Lok Sabha Election

Deep in Maoist turf, no sign of polls

Barely visible: A forgotten voter at Kasnasur in Dandakaranya, which falls outside the campaign map.   | Photo Credit: Sharad Vyas

Munshi Madavi probably holds the most challenging job in the entire Dandkaranya forest range in central India. The 37-year-old farm labourer is pondering resignation as de facto village patil responsible for 123 inhabitants of Kasnasur, 190 km from Gadchiroli in Maharashtra.

Nearly a year after around alleged 40 Maoist guerrillas were gunned down by security forces near the village on April 22, 2018, in what was later described by civil rights activists as a “questionable” encounter, some 27 families continue to live in the shadow of fear.

As April 11 [voting day] looms large, the village — an arduous eight-kilometre trek from Tadgaon towards the banks of the Indravati river — seems to have completely missed out on the biggest celebration of Indian democracy — the Lok Sabha election.

Inaccessible booths

Many villagers do not have a voter identity card. Several inhabitants also suffer from infectious ailments such as impetigo and eczematous dermatitis — evidence of abject poverty — making it near impossible for them to walk to the nearest polling booth eight km from the Tadgaon base camp.

“I and many others do not have a voter identification card. On election day, some 15-20 men will come and take whoever can walk to the Tadgaon booth. I do not know what we will do there. I feel it is better to resign from the post before that,” says Mr. Madavi, a Madia Gond and father of three.

Rare sighting

The village lies at the end of the barely motorable Allapalli-Bhamragad road, which cuts through the dense beauty of Dandkaranya, at the heart of central India’s Naxal movement. These parts rarely see electoral activity or canvassing by political parties.

Deep inside the forest, a ‘candidate’ is almost an extinct species. Both Dasru Suku Talande and his granddaughter Meena, who turned 18 last year, may not get to vote, even if they wish to. Ms. Meena has eczematous dermatitis, which has left her bed-ridden.

“I have not seen a candidate here in years, and do not think of voting,” says Mr. Talande, who suffers from anaemia and is in the grip of viral fever. The local priest has given him medicines to treat the fever.

Earlier this year, Maoists had shot three villagers suspected of passing on information to security forces. This has enveloped the village in a sense of fear even as the government relief, promised after the 2018 encounter, is yet to materialise.

Despite the visit of the Gadchiroli Collector and Superintendent of Police, who “adopted” the village after residents threatened to relocate after the Maoist killings, not much has changed, villagers say. A solar-driven water pump though bears testimony to some help from the local administration.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 8:40:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/deep-in-maoist-turf-no-sign-of-polls/article26785279.ece

Next Story