the burden of humiliation wouldn’t let me even stand in front of them. So we take utmost care when we abduct someone. According to our ideology, we mustn’t hurt anyone without proper reason and without giving chances to them. Three chances! We give three chances to our targets before we kill them. You people are from civil administration and are doing what you’ve been told to do. You are not our targets. We kill police because they are protecting the rotten system and politicians. And we even warn them before killing them.”

With a sense of apparent generosity, he added. “If they surrender, we take their weapons and leave them unhurt. Though we realize these cops belong to poor families like us, the life and death situation forces us to kill them. If we don’t kill them, they will kill us. They are mighty with technologically advanced weapons and war-systems, so we’ve to resort to land mines. We are helpless, sir.” He repeated. “We are helpless, sir.”

We hmmm…ed.

 “You see, sir, we are fighting against this oppressive system and people are the crux of our movement. We love people and they don’t fear us rather are willing to support us and our ideology. Yes, we warn those who help the police in fighting us. Killing is the last option when warnings don’t work. Media has projected us as anti-people extortionists. My earnest request to you: Please tell people about our ideals and character and struggle, when you return from this place.”

No one said anything.

He continued “You know, Sir. The Supreme Court of India has held SPOs (Special Police Officers) illegal as giving guns in hands of villagers to fight against their own brothers would bring nothing but destruction. But does the Government listens? No. In Giridih, Police has started this again. A middle school para teacher is being lured by a senior cop to recruit some SPOs in the village. The 5 youngsters have been recruited now to work as SPOs. Trust me; we will not spare that teacher. “

I waited for a pause but he continued.

“You know, sir, the Performance Appraisal Report (PAR) of senior cops has columns – ‘Number of NAXALS caught? Killed?’ What to say, Sir? The biggest barbarian among them gets the biggest medal.”

A brief silence followed. And I went on to ask again the long thought questions.

“hmm... Dada. I’ve read in newspapers that you recruit school children into militia and that you don’t want poor to get education. How much this is true?”
“Sir, MARXISM is a kind of science premised on logic and an uneducated irrational mind can’t understand it. If people won’t understand my ideology, how would they join me in fighting their oppressors? We want people to get good education and understand more about oppression of the system, our struggle and Marxism. The Media controlled by capitalists has fabricated and promoted this negative image. USA would’ve got something in its head after the Detroit crisis.” His face grew serious with the answer.

“But hasn’t socialism failed in USSR?” I intervened.

His smile indicated he was squeezing fun from the conversation. “Sir, Marx gave us a proved theory. The result depends on the ones working with it. What happened in USSR was a clear case of illusion. The politicians thought they are following MARXISM but they followed their own theories which ultimately led to the failure.

He spoke about communism of Russia and Russia’s development for few minutes and then turned to India’s development.

“Laying roads and calling it development is a joke common in Government’s circles. First enable people to get sustainable incomes and then build roads. People in these villages are unemployed. Solve that problem first.” he added.
I abruptly told “But MGNREGA is an opportunity to provide wage employment to everyone in the village.”

“Is MGNREGA being implemented in true spirit? No Sir! The system itself has been the cause of its failure like that of other schemes in past. Why can’t you help people open here small cottage industries like soap and candle manufacturing units that will make them self-dependent and generate regular income.”
 “Yes, Dada. Small scale industries would bring self-dependency.”Chandradeo (VLW) said.

“Yes.” He confirmed his own statement.
I had a desire to know about their organization. “Dada, I wanted to know about your relationship with the cadres?”
“My cadres respect me and so do I. There is no strong hierarchy among us. We do our own work ourselves. Even the members of the Central Committee are grounded in these principles and they wash their own clothes and plates themselves. Even the cadre on the lowest rung doesn’t need to stand and offer his seat if I come. If a chair is not empty, I’ll sit on the ground and so would do a member of Central Committee.”

