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ADVANCING CLASS STRUGGLES IN DANDAKARANYA AMIDST GROWING WHITE TERROR

Posted by Indian Vanguard on September 20, 2007

January 1999

(The following is a report of… struggle and armed resistance of the guerillas of People ‘s War in Dandakaranya in the year 1998)

The Peasant voices of hunger thunder in the anti-famine rallies.


The vast region of Dandakaranya covering eight districts of the three states of MP, Orrisa and Maharastra, still lives in the company of famine year after year even after the ‘Golden Jubilee’ of the so-called Independence of India. And the irony of it is that it has no dearth of rivers Indravathi, Pranahita, Godavari, Sabari and several other rivulets and streams pass through Dandakaranya. It has water all over but neither the cattle and people have enough to drink nor the land has the good fortune to be soaked. As famine strikes the population every year, people migrate to the towns or to the more developed rural areas to work as coolies. In the more backward areas like Abujmahad, people are forced to consume the bark of the trees to ward off hunger.

Under the leadership of CPI(ML)[PW], these famine-stricken peasants of Dandakaranya came out in large rallies and demonstrations in 1998 against the govt. demanding compensation and relief for the victims of famine, for declaring these areas as famine-prone; for providing irrigation facilities and supply of seeds etc.; participated in raids against the big landlords and hoarders, confiscated their property and distributed it among the poorest sections; and collected funds and food-grains in aid of the severely affected people. More than one lakh people were mobilised into rallies in South and North Bastar, Gadchirolli, and Bhandara – Balaghat -Rajnandgaon divisions. “Anti-Famine Struggle Committees” were formed in several places which collected about 100 tonnes of foodfrain and Rs. 16 lakh in cash and distributed these to the famine-stricken families.

The campaign against famine began at the end of 1997 and continued until mid-1998. During this period hundreds of adivasis of Dandakaranya Adivasi Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (DAKMS) and Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangh (KAMS) took part in the campaign. Forming themselves into teams of 7 to 8 members, those campaign batches numbering around 75, covered more than 1000 villages all over Dandakananya. What was striking was the prominent role played by women in the campaign and their participation in the rallies. In many areas they equalled in numbers to those of the men. For instance, in Kunta squad area in South Bastar, out of the 18 propaganda teams, half belonged to KAMS. In Basaguda area in the same district, out of the 32 teams, 14 were all-women teams.

Huge rallies were held in Kunta town in Jan 1998 in which 20,000 people from 180 villages participated. Most of them came from long distances armed with their traditional bows and arrows to resist any obstruction by the police forces. For the Bhopalapatnam rally held in the same month, though thousands of people were stopped on their way to the venue, over 10,000 people from 110 villages finally turned up at the rally. Rallies were also held in Bijapur with 3000, Avupalli with 20,000 people from 160 villages, and at a few other places. “Never in the history had Bastar seen such huge meetings and rallies in the tehsil towns” wrote the local press.

In Malkangiri town in Orissa, a I 0,000-strong rally was held under the banner of Gona Andolan Jakth Front (GAJF) in Nov.97 itself.

Rajnandgaon and Balaghat districts of MP have been the worst hit by famine. It was the most severe in 50 years and over 90 % of the land affected was due to drought. The people could not get even 15-20 % of their crop. There were no seeds, for the next sowing. With the initiative of the DAKMS and KAMS, a front by name “Akal Peedith Jana Sangathana” (APJS) was formed which mobilised 10,000 people to a rally to Chui Khadan.

In Gadchiroli district, “Famine Prevention Committee” was formed which held several rallies and meetings. In Dhanora, Korchi and Kurked, they demonstrated near the Tehsitdar’s office in January and held marches in Ahiri, Etapalli, Bhamragadh and Dhanora in March’ 98. Around 4000 people marched for 7 km and held a rally and meeting in Allapalli town. A rally was organised for the third time in Dhanora in April. Rallies were also held in North Bastar division.

