A Maoist rally (Wikimedia Commons) 
  • There is a silent revolution happening in Bastar, and not what the Maoists had dreamt of.

    And emerging out of the pernicious shadow of the Maoists, people - almost all of them adivasis - have started to aspire for a normal life like the rest of their countrymen.

On 24 April, Maoist terrorists killed 25 CRPF men in the latest atrocity in Sukma district in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. Yet, this may be part of the last throes of a failed revolution that has little support anymore from the adivasis it was supposed to liberate. Yes, there is a war on, but the state is winning that war.

Travelling extensively around Bastar, this correspondent saw a remarkable change in mood among the people. I saw hope, I saw aspirations, I saw development that was striking at the roots of the demented Maoist cause.

The land where a lot of blood has been spilled is now nurturing many dreams: farmers wanting to sell their organic produce in faraway cities, children orphaned by Maoists aspiring to become doctors and fashion designers, women widowed by the red terrorists dreaming of becoming entrepreneurs, and a lot more.

CRPF personnel on patrolling duty at Sukma’s Dornapal area where Monday afternoon’s ambush took place   CRPF personnel on patrolling duty at Sukma’s Dornapal area where Monday afternoon’s ambush took place  
CRPF personnel patrolling at Sukma’s Dornapal, the area where Monday afternoon’s ambush took place CRPF personnel patrolling at Sukma’s Dornapal, the area where Monday afternoon’s ambush took place

There is a silent revolution happening in Bastar, and not what the Maoists had dreamt of. Roads and bridges are being built at a frenetic pace while state-of-the-art healthcare facilities and swanky government-run residential schools and colleges are coming up on the undulating hills of the region. And emerging out of the pernicious shadow of the Maoists, people — almost all of them adivasis — have started to aspire for a normal life like the rest of their countrymen. Bullets are being complemented by development in the fight against the Maoists that the state is winning very decisively.

The state government estimates that in two years’ time, Bastar will be free of Maoists.

Connectivity Is The Key


Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has ruled the state since 2003, tells Swarajya that the focus over the past few years has been on physical connectivity. “Once the remotest village is connected by an all-weather road and development reaches that village, the Maoist stranglehold on that village ceases. The road also ensures security for the villagers since it allows easy access for security forces. That is why our attention is now focused on building roads and bridges at a very fast pace,” he explains.

All over Bastar, men and machines are working at a furious pace to lay roads and build bridges, big and small. Yes, at many places, construction teams work under the constant protection of armed policemen and paramilitary forces, but there is now a sense of security among the contractors and workers. “Earlier, no contractor would bid for construction of roads and bridges in Bastar. No one would respond to repeated tenders. But over the past few years, the situation has changed dramatically,” says IAS officer Santosh Mishra who is a top aide to the Chief Minister.

There was, and still exists, a grave warning from Maoists to contractors. “Roads mean easy access for security forces to the remote areas that are the strongholds of the Maoists. The Maoists used to burn road construction equipment, drive away workers, impose penalties on contractors and even abducted many of them. None of us would dare to even bid for a contract till four years ago,” says Shanti Kumar Shukla, a contractor who operates out of Jagdalpur, the Bastar divisional headquarters.

The Injeram-Bhejji road under construction. It was while patrolling along this road under construction that 25 CRPF men were killed in an ambush by Maoists The Injeram-Bhejji road under construction. It was while patrolling along this road under construction that 25 CRPF men were killed in an ambush by Maoists

Things changed after the state government started providing security cover to construction crews and security forces started pushing back the Maoists. “The situation has also changed and the sense of fear and foreboding that used to prevail is gone,” says Shukla. He bid for the construction of a police station at Lohandiguda, an administrative block in Bastar district that was considered to be a Maoist den. “It is very remote and fearing reprisals from the Maoists, I put up a signboard declaring that the building would house a health centre. Today, Lohandiguda is free of Maoists,” Shukla said.

The prevailing confidence can be judged from the fact that contractors from other states are also throwing their hats in the ring. One of them is Subrata Mandal from faraway Palasi (of Battle of Plassey fame) in West Bengal. Mandal is a sub-contractor engaged in constructing a vital bridge over the Mingachal river that cuts through National Highway 63 connecting Jagdalpur to Bijapur, the eponymous headquarters of the district in Bastar division. “We have 63 labourers and have faced no threat from Maoists,” says Subrata’s brother Subhankar, who is overseeing the works. All of them stay next to a CRPF camp that’s a stone’s throw away.

