RAIPUR: Chhattisgarh has witnessed the most casualties of women Maoists than any other state in India.
The outlawed CPI (Maoist), that is believed to have a presence in 16 states, is the most active in Chhattisgarh where it has been waging war on the security forces for over three decades.
In Chhattisgarh, the organisational structure of Maoists is quite unusual as women constitute over 40 per cent of its strength, jungle warfare experts said.
How active the female cadres are in the state, can be gauged by the fact that out of the 69 rebels killed by the security forces this year, 27 were women, which is nearly 39 per cent of the casualties.
"In Maoist-affected zones around 45 per cent women are in different positions and many of them fight ferociously from the front. Sadly, they are misled Indian tribal women who have taken a wrong path,” asserted Brigadier (Retd) B K Ponwar, Director, Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker.
Senior police officers, with long experience of working in the conflict zone of Bastar stated that as there is no gender discrimination among tribal communities, the same practice apparently percolated into the Maoist organisation.
In tribal dominated Bastar, the overall sex ratio is far better than the national average which stands at 940 females for every 1,000 males. For instance Jagdalpur district has 1,023 females, Dantewada has the sex ratio of 1,018.
"The demographic trends of tribal population has pervaded through the composition of Maoist organisation where apparently there is no gender disparity at the lower and middle level", said Dr Abhishek Pallava, Kondagaon district police chief, in Bastar zone.
The strength of women cadre in Chhattisgarh is much higher compared to adjoining states of Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar.
However, even though women cadres have a presence of almost 40 to 45 per cent in the lower and middle order, they have no place in the top decision-making Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist).
Giving the reason for more casualties among the women cadre, police officials point to their placement on the front, for patrolling and external quadrants by the organization.
"Male Naxals are cowards who usually use the women as human shields. Of course female cadres, unlike their men, don't easily flee from the field," said DIG (Dantewada) Ratanlal Dangi, who has a long stint of working in several Naxal-affected districts.
“In many instances, the women lead from the front and are more disciplined and dedicated. They are seen as indispensable for their organization," Pallava added.
Their roles too remain diversified besides fighting alongside their male counterparts.
"The rebel organisation interestingly keeps open the option for sensuous gratification of their cadres. Such promiscuity prevents the male Naxals from visiting prostitutes or committing sexual offences, which might result in them losing mass support. They also believe such practices will not let the attention of male cadres stray", said Dangi.
Women are equally engaged in the red brigade’s cultural troupe Chetna Natya Mandli, supply chains, keeping watch on their male counterparts.
In Bastar, women are economically independent and run their family. Maoists have an advantage as female cadres can conveniently penetrate villages and carry out recruitments. They can easily convince tribal women and children to join their ranks. The way Naxals have so successfully penetrated tribal society in Bastar is not replicated anywhere else.