Maoists urge people in Bastar to 'celebrate Women's Day'; experts, security forces say objective is to recruit cadres

The CPI (Maoist) has exhorted people in Bastar to celebrate International Women's Day with gusto, and has put up pamphlets, posters and banners.

Debobrat Ghose March 08, 2019 22:43:49 IST
Maoists urge people in Bastar to 'celebrate Women's Day'; experts, security forces say objective is to recruit cadres
  • Maoists have exhorted people in the organisation's hotbed of Bastar to celebrate Women's Day with gusto.

  • Through this appeal, the Maoists are in a way attempting to convince local tribal women to join them.

  • In the past five years, the Maoists have faced loss of cadre in large numbers due to the security offensive.

Maoists in Chhattisgarh, in a novel attempt to win over women cadres who have been exploited so far, are employing some Gen Next measures. The latest among these was the celebration of the International Women’s Day on Friday.

The CPI (Maoist) exhorted people in the organisation's hotbed of Bastar to celebrate the occasion with gusto on 8 March, and put up pamphlets, posters and banners. The ultra-Left outfit made an appeal not only to its women cadres but also to tribal villagers to celebrate the day to protest against "imperialist, fascist, Hindutva, Brahminical forces, and government and security agencies – who have been exploiting and oppressing poor people and tribal women."

These posters were put up in remote villages of Dantewada, Bijapur, Kanker, Bijapur and Narayanpur districts. The Maoists, through these banners, have appealed to people to "stand up and fight oppression against women, especially minorities (in this context, tribals)."

The Maoists have termed the government’s anti-Naxal strategy (2019-22) as an "oppression strategy."

Maoists urge people in Bastar to celebrate Womens Day experts security forces say objective is to recruit cadres

A Maoist poster exhorting people to celebrate Women's Day. Image: Debobrat Ghose/Firstpost

Through this appeal, the Maoists are in a way attempting to convince local tribal women to join them. In the past five years, the Maoists have faced loss of cadre in large numbers due to the security offensive. However, the new leadership under CPI (Maoist) chief Nambala Keshava Rao (also known as Basavraj) has called for an aggressive stance against the State.

An official at the Anti-Naxal Ops unit in Chhattisgarh told Firstpost, “Besides losing their cadre members in encounters, a large number of Maoists, including their local leaders, have surrendered. Recently, a wanted Naxal commander named Arjun, who carried a bounty of Rs 8 lakh, surrendered. He had been the mastermind behind several Maoist attacks in Dantewada, Sukma and Bastar. Through this kind of celebration, the Maoists are clandestinely conducting a recruitment drive by portraying themselves as champions for the cause of women. We’re keeping a close watch on their movements.”

The Maoists celebrate such occasions through their banned cultural wing, the Chetna Natya Manch. The group holds song and dance rallies, nukkad nataks (street plays), etc. The objective is to disseminate the Maoist ideology amongst the tribals. Such celebrations usually takes place in villages which are Maoist strongholds and are out of reach of the police and security forces.

The CPI (Maoist) identifies those in its cadre who have a talent for singing, dancing and performing folk plays. Such people are put in the cultural wing. Often, members of the cultural wing also act as eyes and ears for the armed cadre of the Maoists.

The Chhattisgarh government has banned the Chetna Natya Manch.

RS Bhatnagar, a Bastar-based expert on the Naxal movement in Chhattisgarh, said, “The Naxals observe nearly 20 days and weeks in a year, including black day (26 January), women’s day, martyrs’ week, daman-virodhi saptah (anti-oppression week), Maoist Shaheed Divas (9 September), Foundation day (21 September), PLGA week in December, etc. The Chetna Natya Manch organises rallies and plays, and through people’s songs, they spread the message of Naxalism. This has been going on for years in Bastar.”

The celebration of International Women's Day is, in many ways, contrary to the ground realities in Maoist-dominated areas.

Bhatnagar states, "Over the years, there have been several cases of sexual exploitation of women Maoists in Bastar. About six to seven years ago, an arrested woman Naxal delivered a baby in jail. After that, she described how she had been sexually exploited in a Maoist camp. Maoists talking about empowerment of women is a sham."

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