The 42-kilometre stretch of road from Bhairamgarh to Bijapur used to cut through the favourite hunting ground of the Maoists. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), under the Ministry of Defence, was engaged in reconstructing this road that was damaged at many places by the Maoists 10 years ago. But repeated threats by the terrorists and as many as 13 IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts over four years forced the BRO to abandon the project. Subsequently, paramilitary forces were deployed in strength and seven camps of security forces were set up on this road, thus instilling confidence among contractors. A Hyderabad-based firm has now bagged the contract for re-laying this road now and work is on in full swing.

Till four years ago, driving from Jagdalpur to Bijapur on NH 63 used to take over six hours and was fraught with risks. “We never used to travel on this road after dusk. The Maoists had disrupted many attempts to repair the road and used to plant IEDs under it. There have been many casualties. But now, this road is perfectly safe,” says Bijapur district collector Ayyaj Tamboli. The Maoists try to make their presence felt occasionally by leaving posters along the road. But that, says Tamboli, is all in a day’s work.

Maoist threats and violence haven’t deterred the state government from setting up cell phone towers (albeit inside police stations or camps of paramilitary forces), re-building schools and pushing deeper into Maoist strongholds. Take the case of the road to Bhejji deep inside Maoist territory in Sukma district; it was on this road (under construction) where the 12 CRPF jawans lost their lives on 11 March while they were on a patrol to provide security cover to road construction workers. Soon after the ambush, work resumed at full pace and the road will be ready soon, Sukma district collector Niraj Kumar Bansod told Swarajya.

Tamboli, the administrative head of Bijapur, labelled as one of the worst-affected (by Maoist violence) districts in the country, says the establishment of armed police and paramilitary camps along new roads or those undergoing reconstruction has been a game changer. Bijapur has six CRPF battalions and 3,000 armed state police personnel, which makes the ratio of security forces to civilians a considerable 1:25. “I need just Rs 200 crore and two more battalions of security forces to make the entire district Maoist-free,” he says.

Modern Education Facilities


Along with building roads and bridges that slice through territory where, till very recently, the diktat of the Maoists used to run supreme, the Chhattisgarh government is going on an overdrive building schools with the latest teaching aids that would rival the best of the private schools in India’s megapolises. One such is the Ekalavya Vidyalaya at Bhairamgarh in Bijapur. The co-educational residential school housed in a sprawling two-storeyed building set amidst a 25-acre campus has 233 kids, all adivasis, between classes VI and X. “This school is modelled on the Navodaya Vidyalaya concept. We take in 60 students a year and have all modern facilities, including computer and science labs and libraries,” says school in-charge B R Pal. The new school building and four hostels were built at a cost of Rs 14 crore.

What sets Chhattisgarh apart from many other states in the field of education is that all these government schools are residential ones. “A large percentage of adivasi kids stay in residential schools and get holistic education. Many residential schools that used to be housed in pre-fabricated bamboo structures are being housed in concrete structures now,” says Santosh Mishra. Of the 56,000-odd school going children in Bijapur district, 29,000 stay in hostels. Of the 43,000 school students in Dantewada, 20,000 are in residential schools while more than 20,000 of the 45,000 school kids in Sukma stay in hostels.

But it is not just regular kids whose education is of utmost concern for the Chhattisgarh government. There are many facilities for special kids as well in Bastar. One such is the Saksham Awasi Vidyalaya for children with special needs in Dantewada, a district that had become a Maoist fortress and where many CRPF and police jawans lost their lives. Nearly 210 boys and girls — deaf, mute or otherwise physically challenged — stay in this school. “We have speech therapy and audiometry facilities, games, computers and music classes and many other facilities here. The children attend a regular school outside since we want them to learn with ‘normal’ kids. Before and after their regular school, we have special tuitions for them here to help them with their lessons,” says Saksham’s principal Durga Sahu.