All these rallies, in which the adivasi peasantry participated in thousands helped in exposing the governments anti-people policies as well as to raise their collective fighting spirit and consciousness that they have to stand ‘on their ‘own legs to achieve their demands. Rejection of the Parliamentary farce by the adivasis. In the 12th Lok Sabha elections in Feb. 1998, the adivasis under the leadership of the DAKMS and the KAMS, took up an extensive campaign throughout the 60 Parliamentary constituencies of Dandakranya urging the people to boycott the elections, reject the anti-people parliamentary institutions and to establish their own organs of democratic people’s power in every village.

In South Bastar division alone over 50 propaganda teams campaigned for a week prior to the election in Feb.1998. Several public meetings were held exposing the parliamentry farce in which thousands of people participated. The response to the boycott election campaign was tremendous. Thousands of people in every range participated in the rallies and meetings organised by the DAKMS and KAMS. And finally, the actual voting in many villages of Dandakaranya showed the irrelevance of the election for the people.

In Kunta area in South Bastar, not a single vote was polled in 41 villages. In the entire area itself, there was hardly 5% polling according to media reports. In North Bastar, in 22 villages in Koyalbeda area, 10 villages in Kondagaon area, 6 villages in Keshkal area, totally in 38 villages, there was total boycott and in another 50 villages less than a dozen votes were polled. In another 16 polling stations in Abujmabad in North Bastar, the votes polled ranged between 4 and 20. In the entire area there was only 18% polling. In Bastar Parliamentary constituency as a whole, 27% votes were polled – the least in the country.

In Gadchirolli district, 40 special reserve police camps and 15 CRPF companies were deployed in addition to the existing 40 Police stations. A total of 6,000 armed police were deployed in the district during the election, who conducted extensive combing operations in the forests. In spite of this massive police operation, no political leader ventured into the rural areas of Gadchirolli to campaign during the election. The success of the election boycott campaign in Dandakaranya and the active involvement of the masses in the campaign points to the favourable situation for establishing the alternative institutions of people’s power which have already began to operate in scores of villages in the guerilla zone.

Successful struggle of the tendu-leaf workers


Forest produce is an important source of liveli-hood for the adivasis of Dandakaranya. And the most important of these is tendu leaf. Every summer thousands of adivasis through out Dandakaranya engage themselves in tendu leaf picking without which the very survival of the adivasis is at stake. And ever since the CPI(ML)[People’s War] entered Dandakaranya 18 years ago, the adivasis have been waging struggles for increase in the wages for tendu leaf picking.

In 1981-82, in Gadchiroli district, only three paise was paid as wage for 7~leaf bundle. In Bastar it was 2-3 paise for 50-leaf bundle. Through their resolute and collective struggle over the years, they were able to enhance the wages several times more.

In the summer of 1998, the adivasis organised themselves into “tendu leaf workers struggle committees” in about 1000 villages in Gadchiroli and Bhandara districts and went on strike demanding increase in wages for leaf picking and curing.Bowing to the resolute determination of the adivasis the government announced a rate of 66l/2 paise per bundle. The people could however secure a rate of 135 paise per bundle from the contractors. The Gadchiroli and Bhandara adivasis, by achieving perhaps the highest rate for tendu leaf picking in the country,defying severe state repression, have shown that united, relentless struggle can achieve anything.

In Kanker, Dantewara, Bastar, Rajnandgaon and Balaghat, the Madhya Pradesh government froze the tendu leaf picking rates in spite of the increase in the market rates of tendu leaf. The government even decided to forego the revenue from tendu leaf collection instead of giving in to the demands of the adivasis. It has proved itself to be a greater exploiter than the private contractors. Infuriated by this adamant attitude of the government, the families that are~ dependent on tendu leaf in these six districts, converged in the taluk centres in thousands and expressed their anger through rallies, meetings and demonstrations.

