SHAMBHU NATH CHOUDHARY
Ranchi, Sep 4 (IANS) Back in 2004-2005, Reela alias Mala, a 12-year-old tribal girl from Khartabeda village in Jharkhand’s Bokaro district, was forcefully taken away from her family by Maoists. Seventeen years have passed since then, but she never returned to her village.
Mala wandered from forests to mountains carrying weapons with Maoist commanders. In the meantime, her parents died, and she had only her brother left in the family, who works as a daily wage labourer.
On the evening of September 2, the people of the village got the news that Mala had been killed in an encounter with the police.
This is not the story of Mala alone. The lives of many such innocent girls have been destroyed in Jharkhand because of Maoist organisations. There are many such stories recorded in the police files, which tell how these girls witnessed exploitation and oppression within the organisation. Such stories have come to the fore again and again in the statements of Maoists who surrendered before the police.
In March 2020, the police and CRPF teams had freed a minor girl from the clutches of Maoists in the Gudri police station area in Chaibasa district. She had told the police that Maoists abducted her from her village in 2017 when she was just 10 years old.
In her statement to the police, she had mentioned that many male members of the (Maoist) organisation, including the area commander, used to physically abuse her. Whenever she protested, she was beaten up and even threatened with death.
PC Di alias Prishila Devi, a woman Maoist who surrendered before the Dumka police in June 2019, had revealed publicly that women and girls in the Maoist organisations have to face atrocities every day.
She had the rank of sub-zonal commander within the organisation, but despite this she became a victim of exploitation.
Laying down arms before the police, she said that she was happy that she came out of that life of exploitation and atrocities, but there are many girls for whom it is not easy to get out of that siege.
In July 2021, Maoist commanders Usha Kisku and Sarita Soren, carrying Rs 1 lakh reward, surrendered before then Hazaribagh SP Karthik S.
According to 27-year-old Usha, she wanted to study and achieve a good position in life, but about 15 years ago, Maoists forcibly inducted her in their child squad. Earlier, her job was to inform the organisation whenever the police arrived in their area.
In 2009, she was inducted into the armed squad and her name was changed to Phoolmani alias Usha Santhali. She revealed that life is very difficult for girls in the organisation.
Similarly, Sarita Soren alias Mamta Santhali, a resident of Dhukru Tola Harli village in Hazaribagh, was inducted into the organisation at the age of 13. She was fed up with carrying weapons and following the orders of Maoist commanders and felt relieved after leaving the organisation.
In May 2015, according to the statements given by hardcore Maoists Lalita, Sunita and three other girls, who were caught by the Hazaribagh police, it is in the nature of Maoist leaders to sexually exploit women and girls.
Former Maoists Shobha Marandi and Uma alias Shikha, who had surrendered in 2010, wrote in their book that the life of women in Maoist camps is most difficult as they are subjected to physical abuse.
Describing the atrocities on them, they wrote in the book that their fellow commander had raped them several times for over seven years. This happened to them when they used to be the commander of 25-30 armed Maoists.
A woman Maoist commander Sunita alias Shanti, who was arrested from Lohardaga in Jharkhand in 2011, had revealed that she was inducted into the organisation at gunpoint.
According to Sunita, Poonam Kumari, a resident of Ghaghra village, was sexually abused and when she tried to escape, the male commanders ordered her to shoot Poonam which she had to do.
An IPS officer from Jharkhand said that tribal girls from remote rural areas are soft targets of Maoist organisations. Whenever the police conduct operations against Maoists, they use women and girls as shields, he said.
The advantage of including women in Maoist organisations is that the police do not look at them with suspicion.
Despite the difficult situation of women within the organisation, there are many women Maoist commanders who remain a challenge for the Jharkhand police. Out of the 136 Maoists in the state, on whom the police have declared rewards, seven are women.
Of these, Bela Sarkar alias Panchami alias Deepa Sarkar, and Poonam alias Jova alias Bhavani alias Sujata carry a reward of Rs 15 lakh each, while a reward of Rs 5 lakh has been declared on Jayanti alias Rekha, and Bullu alias Gauri.
Similarly, Merina Sircar and Mita alias Nayantara alias Jhumpa alias Pari carry a reward of Rs 1 lakh on their heads.
SHAMBHU NATH CHOUDHARY