Physically challenged girls at Saksham Awasi Vidyalaya in Dantewada Physically challenged girls at Saksham Awasi Vidyalaya in Dantewada
Hearing impaired children at Saksham Awasi Vidyalaya in Dantewada Hearing impaired children at Saksham Awasi Vidyalaya in Dantewada

Aastha Vidya Mandir in Geedam block of Dantewada rings with the playful laughter of more than 918 kids who play, learn and stay in the school’s hostels. This state government-run CBSE school is a special one meant for kids orphaned by Maoists and those hailing from remote areas where school buildings have been destroyed by the terrorists. Most of the kids have heart-rending tales to recount, but are being helped to overcome their deep trauma by their teachers, special therapists and the modern environment they are now growing up in.

The entire campus of Aastha Vidya Mandir, says its principal Santosh Pradhan, is wi-fi enabled. “Kids have fun learning in four smart classes with 4G connectivity. We have computer and science labs, a library with more than 10,000 books, sports facilities, music classes and everything that the best private schools in India can offer,” Pradhan says. A fully residential Skill Development College in Dantewada town offers certificate courses in accounting, computer applications, carpentry, plumbing, masonry, driving and fashion designing to 210 students, most of them adivasis from remote villages of the district. Kritesh Hirwani, the college principal, says that companies from within the state and even outside recruit youngsters from this college.

Students at the computer lab at Aastha Vidya Mandir, Dantewada Students at the computer lab at Aastha Vidya Mandir, Dantewada
Students at the computer lab at Aastha Vidya Mandir, Dantewada Students at the computer lab at Aastha Vidya Mandir, Dantewada

The requirements of school dropouts are being addressed in an exemplary manner at Gyanodaya in Sukma. “This is a fully residential facility for kids between six and 12 years who haven’t been to school or who dropped out. We provide them six months’ coaching and then get them admitted in regular schools like the DAV Public School here. The tuition fee in those schools is provided by the government and they get to stay in our hostel,” says nodal officer Ashish Ram. All the kids — 227 were admitted in the last batch — are adivasis.

For bright students, the government provides special facilities. The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) School at Sukma, for instance, 60 selected students from the district who have passed class VIII are given special coaching through Classes IX and X. This residential facility took in 18 students last year and is planning to increase the intake this year. After passing Class X, these kids will go to Arohan, another residential school in the district that imparts special coaching for the next two years through Classes XI and XII to the bright kids for medical and engineering entrance tests. There are 200 students in Arohan now and last year, a good number passed the entrance tests.

Livelihood College at Dantewada Livelihood College at Dantewada

And then there is the showpiece Education City in Dantewada spread over 100 acres and built at a cost of over Rs 120 crore. The facilities here include Saksham, a residential school for kids with special needs, an Aastha Vidyamandir for kids affected by Maoist violence, a polytechnic college, an industrial training institute, a Kanya Shiksha Parisar (special residential school for meritorious girls from Classes VI to XII), a Model School (on the lines of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya), Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (for girls from poor families), Krida Parisar (special sports coaching school) and other facilities like auditoria, swimming pools, indoor and outdoor stadiums. More than 4,500 students, nearly all of them adivasis, live and study in these institutions.

Incubating Dreams


At Bhairamgarh’s Eklavya Vidyalaya, Class VII student Ram Prakash Sori says he wants to learn computer applications and become a computer teacher in a village school. Hailing from Punnur village in Bijapur’s Usur administrative block, Sori says that hadn’t it been for the Eklavya Vidyalaya, he would have had to discontinue his studies.

Sunil Mandavi (12) and his brother Pintu (10) study in Class IV at Geedam’s Aastha Vidya Mandir. Their father, Sundaram, who was a peon at a school in their native Gufa village in Dantewada, was gunned down by Maoists in 2014 on suspicion of being a police informer. Their mother had passed away earlier and they came to this school after their father’s murder. “I want to study hard and join the army to defend my country and also, if the opportunity arises, wipe out the Maoists,” says Sunil, an avid kabbadi player. His younger brother Pintu loves mathematics and wants to become an engineer. Lakshmi Katlam, 11, is a Class V student at Aastha Vidya Mandir. Her father Chinna was gunned down by Maoists in 2012 and her mother met the same fate the next year. “I want to become a doctor and treat the poor,” she says.

Lakshmi Katlam, whose parnets were killed by Maoists, studies at Aastha Vidya Mandir and wants to become a doctor Lakshmi Katlam, whose parnets were killed by Maoists, studies at Aastha Vidya Mandir and wants to become a doctor

Sunita Karnam, 18, is pursuing a fashion designing course at Dantewada’s Skill Development College. “I saw a fashion show on TV some years ago and since then it has been my dream to become a fashion designer. I can now realise my dream. I want to make men’s and women’s clothes that showcase tribal motifs and the tribal way of life,” she says.

