Escape from Revolution
by Sandhya Jain on 31 Aug 2010 17 Comments

In a welcome development for India’s beleaguered forces that are fighting the Naxal-Maoist menace across several states, women cadres have begun to revolt and speak out against the gender abuse by the armed insurgents. Young Shobha Mandi (also known as Uma and Shikha), barely 23, surrendered to the police on Aug. 27 after seven years as a bush fighter.


In a secret meeting with journalists a few days before surrendering, the CPI-Maoist Jhargram area commander who led 25-30 armed squad members, confessed that the appeal of an ill-defined ‘azadi’ faded before the brutal reality of routine rapes of female cadres by male hoodlums-cum-colleagues. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram informed Parliament that the government was aware of the plight of female Naxal cadres; one hopes that this means that all girls/women wishing to flee tortured lives in the jungle will be helped to rebuild their lives.


Shobha escaped by pretending she needed medical assistance some four months ago, and then went underground and sought surrender (Times of India, Aug. 24, 2010). Her personal story, she told journalists, was rape in a forest camp in Jharkhand, at the tender age of 17 years. Her assailant was Bikash, currently head of the state military commission. Shobha asked Akash, Maoist leader Kishanji’s confidant and member of the state committee, to help when other seniors also exploited her, but learnt to her dismay that Akash’s wife, Anu, was living with the Maoist supremo! The atrocities did not stop even after she personally complained to Kishanji (i.e. Koteswar Rao)..


Bikash, it may be recalled, is the man who displayed his weapons before television cameras in 2009, and boasted about the Maoist role in demolishing CPM leader Anuj Pandey’s palatial home. This was generally seen as the pinnacle of the Lalgarh movement in Bengal, where people’s pent-up anger exploded and a stunned nation learnt of the extent of corruption of party leaders.


For Shobha, sexual exploitation simply became part of her ‘revolutionary’ life. It ended only when Kamal Maity, a Bengal-Jharkhand-Orissa regional committee member, made her his personal companion with the consent of Kishanji and other top Maoist leaders! Thereafter she rose steadily in Naxal ranks!

Such is the true face of those claiming to fight for the ‘liberation’ of the downtrodden in the remote regions of the country. Virtually all female recruits are exploited by senior Maoists; senior women leaders go along with the trend of having multiple sexual partners. Children are detested; pregnancy ends in abortion. In village hideouts too, villagers are forced to shelter the gun-toting goons and keep all-night vigils to alert them in the event of police raids. They also have to suffer the rape of their women during these times.


Shobha joined the People’s War group in 2003, after which it merged with MCC to become the CPI-Maoist. She received three months arms training in Gorabandha forest of Jharkhand, and was asked to mobilise tribal women at Jamboni and Dahijuri in West Midnapore.


Prior to this life, Shobha and her parents worked as farm labour, or collected sal leaves, mahua flowers, and red ants (kurkut) to sell. The family hailed from a village in West Bengal’s Bankura district. Around 2002, her younger brother Sanjay, a Class VIII student, was taken away by the extremists (he is currently in jail). Their father was an alcoholic suffering from tuberculosis. The family sold its little land for money for medicines, and then incurred debts. At this stage, some ‘party’ members offered help in lieu of Shobha working for them. Of course, she soon realised that she was trapped for life, shackled to an ideology and movement she neither understood nor empathized with.


In seven years of violence, Shobha allegedly got involved in the massacre of 24 EFR jawans in Silda in February 2010; a raid on Sankrail police station in which two policemen were killed and an officer abducted in October 2009; and is a suspect in the murder of Jharkhand MP Sunil Mahato in 2007.


However, given the Centre’s breathtaking financial generosity towards slain insurgents and surrendered (possibly unreformed) militants in Kashmir, one hopes that due compassion will also be extended to girls like Shobha, who are truly victims of circumstances beyond their control. A special amnesty scheme may be appropriate.


The abuse of female cadres is not a new development amongst so-called revolutionary groups. When the writer was researching the problem of gunpoint conversion in Tripura in 2005, a sensational scandal shook the state and led to a police crackdown on the separatists. At that time, police found that National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) cadres were abusing women cadre by making and selling pornographic films to raise funds for their terror campaigns (Pioneer, 28 Aug. 2005, Tripura ultras are new porn kings). The separatist leaders – doubtless inspired by some international criminal mind(s) – used to force male and female recruits to act in pornographic films shot in the jungles. The CDs would be sold in various parts of India and neighbouring South Asian countries, thus raking in huge profits to finance the armed guerrilla campaign against security forces.


Seized cassettes and CDs of sleazy films featuring tribal women were found to be dubbed in Thai, Burmese and other languages. Here again, it was female NLFT cadres who had managed to escape and surrender who exposed the sexual abuse by male leaders. The girls said that many ATTF and NLFT female cadre, who joined the organisations inspired by the dream for an independent tribal homeland, found their lives reduced to a relentless saga of sexual exploitation by male commanders. The Tripura tribal girls had managed to escape from camps based in Bangladesh.


Video parlour owners in Agartala confessed that when they received the raw footage, they could see boys with automatic rifles and revolvers threatening the girls; they had to cut that footage and “just concentrate on the sex’ (BBC, 28 Aug. 2005). There were also reports of Tripura insurgents trafficking young women in neighbouring South Asian countries.


Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would be aware of these developments in her state and region. When she protests at the (in my opinion) justified killing of Maoist spokesperson Azad Cherukuri Rajkumar by Andhra Police in Adilabad district (July 3, 2010), she must tell us what stakes she and her party had with him.


The author is Editor,

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