Chhattisgarh Assembly Election: Nandlal Murami, the crusader from Palnar, fights for life after brutal Maoist attack

Nandlal Murami, a 34-year-old member of the district panchayat (Zila Panchayat) in Palnar village of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, is currently battling for life in a Raipur hospital.

He was brutally attacked by the Jan Militia cadre of Maoists on 28 October with a sharp, locally-made weapon. Murami, who’s still in ICU, has lost two fingers and his vocal cords are badly injured. His friends said he’s communicating through sign language.

(L) Nandlal Murami in June this year and (R) now after the attack by Maoist cadres. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose

(L) Nandlal Murami in June this year and (R) now after the attack by Maoist cadres. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose

The incident occurred while Murami was having dinner at home, when suddenly, a few unidentified men with weapons barged in and attacked him. When members of his family raised an alarm, the attackers left Murami lying in a pool of blood. They had intended to kill him, but he survived.

Before leaving, the attackers left leaflets behind with chilling warnings — “anyone supporting anti-people work like road construction will face death" — enough to describe the volatile situation existing in the Maoist-hotbed of Bastar.

It was just a few months back, on 2 June, that I had met Murami — a BJP worker when I visited Palnar village — 128 kilometres from Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar, while covering the state of Naxal insurgency in Chhattisgarh.

Seeing him lying blood-splattered on a hospital stretcher is a shock that will take time to abate. Coupled with the killing of Doordarshan camera person Achyutananda Sahu and two policemen Rudra Pratap Singh and Manglu by the Maoists on Tuesday, the horror has come very close — people under siege are those that one knows or are of the fraternity, and not too far off whose personal tragedies could wear off the mindscapes of those sitting in Delhi over time.

I had met several people on my nearly one-month long tour of Chhattisgarh’s Naxal-infested districts in Bastar. In Murami's village too, I had spoken to several people, but I chose to interview him as he was one of the brightest among the young guys around. A member of the village panchayat, he spoke with the clarity of a man determined to assist in changing the fortunes of his fellow villagers. A graduate with two school-going children, he was determined to bring opportunities of personal and collective growth to the next generation of his community and give them the opportunities that were denied to him.

Tribal village Palnar which a decade ago was under the clutches of Maoists and no outsider dared to enter without the approval of these ultra-Left cadres, has now transformed into a digital hub.

During my long interactions with Murami and his friends, and also a group of villagers, it became evident how difficult it had been for them to join the mainstream in the face of the wrath of Naxals, who oppose any form of development.

“There was no education facility here, so I had to go to Jagargunda, which is now in Sukma district. Today, we have a cluster of schools with hostel facility. It caters to students from adjoining villages. Unprecedented development has taken place in this village in all spheres in the form of schools, roads, banks, ATM, medical centre etc. This will help this new generation to be a part of the mainstream and grow,” Murami had told me in his interview on 2 June.

Speaking to Firstpost on condition of anonymity, a close friend of Murami said, “He had to face the wrath of Maoists (andarwale) as he was actively pursuing development work in the village. They don’t want the construction of roads. Several times they threatened us not to support road construction work.”

Even after freeing the village of Maoists, the terror of the ultras is such that nobody dares to refer to them as Maoist or Naxal. Instead, they call them as ‘andarwale’ (those living in deep interiors) or as ‘asamaajik’ (anti-social). It’s common across the seven Naxal-infested districts in Bastar.

The attack on a civilian like Murami, who is a young citizen of the most notorious part of the Red Corridor of the country is symptomatic of the brutal war that the Naxals are waging, not just against the Indian state but also against the common citizens who wish to get on with their lives and are willing to join the mainstream.

Warning leaflet left by Jan Militia cadre after attacking Nandlal Mudami,. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose

Warning leaflet left by Jan Militia cadre after attacking Nandlal Mudami,. Image procured by Debobrat Ghose

“It was the Jan Militia cadre of the Maoists, who attacked panchayat member Nandlal Murami. They left leaflets warning them to stay away from road construction or face death. The Naxals don’t want villagers to support development projects. Due to the construction of roads and other developments, the Maoists are being pushed back,” inspector general, Chhattisgarh Police (Bastar range), Vivekananda told Firstpost.

Road construction has always been a sore point as Maoists are strongly anti-development and don’t want any construction of the road that connects interior villages with the mainstream.

Development will be the topmost poll plank of the ruling BJP government in Chhattisgarh in the upcoming assembly election in the state. The CPI (Maoist) has desperately been trying to derail the poll process in tribal Bastar.

The Narendra Modi government at the Centre has been determined to flush out Naxalism — which the former prime minister Manmohan Singh had termed as the ‘biggest threat to internal security’ – by using development and strengthening security measures.

According to government officials and villagers, the Maoists have been opposing the construction of the road from Aranpur (the site of the Maoist attack on Tuesday) in Dantewada to Jagargunda which will ultimately connect Dornapal in Sukma district, as it would give an easy access to security forces to Maoist stronghold. This road will shorten the distance from Dantewada to Bhadrachalam town in Telangana via Sukma district.

The attacks on police, CRPF personnel and road construction workers are all plausibly explained by the fact that all these represent the government’s development agenda. However, the only explanation of the attack on a harmless, unarmed civilian like Murami is that the Naxals, fearing on losing out their constituency of tribal villagers, are in turn instilling fear among the villagers. They almost seem to be giving out the message -- if you allow development, education and infrastructure to come to the tribal villages by actively participating in it, you will pay the price. And, Murami is not the only case.


Updated Date: Nov 01, 2018 11:00 AM

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