At Sukma’s Gyanodaya, Rahul Podiami, 6, lost all hope of an education after his school in Temelwada village in the district’s Konta block was destroyed by the Maoists. Now he wants to study and become a police officer to battle the Maoists. Ditto with Sariam Vicky, 7, of Merwadi village in Konta block of the district whose father Buccha Sariam was killed by Maoists earlier this year. He wants to join the army. Ramesh Sori, 8, was left heartbroken a year ago when Maoists burnt down his school, along with all houses, in Pentapar village last year. “They (the Maoists) accused the entire village of helping the police. I want to study and become an IPS officer and avenge that,” he says.

(from left to right): Sariam Vicky, Rahul Podiami and Ramesh Sori at Gyanodaya Vidyalaya in Sukma (from left to right): Sariam Vicky, Rahul Podiami and Ramesh Sori at Gyanodaya Vidyalaya in Sukma
View of the courtyard at Gyanodaya Vidyalaya, Sukma View of the courtyard at Gyanodaya Vidyalaya, Sukma

Supplementing The State’s Efforts

Not just the state, a few other organisations are also pitching in to provide holistic education in the adivasi areas where the writ of Maoists used to run. Ekal Foundation, for instance, runs one-teacher non-formal Ekal Vidyalayas in 810 villages in Bastar. They educate children on health and hygiene, impart valuable lessons on society, community, India’s heritage and culture, religion, good agricultural practices including organic farming and a lot more after regular school hours. “We also teach about respecting women and elders, yoga and pranayam, general knowledge, and tell stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata to kids aged between 6 and 14. Swami Vivekananda is our inspiration,” said Sanjeev Rungta, the general secretary in charge of Ekal activities in Chhattisgarh.

Jhane Bhoier teaches three groups of children at the Ekal Vidyalaya at Charbhata village, about 5 kilometres from Bahegaon on NH 30 that connects Jagdalpur to Bhairamgarh. “The children go to regular school and then from 5 pm to 8 pm, come to the Ekal Vidyalaya. I also teach women once a week on health, hygienic cooking and about our rituals and customs,” she says. Charbhata’s sarpanch Pancham Bhoier says that the Ekal Vidyalaya has brought about a marked change in youngsters in the five years since it was established in the village. “Our children have become more knowledgeable, disciplined, obedient and smart after going to Ekal Vidyalaya,” he says.

There are also more than 250 Saraswati Shishu Mandirs run by the RSS in Bastar. “We also run Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams and are doing a lot of work to wean adivasis away from the death grip of Maoists. We have suffered a lot too; 25 of our workers have been killed by Maoists over the last five years and we have had to close down 10 Saraswati Shishu Mandirs. We run Sanskar Kendras from those schools now,” says Hemant Shukla, the RSS in-charge of Bastar. The Ramakrishna Mission and some other organisations are also running schools for adivasi children in the remote areas.

Healthcare And Other Facilities

But it is not just smooth roads and swanky residential schools that dot the hauntingly beautiful landscape of Bastar. State-of-the-art hospitals and other healthcare facilities provide the best of healthcare to the people virtually at their doorsteps. Remote Bhairamgarh, for instance, boasts of a 30-bed hospital, two smaller five-bed hospices and a dozen clinics where treatment and medicines are free. Shivendra Thakur is the doctor in charge of the Prathamik Swasthya Kendra (primary health centre) at Matawada, a Maoist stronghold till very recently, in Bhairamgarh. “We have 10 beds and cater to at least 50 patients a day,” he says. The health centre looks like a modern clinic in a metropolis and has an air-conditioned operation theatre, something that similar facilities in most other states of the country can’t even dream of.

A few kilometres away from Matawada lies Jangla village. What catches the eye is the Jangla Adarsh Anganwadi Kendra in the village. Its brightly painted facade, and a small children’s play park in front, make it a happy arena for kids. A little distance away is the two-storey Jangla Panchayat Bhawan that has 3G connectivity and a host of other facilities: a lok shiksha kendra (adult literacy class), an SBI kiosk, a PDS outlet and an e-cafe where villagers can fill in e-forms for crop loans, housing finance and any other government benefits, get MNREGA payments and find out the status of government projects. “This kendra has empowered the members of all the 306 families of Jangla. Major changes have occurred here over the past one year. And it has resulted in the influence of the Maoists waning. People now muster the courage to oppose the Maoists and have asked them to stop their activities here,” says Komal Nishad, the secretary of Jangla panchayat.


