PRELUDE: Thick rain-laden clouds approach the calm & clear sky; it is again the monsoon in hinterlands of Jharkhand, bringing relief from the scorching heat. However, the natives at this rickety village aren’t any merrier. Soon, naxals from thick sub-tropical forests would fall like swarms here.
Between the ominous months of June & September, anti-naxal operations shall subside all across the state once the woods become impenetrable. Emboldened insurgents shall then establish infamous kangaroo-courts across villages, savagely punishing dissenters in full public glare. Hapless adivasis had long resigned to their fate; the netas who’d often promise to exorcise the naxal menace once & for all would crumble into their hidings. This is in fact the most sordid tale of India’s version of democracy which is anything but, a sham & a brutal game of political subjugation of the under classes post-independence.
However, the ingredients were perfect; a mixture of corporate lobbying , a bit of political will & the looming elections would set the stage for Operation Green-hunt to flush out Maoist ‘scum’ from their dwellings.
The lush green fields were no less than an elaborate labyrinth, brimming with monsoon rain that had hit the village last month. ‘’ Fetch me those cans of fertilizers”, he screamed. The boy was sitting on the mud pillar that miraculously survived this monsoon onslaught, often he contemplated, what lay beyond the confines of this village. He had heard of people going to cities of Ranchi, Jamshedpur & Bokaro for better life, they said, there were towering buildings, factories & cars racing past unending roads. “He would one day surely go to one of these places” & as he was about to lose himself in the myriad of thoughts, his father’s voice pierced through his ears. He ran towards the mud & straw thatched hut to get those greasy cans of fertilizers which his father bought last summers.
“Here it is, father”, still panting & trying to catch his breath. His father took no notice, for this time wasn’t for trifling things like these. The kid was barely 12yrs now, however, tremendous hardships had matured him, and he knew that their life was entangled to the success of rice-crop this season. Few months back he had overheard his father talking to his mother that the loan he took from the local money lender has to be returned this season.
“He’d one day free his father from this ordeal”, he vowed to himself. The clouds were again gathering, heavy downpours were quite common during these months.
His father came running with a piece of cotton cloth over his head & the heavy wooden door thudded. His mother was busy preparing meal. Often he’d frown on the relentless rain but, this time it was because of this thundershower that the entire family would be eating together.
The following morning he was to begin his schooling. Only last month, a middle school was inaugurated by the local MLA, curious faces had thronged from across the village to see this ceremony. It was in fact a rarity that some important political figure visited their village except for the time of elections. Finally his mother was successful in persuading his father to send him to school so, that his life wouldn’t fall prey to some vicious middleman.
Dressed & with his mother combing his still wet hair, the boy was zealously waiting to visit his new school. Rumors were abound that the Maoists had overrun the only police-station in neighboring village, slaying every breathing soul & setting the school on fire. They frequently accused the government of using schools as a front for anti-naxal operations, stationing paramilitary forces, arms & ammunitions in guise of running literacy drives.
Unruffled the father-son duo set off on a cycle for the school. At times when hardships turn synonymous to life, even death appears to be an easy escape. He could see, the hardened expression on his father’s face, “maybe something ominous awaits them” he pondered. Quickly discarding such ill thoughts, he could see people toiling in lush green fields, the muddy path they took has turned arduously tough to overcome, part because of incessant rain & part because his father has began to lose will.
As they approached the school, he could see tremendous commotion all over. Men brandishing rifles were everywhere fear stricken faces of villagers sent a chill down his spine & impulsively he stammered, “Father! Flee”. Before his father could turn the cycle a young man with a rifle hanging on his back & a scar running down his left cheek held the cycle firmly, struggling to overcome the cycle tripped & both of them were sent crashing on the ground. Some more men came running & held the father-son duo by shoulder. One amongst the men approached to check this ruckus, “leave them immediately”. Before he could complete, the men let them off. “You shall both witness the fate of dissenters & traitors before you’re allowed to leave so that it establishes a fitting example for those who harbor ill-schemes compromising the cause of our selfless struggle against the elitist regime of Delhi” ,he said in a thick accent . By now both of them were profusely sweating & before they realized what struck them a heavy push forced them onto the ground. Sitting amongst the sea of people they were to witness the dreaded kangaroo-court. Two towering men threw a frail man on the cemented platform near the school entrance. An older Maoist flanked by his guards on either side began to move slowly. And as he plodded he began to speak ,” this man dared to defy his brothers & people for petty gains, blinded by his ill conceived ambition he trespassed the moral order of conduct endangering our common cause of severing the shackles of subjugation & humiliation.” The boy was awe-struck, his father was clutching his hand firmly & both of them awaited the fate of this poor guy. The man was shivering; a young lad shoved him down on his knees. Another man loaded his rifle & before the crowd could react, the man lay lifeless in a pool of blood, the crowd began cheering & roaring in frenzy, justice has been served well, for there was no place for dissident beneath the red-banner.
The boy was in a state of utter shock but, somehow he manages to speak incoherently, “father, will they free us now?” His father nodded apprehensively still not sure if the worst was over. Loudspeakers were blaring with announcements asking the villagers to take leave. Soon people could be heard murmuring about the gruesome happening. The boy overheard some villagers discussing that the man brutally executed was a local peasant accused of spying for the police & paramilitary forces, passing them inputs regarding the movements of naxals.
Two months back, a massive paramilitary drive was launched across the red corridor with much pomp & show, Operation Green Hunt, the name erroneously given by Indian media soon became a part of public lexicon. However, the governments & the policy-makers never acknowledged any such large scale anti-naxal drive being run across East India.
Sometimes, it is imperative that the wider masses remain oblivious of government’s greater agenda, a paradox in itself but, democracy is abound with such contradictions.
And by the time the boy & his father had barely made into the disjointed queue, he could see men clad in greens storming inside the main gate pushing & shoving villagers who stood their way. Shocked & caught off guard the Maoists opened indiscriminate fire towards the paramilitary forces. The boy was trembling in fear & all he could see was people running hither-thither for their life. Amidst this chaos he lost hold of his father’s hand & by the time he realized, a blow to his head knocked him off.
“It still pains, mother” he said, his mother by his bed, ecstatic with tears rolling down her eyes which she wipes off her hand. It has been two days since the boy was rushed to hospital, she has been grateful to the God that her child was spared in this cold-blooded massacre of villagers which left over forty dead & innumerable injured in some form.
The next she heard from the boy was, “where’s father?” to which she instantly replied, “He’s alright my child.” & as if to validate what she has just said, his father emerged through the door, the boy was relieved & could finally shun all those gloomy thoughts grotesquely moving in his head.
(This post also appeared on Cafe dissensus Everyday)