Women cadres form spine of Reds in Bastar

In Chhattisgarh, women constitute over 40% of cadre strength but find no place in Maoist Central Committee.

Published: 29th July 2018 09:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th July 2018 09:08 AM   |  A+A-

Maoist women cadres take up diverse roles other than fighting alongside their male counterparts in Chhattisgarh.

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 for over three decades.

In Chhattisgarh, the Maoist organisational structure 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 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 tribal women who have taken a wrong path,” asserted B K Ponwar, Director, Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker.

Senior police officers 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 organisation. “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 Naxal-affected districts. 

 “In many instances, the women leaders from the front and are more disciplined and dedicated. They are seen as indispensable for their organisation,” Pallava added.

Their roles too remain diversified besides fighting alongside their male counterparts. “The rebel organisation, interestingly, keeps open the option for the 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. The 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 the Maoists have so successfully penetrated tribal society in Bastar is not replicated anywhere else. 

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