The insider information made rosugulla taste too delicious; It became the tastiest ever rosugulla of my life. Then, I requested him if he would let me speak to my family once that day.
ML replied “Sure Sir. You can speak to your family in the evening.”
“But I will speak in Telugu” I was afraid to be thought upon as a clever man who speaks out his plans or whereabouts on phone in another language and eventually gets killed.
“No problem.” ML replied.
“Thank you dada!” I felt happy to see his trust grown on me and at the same time I suspected him of knowing some Telugu words.
 “Dada, don’t you really have any demands in getting us as hostages?”
“We do have sir. We have sent the same to the media” ML replied with a smile.
“What are the demands?”
“Sorry Sir, we can’t reveal them to you now. You’ll know when you’ll go out.” he replied with a calm demeanor as if he was pondering our time to leave. And in that moment, I felt assured that we will leave safely.
“What if they don’t fulfill your demands?” was my immediate question.
“We will still leave you in 2 or 3 days.”
“Have you sent your demands to the DC?” I asked.
 “No. Only to media.”
“Hmm… I think your demands might not have come out as yesterday was a national holiday; So, we have to be here until tomorrow, at least” I put my intelligence to use.
 “Yes sir. With tomorrow newspaper the news will reach the authorities. It’d be better if you all prepare yourself mentally for one or two more days.”

Hmm... What else can I do? The situation was quite similar to a Telugu movie where a Telugu speaking Hero has been kidnapped by some Hindi speaking goons and the Hero gets free after thrashing them. But there was no Director to say “CUT” and the guns and bullets were real.’ I thought. There is something weird with the bad moments. When you get enough of them, some good thoughts do come, like these wild ones that made me smile then. 

While I was trying to know their demands, our DC got informed by BDO that Maoists wanted to know about my profile and he was framing my job profile very carefully in his laptop. He profiled me as a contractual employee in DRDA rather than a fellow from MoRD. He told Jechonia and Mr. Lal while preparing the profile – ‘Vamsi is wise enough not to put himself in danger by revealing his original identity’. The DC asked a few imprisoned Maoists to get the information on possible happenings in the forest. He spoke at length with a surrendered Maoist to reveal if he knows the truth and when he said ‘no,’ he sent him to the village immediately to fetch some hints on our location.

The sun became visible and kissed us gently on our bodies. I started the conversation again with a point that had kept crawling on my brain for long.
“Dada, you said that roads don’t bring development, but what you have to say about those two young boys carrying their father on a cot from hospital in Dhanbad to their home in Pirtand? Don’t you think many lives could’ve been saved, had there been a road for quick commutation?”

Figure: A sick father being carried on a cot by his 2 sons from a hospital in Dhanbad to Pipradih Village in Pirtand Block

ML in a little harsh tone replied “You are countering me Sir”.

Oh! This time, I have crossed the limit, I thought. He seemed little upset with my question. Maksood revealed later to me his apprehensions that made him feel that my curiosity could have been a reason for staying back with the Maoists for further days.

This time, ML wore a tired look on his face as if with efforts he tried picking up words from ground. “Sir, any revolution demands sacrifice. To gain something, you’ve to lose something. Here we have to choose between our struggle for holistic development and roads. We chose the former.”

He prolonged his explanation “Sir. To protest Operation Bluestar, conducted during Indira Gandhi regime, 20 thousand army personnel of Sikh regiment from Ramgarh, Jharkhand began marching to Delhi via Grand Trunk road. Indira Gandhi ordered the military HQ to blast the bridges on GT road so that the Sikh regiment doesn’t reach Delhi.”

“She knew that exploding bridges would cause problems to school children, patients and other emergency services, but she did it to gain what she considered as her greater good. If she was right then, why am I held being wrong?

 We all hummed, not because we all agreed but because we had to say something between right and wrong.
“Dada! When, why and how this all started at PARASNATH hills?”
The serious expressions showed that ML was very keen on answering this. “Sir, we chose this place when Naxalbari movement was being suppressed. By the time we reached PARASNATH, Shibu Soren had left for Dumka after his successful massive Mahajan Bhagao movement in this Pirtand area. His departure from this area left a huge gap for the movement and we filled that gap.”

