Muchaki Judev was given a horrific option early last year: save his own life by shooting his brother dead. He did save his life, but not by pulling the trigger. He just ran away from the hell that his life had become.
Judev, 31, is one of the hundreds of Maoists who have broken ranks with the terrorists and are now eking out a free, yet fearful, living in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region. He is under constant threat of the Maoists hunting him down – as they have done to many who have deserted the terror outfit – but prefers doing the right to the wrong thing.
Judev’s story is a heart-rending, yet ghastly, one. A native of Pidmel village in Sukma’s Chintagufa (where Monday’s massacre of CRPF men occurred), Muchaki completed his Class X at Dornapal High School in 2002. “I returned home after the matric exams and was looking forward to pursuing further studies to become a college teacher when the Maoists came to my village and forced me at gunpoint to join their ranks. I started writing posters for them and in 2006 I was appointed as the teacher of their school called ‘area ashram’ at Konta under Gompad panchayat. The students were all members of the ‘Bal Sangam’ (the Maoists’ child soldiers) and I taught about 80 kids till last year,” Muchaki, who now works in the state police and is closely guarded by his colleagues, told Swarajya in the office of the sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) at Dornapal in Sukma district. The SDPO’s office is close to the site of Monday’s massacre of CRPF men by Maoists.
While his forced entry into the Maoist ranks bothered him initially, he was soon taken up by the terrorists’ propaganda about doing good to the adivasis. But that didn’t last long. “I started getting disgusted by the killing of many innocent people by the adivasis. My colleagues would kill people on mere suspicion of being police informers. Such suspicion was most often unfounded, and based on hearsay or even the wild imaginations of some cadre who harboured a grouse against the ‘informer’,” said Judev.
In 2010, he was witness to the ghastly sight of his brother-in-law (his only sister’s husband) being killed. “They tried him in a ‘janadalat’ (the sham ‘people’s court’ the Maoists conduct) and proclaimed him guilty. They trussed him and four of them dragged him over two kilometers to a pit. My sister was wailing and pleading, and she fell unconscious. The skin and flesh came off my brother-in-law’s back, buttocks, legs and arms and he was just a mass of pulp, long dead, before they fired at what remained of his body, cut the remains into pieces and strung them up on a tree for people to see. They smeared my sister’s face with his blood and put her under house arrest. She remains so till date, a widow held hostage by terrorists,” said an angry Judev.
The final blow came early last year when Judev’s brother, who was also a Maoist, was proclaimed to be a police informer at a secret trial. “I enquired and found that he was innocent. The reason he was branded as such was that a comrade of his was jealous of him. They asked me to kill him, failing which they said they’ll kill both of us. They said I can prove my loyalty to the (Maoist) party by shooting my brother,” said Judev. That was when he decided to escape. He planned his escape very carefully for over two weeks and didn’t let anyone get an inkling.
“On 26 February last year, I took the school kids out on an excursion and when I reached Dornapal, I contacted my friends from school who had joined the police and they arranged my surrender,” said Judev, who married a fellow Maoist (his wife was a cook at the school he used to teach in), and now lives with his wife, a son and two daughters. He describes the 14 years he spent in the jungles as a “long nightmare” and is bitter with the Maoists for forcing him to waste so many precious years of his life. Now in the police, he wants to avenge the death of his brother-in-law and the many innocents that the Maoists killed.
Joga Sodhi, 28, is another man who realised the falsity of the Maoists’‘revolution’ and the promises the terrorists made to the adivasis. A native of Arlampalli in Sukma district’s Konta block, he studied till Class V and joined the Maoists’ ‘Bal Sangam’ in 2001 when he was just 12 years old. “At that age, joining a band of revolutionaries mouthing lofty ideals was very romantic. And joining the Maoists meant having power. Power to do very much anything that pleased me as a kid, including defying my parents and the restrictions they would impose,” said Sodhi.
In 2004, he left home for good to become an armed cadre. “ We stayed in the jungles of Sukma district and underwent a month-long training in arms and making, planting, defusing and handling explosive devices,” said Sodhi. He was then put in a ‘dalam’ (a small unit) which had 10 other youngsters and they were assigned to protect Sujata, one of the concubines of Kishan (Mallojula Koteswar Rao, a senior Maoist leader, who was killed in an encounter in 2011 in Bengal).
Sodhi rose to become an area committee member in 2008 and was involved in many operations against security forces. He confesses to having killed two police personnel. But since 2014, he started having serious differences with senior Maoists. “I realised that they were bloodthirsty and were killing innocent adivasis. The senior leaders were all from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and they prevented adivasis from going up the ranks. They were leading an immoral life, sexually exploiting adivasi girls and extorting money and material from poor adivasis. They were leading a life of debauchery and used to talk big about freedom and revolution. I began to realise they were all sham and their revolution was a useless dream they were selling to keep us adivasis enslaved,” said Sodhi.
Sodhi’s disillusionment was complete when Badru, an adivasi and head of the Malangir area committee, surrendered to the police in January 2016. “I then realised that it was time for me to return to normal life. I called up a senior police officer in Jagdalpur whose number I had obtained from some sources. But the officer disconnected the call. Meanwhile, the police had distributed leaflets containing an appeal from Badru to the Maoists to surrender. Badru’s mobile number was mentioned in the leaflet. I called up that number and he arranged for my surrender in February last year,” Sodhi said.
Sodhi is now a constable with the state police and posted at Dantewada. But he is not out of danger and moved around only in a group of armed policemen. The interview with Sodhi was arranged at the office of the Dantewada district collector and Sodhi was accompanied by two armed police officers. “I know my life's in danger and Maoists can target me anytime. But it is better to live like this than as a slave in the jungles,” he asserts.
There are hundreds of men like Joga and Muchaki who, disillusioned by the bloodthirsty and exploitative nature of Maoist leaders, have broken ranks with the terror outfit. And there are many more still within the ranks waiting to come out.
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