A lot is been said and told about those branded as anti-nationals, misguided citizens or in simple terms those referred to as the Naxals. Our former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described them as the single biggest threat to our country’s security. And recent news reports show that government has made efforts to get things under control in few of these naxal affected states. We have also heard of the atrocities to which they have been subjected.
Anyhow are they against the government or are they against the development initiatives that deprive them of what belongs to them? That is for us to ponder.
I am here not to make comments or take sides.
Rajkummar’s Oscar nominated movie ‘Newton’ discussed burning questions revolving around this subject. It also presented multiple points of view.
Few months back I watched a Malayalam movie ‘Unda’ and this too like Newton delved into the problems that the character encounters when they are posted for election duty in a maoist area.
Based on all that we have heard, read and understood about them we have a picture that isn’t very clear, I suppose.
As we were driving back home after watching Newton our discussion on this led to a point where dad shared an experience, he had during 2001-02 winters. And this is how it goes.
During the peak winter in 2001 we as a nation witnessed a terrorist attack on our parliament. And this led to a massive war build-up at our western border. All men and material deployed in peace stations were moved up to borders in the anticipation of an impending war. He being an instructor for an Anti-Aircraft missile operation was responsible for training the combat crew to fire missiles. He was asked to retrieve a simulator used for training from a place in Andhra by road to Delhi with eight personnel and convoy of four vehicles.
He and his team moved towards Delhi through the naxal infested area. He was worried at the beginning of his journey as he knew that he was a sitting duck to a well-armed naxal gang who could steal their weapons or take them captive anytime. They planned to travel during the day and stay at the police stations enroute or at defence establishments. Every stop over was planned to the finest.
They moved from Bapatla and the first day went off uneventful. The second day they started from Khammam and moved towards Warangal. But unfortunately, the vintage vehicles they were using had some technical fault. As a result their planned timelines went for a toss. Unlike planned they were not able to settle for the night as they were stuck. They were worried as they were travelling through the area that was considered to be prime naxal area. Soon he was reminded of all the dark stories related to naxals he had come across in his life.
With sun setting fast he told his boys to take a stop at the police chowki or station whichever came next on the way. It was 5pm and they chanced upon a police station and this was great relief for them. As a convoy they moved towards the small station hoping for a safe lodging. But to their utter disappointment the police personnel refused to let them into their station as they feared the naxals will attack their chowki(in order to steal the weapons from those who are given asylum there).
Even after repeated requests from their side those at the station refused to let them in. Anyhow they told them that there was a big police station on the way 10 km ahead which according to them had enough manpower and weapons to ward off naxals. At the end of their debate it was around 6pm in the evening and he told himself that they are stepping into a dangerous area. As they witnessed the sense of fear in local police, they were very apprehensive of what was ahead of them and what was to happen that murky night.
As per what was told to them, they kept moving. They kept their weapons ready to shoot if they were attacked. They kept moving but unlike what was promised they never came across a station even after covering a distance of 15km. They soon understood it was pointless to travel any further so they decided to stop at a place which had semblance of civilisation on the road.
As they parked their vehicles on the road and settled, they realised they had not had anything for quite a long time. They only had two packets of biscuits left with them. Three of them took a stroll towards the road. They walked up to a tiny road side shop which was faintly lit. They asked the owner of the shop if they could get something to fill their tummies for tonight. He humbly told them that he had to wind up as he was too tired and had to get back home.
They walked back to their people who were waiting near the vehicle. As they stood there, one old man in a traditional attire probably in his early sixties came walking along with a young guy.
He was looking curiously at their equipment’s loaded on their vehicles and asked them who they were. Since dad was the convoy commander he spoke to the old man. This man wished him and spoke in his broken hindi and he introduced himself as Ramalu. He told him that he and his boys were IAF personnel’s and were proceeding to border. The old man asked him whether he could be of any help to them. Dad told him that his boys were hungry. The old man smiled and told him “saab nenu dekhta kya kar saktha” (Sir, let me see what I can do) and this man instructed his assistant to do something. The old man sat with them talking about how India will fare well in case of war. The assistant boy vanished into the dark and after one hour or so along with four other young guys appeared with freshly made chappathi and pickle.
After having food, we tried paying him money which he refused. But finally, on their repeated insistence he took Rs 100 as token. They thanked him and he wished them well for their journey. They walked him up the road in an effort to show gratitude. As they approached the tea shop ahead the owner saw them and came out to wish Mr Ramalu. He waved at the tea shop owner and continued walking off with his young men into the dark. As they wished adieu to each other Mr. Ramalu blessed them to defeat enemy (Pakistan) in case of war and also added that he will pray for them.
He was a little curious to know who the old man was and as they reached back to the tea shop. He asked his colleague CPL Chandra to enquire with the owner of the tea stall. The owners answer stunned him and Chandra alike. He told them that he was the mukhiya of the local naxal dalam and the people who came with the food were his dalam members. Both of them were jolted off their senses. But they were also too tried to look up and rewind the incidents in their mind. They did not know whether everything that happened was true or a dream.
Back at the convoy he told his boys to unload all gun and keep the bullets locked up in their vehicles as he now knew they were totally safe. He was feeling the hypocrisy of life as the police who was supposed to protect them from naxal attack betrayed them in a time of emergency and the naxal who were supposed to attack on them at the first instance gave them food from their share.
He said he was truely left more confused in his mind about who the naxals were – friend or foe?