As part of this protest 10,000 people participated in a rally in Kunta town on March 19. Another 20,000 people participated in the rallies in the other range centres. In Rajnandgaon-Balaghat division and in South Bastar, people’s militia set on fife lakhs of rupees worth bamboo depots in protest. On April 7, a ‘bandh’ was organised in these six districts condemning the anti-people policies and repression unleashed on people’s movements by the MP government. The bandh was a great success and units of DAKMS, KAMS, KBS and people’s militia participated actively by digging up roads, blocking the roads with trees and boulders and such other methods. The MP government had to ultimately increase the tendu leaf rate to 45 paise per 50-leaf bundle due to people’s protest.

Observing Martyr’s Day in the midst of special police operations


In the midst of the combing operations and special counter-insurgency operations by the police and the paramilitary forces, the adivasi peasantry of Dandakaranyn has not only participated in several rallies against famines, land occupation struggles, tendu leaf struggles, boycott of election campaigns, bandhs, March 8 women’s day meetings, etc., but also in constructing stupams (columns) for their beloved martyrs and observing Martyrs’ Week from July 28 to August 4.

Inspite of this terror campaign the masses and guerilla squads celebrated Martyrs’ Day July 28 on a wide scale, though several operations such as Operation Indravati was launched to disrupt and foil the programmes. On July 28, tribals gathered at the Martyrs’ column built in the traditional manner by piling up big stones, in every village. They stuck posters of the Tallagudem martyrs’ and held brief functions ill memory of all the revolutionaries who laid down their lives for liberating the people. In Kunta and Basaguda areas, the squads with the help of surrounding villagers managed to get 15 feet high cement and brick memorial structures constructed in time for July 28. Meetings were conducted before the ‘Stupams’ jointly by the squads and the mass organisations in each of which between 1000 to 3000 villagers gathered. The police were unable to locate these new “Shahid Stupams”.

The police tried their best to foil the Martyrs’ Week. They confiscated the cement bags that were brought to construct a stupam near Bhopalapatnam. On July 28 they raided Gundem village and Iral village since they got information about stupams constructed earlier. In Gundem village they could not locate the stupam inspite of beating up some villagers. In Iral an informer brought them upto the stupam. – But the people and squads managed to retreat to the forest nearby. Infuriated the police burnt down the decorations and posters, but retreated after the militia fired on them. On August 4, they raided Pusnar village where a programme was planned. But the police party was ambushed by the squad on their way back. Though no one-was injured, the police fired indiscriminately for an hour while retreating. As part of this operation the police also staged a dummy attack on Tallagudem police station. The police attached to the police station fired continuously for several hours and then let out a cock and bull st6ry to the press that, “the police have bravely foiled one more raid on Tallagudem Police Station by over 50 armed Naxalites”! In the Martyrs’ programmes, where meetings were disrupted due to police raids, programmes were conducted a few days later. In the programmes homage was paid t6 revolutionary martyrs from AP, DK, to Comrade Charu Mazumdar and international communist fighters comrade Pol Pot and Mehmet Demirdag, General Secretary of the TKP/ML.

Special Police Operations-Growing Armed Resistance


The governments of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have been making desperate attempts since long to supress the movement led by CPI(ML)[People’s War] in Dandakaranya. While the repression was heavy in Gadchiroh,~ Bhandara, Balaghat and North Bastar until 1997, it extended to South Bastar and Kalimela area of Orissa from the beginning of 1998 with the rapid growth of the revolutionary movement in these areas. And in June 1998, a Joint Co-ordination Centre was formed by the governments of these states along with the government of AP under the stewardship of the Home Minister-LK Advani.