“What was that movement about? I mean, Mahajan Bhagao movement.”
“During those days, some three decades ago, you couldn’t have found a single hen/cow/house/land on name of a tribal family. Mahajans or Baniyas from the nearby Palganj and Bishungarh areas used to lend money with huge compound interest rates by mortgaging all the belongings of the families. The atrocities they committed were unthinkable. “An expression of smoldering anger appeared in his eyes with this answer. He went on. “Leave the hen, sir, not even the egg it may lay the next day also belonged to the Mahajan. “

“‘रामे राम एक     रामे राम एक    रामे राम एक   रामे राम एक ’ using this particular phrase they used to count 10 tins of rice as one. They looted the whole farm produce of tribal families and pushed them into the hell of unending debt. Tribal families were uneducated then and were easy prey to Mahajan’s tricks. You cannot accept but it was true that even in the January month, the season of harvest, majority of tribal families didn’t get rice for their meal. Every grain of the rice produced belonged to the Mahajans. Costly vermillion (Sindhur) and honey were looted for exchange of a salt packet. Women were assaulted to the peaks. It now seems unbelievable but then, the newly married bride had to spend her first night in the Mahajan’s house.”

He continued “Seeing all these atrocities, Shibu Soren organized tribal families and raised a tribal army. He became successful in throwing away the Mahajans from this area. Later on, he was convinced by Indira Gandhi through Mr.  K.B Saxena, the erstwhile Hazaribagh Commissioner, to join main stream politics and contest elections. After his departure, Mahajans started retreating into this area. It was then we entered here and tried helping the people. That made us gets the help and support from the people for our movement. We killed many Mahajans. Once they formed a group and were discussing to kill us at any cost. We suddenly attacked them and crushed them to ground. They left the place permanently. Now people are little educated and are able to protect themselves from the swindlers.”

I shivered thinking of the past that was so terrifying to imagine.  The unspeakable cruelty was, as the leader said, unthinkable. Even when the topic changed and he went on to speak about several things, the horrific past flashed in front of my eyes and the heart turned desolate and compassionate, remembering the victims of a cruel unjust society.

“One should really respect Saxena Saab! He was pro poor. He used to visit the villages and solve the problems on spot” he said mixing some lime in the tobacco he held in his right hand.

But my mind became numb.

The hold on my muffler strengthened and my mind remained hooked there, somewhere in the past, and I couldn’t help fusing today’s images of helpless villagers with yesterday’s injustices. 

Some losses are just irreparable, the heart said in those moments.  

Time had stopped and the leader went on talking.

He rubbed the tobacco and a calm smile covered his face on remembering Saxena Saab, the erstwhile commissioner.  

to be continued.........

P.S: Just received feedback from a person who spent a great deal of time on the grassroots and is well aware of the incidents written in this piece. It reached to me via mail and I find it as a new found link in the story. "All these I knew even before, however, this will be very new to many people. The 'Saxena Saab' mentioned here is K.B Saxena (also fondly remembered as "Birhore Saxena") He had been Secretary Rural Development to Government of India before he retired. Still alive- Perhaps you can meet him. And one factual correction, the area mentioned 'Bishnupur' is 'Bishungarh'. "

Thank you very much Soumen Biswas (also fondly remembered as "Soumen Da" among PMRDFs) for this insight. Your recommendations have been incorporated.

Other parts of '48 hours in Maoist Captivity' could be read here. (Part-IPart-IIPart-III 

This is the fourth part of the five parts of the series "48 hours in Maoist captivity." This series is being written by author in close communication with Vamsi, Giridih PMRD fellow. The final part of this series would be updated soon. Please give your valuable feedback and post your queries, if any, in the comment boxes. Vamsi would be more than happy to answer it. Stay tuned for future posts! 


Any part of this piece shall not, in any condition, be termed as opinion of the author, but just as the objective narration of the incident. These experiences have been recounted and published objectively. No one would be answerable to any subjective interpretation of this published piece. 


  1. Hi Aman, as a rural management graduate, I have heard similar stories but yours is really thought provoking. I could not locate the fifth part of the story. Can you share the link?

  2. Thank you, Gautam. Please find the link at the end of this piece. I have put it for you.