RAIPUR: In Dekuna, a predominantly tribal hamlet in Bastar, a known Maoist stronghold in south Chhattisgarh, youths dream of serving the nation by joining the armed forces.
Interacting with young boys and girls here gives one the sense that they have almost made up their minds to defend the nation's frontiers in time. For them, being in the armed forces is the only vocation that comes closest to serving the country and they simply can't wait for the day when they enroll as troopers.
Barely 15 km away from Kanker, a hotbed of Maoist insurgency and home to the district headquarters, Dekuna has as many as 40 youths currently serving in the armed forces. The number is significant when one considers that the village has a population of about a 1,000. Locals claimed that several of the residents are ex-service personnel.
While the village mostly sends its men to guard the front lines, the women, are, not far behind, when it comes to joining the state police or the armed forces.
After the Pulwama terror strike, which claimed the lives of over 40 paramilitary personnel, and the subsequent cross-border air strikes on a terror camp nestling in Pakistan to avenge the killings, the entire village stood with the armed forces.
"This lesser known hamlet is also called a village of brave jawans," Dharmendra Mahapatra, a local journalist, said. He added that while agriculture remains the primary source of earning a livelihood here, nearly every household has a son or daughter in the armed forces.
The villagers have even put up a poster, displaying images of youths enrolled in the army and paramilitary forces, to let visitors know that they are in the land of Dekuna Defenders.
"The poster is also our way to inspire youths of neighbouring villages to pick up the gun to defend our motherland," Tan Singh Hori, a local, said.
"It's because of our soldiers, who defend our borders, that we sleep peacefully. The air strike on terror camps after the Pulwama attack filled us with pride," Tukeshwar Jain, a former Army personnel, said. He said he was posted in Jammu & Kashmir and Doklam, among other places, during his 20 years in the service.
"Here, the youths take inspiration from the elders to join the forces. Youths from such little known villages often turn up at recruitment rallies and prepare themselves physically to qualify," Kanker SP KL Dhruv said.