The residents of four villages inside Abujh Maad in south Chhattisgarh on Friday passed a unique resolution, resisting both the Maoists and the police.
The resolution says: “Children will not ‘interact with the Maoists or the police.” Children of the villages would remain in their respective villages and the elders would interact with the police or the Maoists, the villagers said. The resolution was passed unanimously and came nine days after the police raided a Maoist camp, arresting nine children and teenagers of Sitram and Bala village. One boy, Chainu Mandawi, was shot dead by the police.
“The villagers have decided that they will continue giving food to the Maoists as they raise our issue of protecting land and forest. But we will not send the children to camp to give the food,” said one of the convenors from local panchayat on condition of anonymity. The villagers, however, said the children were not given any ‘military training’ in the camp.
In the meeting, attended by about 300 villagers, the father of one of the girls arrested by the police, Masuram Usendi, said he was surprised by lack of security in the Maoist camp. “Maoists put sentry around any camp to watch out for t he police. But in this case it was surprisingly absent,” he said. About 25 boys and girls were in the camp when police opened fire last week.
Later, one of the senior Maoist leaders of south Chhattisgarh, Rajmon, secretary of United North Bastar-Maad Division, met this correspondent in Orchha block of Abujh Maad to categorically deny the allegations made by the villagers. Mr. Rajmon said that the camp between Sitram and Bala was not a ‘training camp’ and children were not ‘forcibly brought’ in the camp. “The children came to deliver some food. It was an overnight camp for cadres to stay,” he said. The food, Mr. Rajmon said, was given ‘willingly’ by the villagers. On the allegation of lack of adequate ‘sentry’ in the camp Mr. Rajmon said that it was a ‘sad lapse’ on part of the squad commander as the sentries assembled to have breakfast ‘together’ and “that was when the police opened fire.” He acknowledged that two of the nine arrested people were in Maoist militia — the peripheral ring of cadres selected from the civilians — who joined recently. Chainu Mandawi was a member of mass front of peasants, he said.
The villagers were also appalled by the fact that police fired ‘indiscriminately’ on the children. The chief of police of Kanker district, Rahul Bhagat, earlier said police has showed ‘sufficient restraint’ while firing, while acknowledging that there were ‘children and teenagers’ in the camp. The villagers have decided to complain against the police to ‘appropriate authority, if they get an opportunity’ in the meeting.
The villagers are quite in the dark regarding the release of the boys as well. “Getting their release is the primary concern but we do not know how to go about it,” said Masuram Usendi, who has never been to a big city. The mother of the boy, Muanglee Mandawi, did not attend the public meeting. “Now it is pointless,” she said.