Bijapur’s pride is the 150-bed hospital in the district headquarters. It boasts equipment that rival those in the best private facilities even in the national capital. “We have modular operation theatres where orthopaedic and general surgeries, including laparoscopic surgeries, are carried out. We have 21 doctors, including 11 postgraduates, 30 paramedics and 46 nurses and the equipment in our ICUs and OTs are worth over Rs 5 crore,” says district civil surgeon T R Kunwar.

Doctors from other states flock to serve in such facilities in Bastar because of the handsome salaries (the standard government salaries are supplemented by money from the district mineral fund made up of mandatory contributions from mining companies) and the excellent facilities available. Kushal Sakure, who completed his MBBS from Aligarh Muslim University and is a gynaecologist at the district hospital, says he opted to work here because of the facilities. “I visited this hospital once and decided to work here. I will never get these facilities anywhere else in India,” he says. Similar state-of-the-art hospitals are being set up in other districts of Bastar.

Incidentally, Chhattisgarh offers free health cards to its citizens through which a person can avail of free treatment of up to Rs 50,000 a year. A few more health schemes offer a wide variety of free or heavily subsidised treatment, including surgeries, hospitalisation (including ICU and ITU facilities) and medication.

Bijapur district collector Tamboli says that the development offensive in his district has started yielding spectacular results. “After the end of the Salwa Judum chapter, people fled from the villages, especially the remote ones, and this vacuum was filled by the Maoists. The Maoists destroyed all infrastructure in those villages. With roads and a development push, we are slowly reclaiming all these villages. We have 1,150 anganwadi centres and 911 government-run schools in the district. Of the 600 villages in the district, half are electrified; 27 new villages were electrified last month itself,” he said.

Dantewada district collector Saurabh Kumar talks of the attitudinal change among villagers. He cites the example of Badegudra, a remote village and an erstwhile stronghold of Maoists. The district administration reached out to the villagers with the latest agricultural knowhow and slowly convinced the villagers to switch to organic farming. “About 160 farmers in Badegudra are into organic cultivation and their produce is fetching very good prices. The villagers, who were hostile towards us a few years ago, now welcome us warmly. And they are no longer sympathetic towards the Maoists,” he says.

Today, more than 25,000 farmers in Dantewada practise organic farming. “My vegetables fetch twice the price I used to get before turning to organic cultivation. The yield has also increased from about 36 quintals of rice per hectare to 56 quintals now,” says Rati Ram Yadav of Karli village in Geedam block. “Bhumgadi, a farmers’ society, has been established with 4,000 farmers are shareholders. The society now has 12 warehouses and a full time CEO. Their organic produce under the Adim brand name is being sourced by private retail chains in Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chandigarh as well as by ISKCON. Very soon, organic rice and lentils from Dantewada will be sold through outlets at the Delhi and Mumbai airports,” says Kumar.

Rati ram Yadav tends to his organic farm at Karli village in Geedam Rati ram Yadav tends to his organic farm at Karli village in Geedam

He also takes the example of Parcheli village in Katekalyan block to the east of his district. Though the Maoists still exert considerable influence in the area, the villagers are now demanding roads, electricity and healthcare facilities. They want a school and warned the Maoists against causing any damage to infrastructure. “In two years, there won’t be any perceptible or imperceptible advantage for a villager to join the ranks of the Maoists. The adivasis will have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they give up the gun. Development will win the war against Maoists. It’ll be a soft win over Maoists,” he says confidently, adding that people in even the remotest villages now want development.

Sukma district collector Bansod speaks in a similar vein. The Maoists, he says, had damaged roads, destroyed schools and clinics, closed down markets and prohibited the adivasis from venturing out of their villages. “That stranglehold has been effectively broken. We are constructing roads deep in the interior areas. Markets, schools and clinics are being reconstructed. The main adivasi markets at Bhejji and Jagarmunda have been reopened and many of the 120 school buildings blown up by Maoists have been reconstructed and classes started there.”