With the formation of the Co-ordination Centre, repression has been let loose all over Dandadkranya in a more co-ordinated manner since June 1998. Following is a report of the enemy operations in South Bastar:

Repression in South Bastar


Initially the repression carried out was general, but from June 1998 it was extended in the form of specific operations launched simultaneously all over Bastar division. Prom June to August ’98, in the space of only three months came Operation Danteswari was followed by Operation Indravati and then Operation Vajra. The Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs) and Sub divisional Officers (Police) (SDPOs) are personally leading these operations relying mainly on the Special Armed Force (SAF) of the state police rather than the local police. Operation Danteswari and Operation Vajra aimed at creating a reign of terror among villagers, identifying and breaking the range shopkeepers, traders and others like lower level employees who are suspected of helping the squads by, for example, selling essentials etc. Operation Indravati was launched in the last week of July, to foil the Martyrs’ Day – July 28 – programmes.

The ruling classes are well aware of the growing mass base of the revolutionary movement in Bastar, particularly evident during the election when entire villages boycotted the elections and the South Bastar seat officially recorded the lowest turnout.

One of the main aims of this entire campaign of repression has been to identify the local mass leadership among the tribals and terrorise the weaker ones among them into becoming informers.

The government and their loyal servants, the police, are desperate to get authentic information on the movement of the guerilla squads, the range level organisation of-the DAKMS, and village units of the Gram Rakshak Dais (GRDs) and Gram Rajya Committees (GRCs). The DAKMS has been functioning illegally all along, and GRDs are totally secret units of people’s militia. Agitations have been conducted in which the tribal masses have participated in large numbers, led by DAKMS and KAMS, which the police could not prevent. The police have targeted villages suspected by them to be strongholds of the revolutionary movement. villages like Bhandarpalli (Aavpalli range) and Pusnar (Bijapur range) were raided upto six times in these six months. The police stormed into the houses of the mass organisation activists and destroyed their belongings. Bhandarpalli is the village to which Comrades Ramamurthy and Babanna, both of whom were martyred at Tallagudem on March 11, belonged. (Besides, Ramamurthy’s father, Chapa Laxmayya, had been the divisional committee president of the DAKMS, and had been taken away by the police and killed secretly by them in 1991). Babanna’s elder brother, Mallayya, a poor Dorla tribal peasant, was arrested by the police, falsely charged and sent off to jail in one 6f these raids.

The armed police swooping down on a village in a convoy of 6-7 jeeps or on motorcycles, parked themselves in the middle of the village and then let loose their reign of terror. Not only were the villagers indiscriminately beaten, but even their belongings including jewelry and money illegally snatched by the police. Specifically targeting the parents and or brothers of squad members, and the range committee members and their families, the police are attempting to demoralise the squad members and mass organisers and break the support of the families to the revolutionary movement. The police have stooped so low as to offer bribes to the brother of a range committee member (in Pamed range) to have him arrested or killed ! The state has made undisclosed sums of money freely available to crush the revolutionaries.

In the Madded-Kandlanar pocket which they could not reach by vehicles, the police, in a gang of about 30, armed with even LMGs marched by foot through the forest to several villages like Agipenta, Lodhed, Kotapalli, picked up villagers to take back with them. Significantly village women from Agipenta too followed them into the forest, accosted them and forced them to release the men. In this period, from May ’98, 35 villages in Gangalur and Bijapur ranges were looted and 25 people arrested. The raids went on almost uninterruptedly from March to the beginning of August ’98 in Madded and Aavpalli ranges. An estimate of Rs. one lakh has been illegally looted by the police in these two ranges alone.

Shopkeepers, panchayat representatives and lower level employees of the government too have not been, spared in this repression campaign. A few primary school teachers are among those arrested. After the killing of the SI of Pamed PS the vice-sarpanch, a shop keeper Chandrayya was arrested and so badly tortured that he had to be hospitalised. His ‘crime’ was that the ‘murder’ took place close to his shop!! Shopkeepers and traders from Bijapur, Bhopalapatnam, Chintalnar, Basaguda were interrogated, detained and even arrested. Some of them were severely beaten up on the charge of helping the squads. They had to pay hefty amounts to the police to get themselves released. One small shopkeeper from Ganganpalli village near Basaguda, had to spend more than Rs. 20,000 on bribes and bail, after his arrest. Even some hawkers, who peddled their wares going from village to village on cycles were not spared. Constables are being posted at the entrance of shops to check the customers, and regular checking of people on market days is going on. But- when a big trader of Bhopalapatnam was harassed by the police, the traders lobby finally stirred. The Bastar Chamber of Commerce called for a bandh on July 23 against police atrocities. Not only was the bandh successful in the towns, they also took out a rally to the Collector’s office in Jagdalpur on the same day.

