The purification hunt

  • 30/01/2006

The purification hunt For about seven months now, Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district (formerly in Bastar district) is said to be in the grip of Salwa Judum, a spontaneous tribal uprising against the Maoists. According to one report: "From a handful number to thousands. This is how the anti-Naxal movement is gaining ground in the main heartland of Naxalites in Bastar.' Another reporter identified pizza and Pepsi as the administration's latest and most successful weapons. He quoted a senior official as saying, "Money spent into weeding out the Maoist menace makes sense when it is going into buying soft drinks and pizza that feed hungry people. When the people get direct money, they spend it on alcohol.'

Spending money on pizza might make sense to the administration but most adivasis in Dantewada can make little sense of the operation. The area between Dantewada and adjoining Bijapur has become a battle zone, with refugee camps located in the larger roadside villages and small qasbas. People have fled, usually without anything at all: the open tarpaulin shelters often contain nothing beyond a fireplace and some vessels. Youth, mostly non-tribal, man checkpoints along the road. Many of them have now been trained, armed and given status of special police officers. The Central Reserve Police Force and the Naga Battalion are a common sight, either on their way to or returning from combing operations. Villages off the main road are silent and deserted. In Gorna, a village we visited, houses had been burnt a while ago, there were creepers growing in the ashes, and the paddy was lying unattended in the fields

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