Bansod says that in a couple of years’ time, Sukma will also become an organic farming hub. “We are building hospitals and schools at a fast pace, providing livelihood opportunities to the tribals, providing electricity and potable water to remote villages, and all these have instilled confidence among the adivasis to resist the Maoists,” he says. He even talks of turning Sukma, bestowed with unparalleled natural beauty and numerous unexplored waterfalls and other scenic spots, into a tourist hub in three years’ time!

The Sukma-Dornapal road being constructed The Sukma-Dornapal road being constructed
The newly-constructed bridge from Dornapal in Sukma to Odiama in Odisha that the Maoists have opposed. The bridge brings down driving time from Dornapal to Odisha by 12 hours The newly-constructed bridge from Dornapal in Sukma to Odiama in Odisha that the Maoists have opposed. The bridge brings down driving time from Dornapal to Odisha by 12 hours

The brand new, 550-metre-long Dornapal-Odiama bridge over the Sabri river stands as a vindication of Bansod’s contention that Maoist influence has severely waned. This bridge that connects Sukma with Malkangiri district of Odisha was being opposed tooth and nail by the Maoists. But people of Sukma are enthused with the possibility of taking their agricultural produce to Odisha where they’ll get good prices.


Along with physical connectivity and infrastructure, e-connectivity is a focus area for chief minister Raman Singh. His pet Bastar Net project, launched in August last year, involves laying a 832 km-long optical fibre network to enhance internet and mobile connectivity in the 40,000 square km Bastar region. “This digital highway of Bastar will boost the rural economy, usher in a knowledge-based society, provide new economic opportunities and enhance transparency and accountancy of government services,” Singh tells Swarajya.


A visit to Palnar village, about 40 km from Bijapur and deep inside what was once exclusive Maoist territory provides a good insight into what benefits such connectivity can bring to people’s lives. Palnar boasts of 3G connectivity and has a row of 16 shops where payment through digital money has become the new norm. Payments are accepted through an Easytap machine (quite like a POS machine used in urban areas) that doesn’t require a landline connection. Purchases are also done through Paytm.

There is a wi-fi zone with 20Mbps speed and a common service centre with computers where villagers can fill in forms for government benefits, accept payments for MNREGA, get their pensions to their Aadhaar-linked accounts and get tips for their crops from agri scientists. There are 27 such centres in the district.

A villager pays for his purchases through Paytm at a shop at Palnar A villager pays for his purchases through Paytm at a shop at Palnar

Palnar has a primary health centre where a “health ATM” is housed. Through this ATM, villagers can avail of general checkups, undergo cardiac tests and lungs and respiratory checkup. A technician at the health centre conducts these tests and the results are seen online by a panel of doctors in Mumbai, who then recommend medicines. This facility is sponsored by a private foundation which plans to set up more such ATMs in Bastar.

Anger Against Maoists


There is a palpable anger against Maoists among the adivasis, the very people whose interests the Maoists falsely claim to serve. The ironically named Shantinagar, a locality in the middle of Bijapur town, is where hundreds of victims of Maoist depredations and brutality have taken shelter.

Emla Suklu, 55, is one of them. “In 2004 and again in 2006, the Maoists raided Gangalur (his native village) on false charges of us being police informers. They brutally thrashed my sons the first time, and the second time they killed my 25-year-old son Lakshman and his wife. They looted out houses and took away all valuables and cattle. I escaped and have been living here since. I have some farmland, but it is lying fallow. I survive on government doles. The Maoists are evil and have been taking advantage of poor adivasis like us,” he says.

Mangu Hemla with his family at Shantinagar Mangu Hemla with his family at Shantinagar
Children orphaned by Maoists. The kids stay at a residential school in Bijapur now Children orphaned by Maoists. The kids stay at a residential school in Bijapur now

Mangu Hemla, 60, also from Gangalur, had a nightmarish experience in 2006 that he is yet to recover from. “The Maoists came to our village one evening in October 2006 and rounded up male members of some families. They called me and my eldest son out to a field in the outskirts of the village and lined us up. Then they started shooting. I got a bullet in my leg and fell down. My son fell on top of me. The savages (Maoists) shot at the bodies that had fallen and I could feel my son taking in more bullets. He was dead. I could escape only by feigning death. These Maoists need to be killed brutally, each one of them,” says an enraged Mangu.