South Bastar was reeling under a severe drought last year. The tribal peasantry suffering due to this drought has had to endure severe economic hardships due to this repression. Precious grain, stored for the lean months was destroyed in the raids, goats and hen have been stolen and they have had to cough up thousands of rupees to’ bribe the police to avoid being charged in specific cases. Each person has had to pay anything from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 10,000. In Dantewada police district at least four lakh rupees have been ‘earned’ by the police illegally, while carrying out their campaign of repression. The people’s guerillas have heroically resisted this growing state repression by organising ambushes and. engaging in armed confrontations. Between February and October 1998,a total of 28 policemen including 6 officers, were annihilated and 39 policemen including three officers were wounded in the attacks by the guerillas in Dandakaranya. The details are as follows:

* In February 1998, a Sub-Inspector of Police was annihilated in Gadchiroli.

* In South Bastar, an Assistant Sub inspector of police and a head constable belonging to Oosur PS., were killed in a daring attack by an action team belonging to people’s militia on 18 May 1998

* On 19 June, an A.S.I. of Pamed P.S. in South Bastar was killed near the police station itself by the guerillas and the militia members.

* In Bhandrra-Balaghat division, when a police party led by an Additional Suptd. of Police fired on Paraswada guerilla squad of People’s War, the guerillas returned the fire killing the ASP RN Bansal and an ASI. The guerillas escaped unhurt.

* On 3 August, in an ambush laid by the guerillas of People’s War in Gadchiroli division, five policemen were wiped out.

*On October 10, in the land-mine ambush laid by the guerillas of People’s War, 16 policemen were wiped out while 15 others including a DySP and an SI were seriously injured.

During the same period, the guerillas lost 8 comrades:

five in the unsuccessful raid on Tallagudem PS in South Bastar in March 1998, two in an encounter in North Bastar, and one comrade in an encounter in Balaghat.

The armed resistance by the guerillas and the people’s militia and the fitting replies they had given to the special operations conducted by the enemy, have enthused not only the people of Dandakaranya but elsewhere in the country. Relying on the increasing support of the masses and involving them in struggles and armed resistance, the guerillas are certain to achieve greater victories and defeat the new offensive of the enemy against the revolutionary movement.

Landmine Hits One Cruel SI

ON 9.10.98, in Ike afternoon, SI of Chandurti police station was killed and 8 other policemen were seriously injured in a landmine blast planed by People’s War guerillas at Veernagutta forest of Karimnagar district. This SI was in the forefront of the combing operations in the preceding three months. He arrested and tortured several youth of Manala and other surrounding villages. Conducting raids on villages had become his routine affair. He also conducted ‘police duibars’ against the People’s War Party. On the night of 8.10.98 also he held a police durbar in Rudrangi village, in which he bitterly lashed out at People’s War party and threatened the people with dire consequences if they give food and-shelter to guerillas. The next day guerillas put an end to his ravings.


16 policemen wiped out in People’s War landmine blast On 7.10.98 morning at 10.30 A.M. People’s War guerillas wiped out 16 policemen and injured 15 others in a landmine ambush on Basuguda-Jagarguda Road of Dantewada district of Madhya Pradesh. The police were proceeding in two vehicles for combing operations when one of the vehicles was blasted to pieces, killing 16 policemen and injuring 15. After the blast, guerillas attacked the police convoy in which DSP of Gopolpatnam and SI of Madded were seriously injured.
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