Day 1 (6th June’08)
– We reached this place called Jagdalgaon in the morning and left for Dantewada from there. It was the ten of us in a single Tata Sumo.
– On reaching Dantewada town, we got down to have breakfast. At breakfast, I saw a guy standing right next to me in civilian clothes with an AK-56. My guess was the he was a Special Police Officer (SPO); but he claimed that he was the bodyguard of a Zilla Panchayat Officer. I think this is the starting point from where things get worse.
– Apparently yesterday morning, the naxalites blew up six power lines due to which there would be no electrivity and water for the next fifteen days in the district. The naxalities feel that since the tribals don’t get water and electricity, other should’nt too.
– Law, order and governmentality don’t seem to be exist here. This seems to be a place where everybody keeps shooting and killing everyone and you start wondering why the hell you’ve come here? Now that’s a question I shall answer later on; perhaps at the end.
So we went to this place called Mertwar and the moment we reached there the CRPF commander informed us that this was the most dangerous are of them all. The area description of the place is as follows;
The Mertur camp is protected by the CRPF from the outside (63rd batallion) and a Police Station is there inside to allegedly protect the villagers. Just near the camp is the Churli village where the people are forced to come and spend the nights at the camp. The camp officers say that this is to protect them while the churli people say that this is to get forced labour done out of them and if they dont come, they’re branded as naxalities.
Next to Churli village is a river and across it is pure naxalite territory. The CRPF calls this river the L.O.C. We were suppose to visit this village called Bechapal across the river but time didnt permit us. Near bechapal on the other side of the river is the Brigade HQ of the naxalites.
So we stopped our car and went this Churli as stated above to collect some depositions. Every evening they run to the camp for protection and while they’re there the Salwa Judum get forced labour out of them. The stories that they recollect are horrid I msut say. One of them had his house burnt by the police/ salwa judum for not coming to the camp regularly.
– Apparently all the roads out to the CRPF camp are mined by the naxalites. Across the river is Bechapal which was burnt earlier by the forces. It is rumoured that a few weeks ago the CRPF conducted combing operations there and a lot of violence had occurred. It started raining heavily at the end of it all out here.
– Everywhere we saw armed civilians carrying AK-56s. These people belonged to the Salwa Judum/ SPO/ Police/ CRPF. In fact, while we were coming bac we were halted at the Mertur Police Station; surrounded by the police and salwa Judum and interrogated. For the first time in the rip I was thankful that nothing had happened to us.
we were told in due course of the interrogation that there were 174 SPOs in the area along with the Police and 130 men of the 64rd batllion of the CRPF. In a 5 sqkm area they claimed there were up against 2000 or more naxalites. However in what is a game of power, the salwa judum and the police seemed to be killing a lot more civilians.