Pandru Kunjam, 45, originally a resident of Metapal village, was accused of Salwa Judum and thrashed brutally in 2008. He spent 10 months in a hospital and walks with a limp. “I want a gun to deal with the Maoists. They need to be killed very mercilessly,” he says.

Shantinagar seethes with rage against the Maoists. “The Maoists are brutal and bloodthirsty and this menace can be rooted out only with the same means that they use. They have to be gunned down mercilessly,” says Emla Budhu, 35, who narrowly escaped a Maoist attack.


Sawan Durgam, 28, witnessed the merciless killings of his father Durgam Lanchha, and his two brothers over three years since 2006 in Pusnar, his native village. “The Maoists killed them on charge of being police informers. I knew I would be next, so I escaped to Shantinagar in 2009. I am awaiting a job in the police now, and once I get that, I will go out and kill the Maoists,” he vows.

Even kids who have lost their parents to Maoist bullets are angry. Ganesh Kumar Wasan, a student of Class VII at Janpad Middle School in Bijapur’s Awapaalli, lost both his parents to Maoist bullets. “I was never fond of sports, but now I play all games to build myself up physically so that I can join the police and avenge my parents’ murder,” he says. The only family he has now is his elder sister Rina, 27, who he stays with now.

Victims of Maoist violence at Bijapur’s Shantinagar Victims of Maoist violence at Bijapur’s Shantinagar
Ganesh Kumar Wasan with his elder sister Rina. Ganesh wants to become an IAF fighter pilot and “drop bombs” on the Maoists Ganesh Kumar Wasan with his elder sister Rina. Ganesh wants to become an IAF fighter pilot and “drop bombs” on the Maoists

Emla Shukla’s orphaned grandsons Ajay (11) and Abhay (6) who study at Balak Ashram at Bijapur now want to join the armed forces to battle their parents’ killers. Ajay wants to join the Indian Air Force and become a fighter pilot “to drop bombs on the Maoists”. Sunita Hembram, 18, a Class XI student of Bijapur Girls’ School, aspires to become an IPS officer and battle the Maoists. “I often dream of my father (Masaram Hembram, killed by Maoists in 2005) and mother (Sanki, killed by Maoists in 2004). Their souls cannot rest in peace till their murderers are killed in exactly the same brutal manner in which they (my parents) were killed,” says Sunita.

Winning The War

Sundarraj P, the officiating IGP or Bastar and the man tasked with the security of the region (comprising the seven districts of Kanker, Kondagaon, Bijapur, Narayanpur, Bastar, Sukma and Dantewada) also chants the development mantra. Along with the development drive, a number of other security measures are being put in place. The raising of the CRPF’s Bastariya battalion will be a game changer, he says.


“The Maoists are getting weakened. Their numbers are depleting very seriously. Many of their armed units like the local organisation squads (LOS) have merged,” says Sundarraj. While the sympathy for the Maoists among adivasis is vanishing, the Maoists’ hold on their strongholds is also weakening severely with the construction of roads and other infrastructure that is taking the administration, and security forces, to the deep interiors.

But the Maoists are going to fight back with all the strength in their reserves, as Monday’s ambush of CRPF men proves. Top cops have no doubts that the final push into Maoist territory is going to be a bloody one. As K Vijay Kumar, senior security advisor on Left-Wing Extremism in the Ministry of Home Affairs says, the Maoists are feeling extremely threatened by the roads being built to connect the remote areas that are their strongholds. “With the roads, a lot of development happens. Schools and healthcare facilities come up, ration shops are opened and villagers get easy access to markets outside. The Maoists’ propaganda no longer works. Since the CRPF is playing a major role on providing security cover for road construction, they are coming under increasing attacks from Maoists. Monday’s attack shows that the Maoists are feeling threatened and, hence, resorting to desperate attacks on security forces,” Kumar said in the aftermath of Monday’s ambush.

Meanwhile, the fighting capabilities of the security forces is also being enhanced, says the IGP, with their training at the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College at Kanker and the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte in Mizoram. Bastar now has 44 battalions of CRPF, ITBP, BSF and SSB and 26,000 armed state police. With the strength of the security forces being increased, Sundarraj feels confident for making a final push into Maoist bastions and dislodging them from there. “In less than two years, the rule of the law will be restored in entire Bastar,” he promises.

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