The Saga of Mahato: Scapegoats of Naxal violence

“Mahato, these b******s have besieged us. They have enough ammunition to keep us engaged for another hour” said one of the CPI(Maoists) cadres. “Hmm, it seems that the Salwa Judum is waiting for the reinforcements to arrive before they carry out the final assault,” Mahato said in a serious tone.

“I’ll make them taste the dust” said the cadre firing indiscriminately at the vigilante militia. He went to the forefront all guns blazing. He shouted, “You rogues, you can not stop us from championing our cause.” Just then, a bullet pierced his chest leaving him dead. Things were falling apart for the Maoists.

“Mahato, look, the forces are marching towards us, we are trapped.” said one of the comrades. “We’ll have to leave this place. I’ll ambush the forces from behind, give me cover fire” said a tense Mahato. Amidst intense gun battle between vigilante militia and the Maoists, it dawned upon Mahato that if he manages to elude the security personnel, who had an upper hand in the battle, he will be a cat with nine lives. While attempting to flee, Mahato was shot down. He laid under a tree in a semi-conscious state. As his imminent death is approaching him, he reminisces about his past.

I

Destiny: Change or Choice

Mahato knelt down before the landlord beseeching him not to appropriate his land. The landlord had turned a land grabber. The ingenuous Mahato, unaware of the legal nitty-gritty, had mortgaged his land against a debt, which was given at an exorbitant interest rate. Mahato could not discharge the interest. He pleaded to the landlord, “Malik, please don’t do this grave injustice to me, my family will die of starvation. This land is the only source of livelihood for us”. His plea fell on deaf years as the landlord turned it down inhumanely. Circumstances forced Mahato into taking up arms. He joined the Maoists, but, as a mercenary, not a cadre. Along with other comrades, he murdered the landlord. His entry into the world of terrorism was marked by landlord’s blood in his hand.

II

The Vicious Circle

The Salwa Judum had surfaced in Mahato’s village Dantewada forcing him to flee. The tussle between the Maoists and the Salwa Judum was getting intense. Mahato had no inkling that his family would be attacked. His sister was gang-raped and burnt alive. The vigilante carried out arson attacks. His wife and children providentially and covertly escaped to one of the camps set up for locals who were displaced from their places due to clashes between Naxals and Salwa Judum. Mahato had no clue about their whereabouts before he bumped into them at the camp while carrying out an attack on the military forces. His wife and children were living in sub-human conditions. Food and water were scarce. The children in the camp were malnourished and deprived of basic care. Mahato had no option but leave them in that miserable place. Perhaps, nothing can pinch someone’s conscience more than the inability to help their near and dear ones. But human part in Mahato had died when he donned the robe of a proponent of violence.

In the end there was an uncanny lull and darkness. Among all the battles Mahato had fought, this one proved out to be penultimate and fatal. The triumph of the army echoed with the death of the Maoist leader Ramlal Mahato. The red corridor had gone pale. Dantewada had been rid of the Maoist control. But the victory of the authorities had come at the cost of lives of several civilians who became the scapegoats. Their lives will never be the same again.





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