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
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
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
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
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
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
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
* 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
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
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