Maoist gender bias: Women made shield of frontline defence 

 As its recruitment from tribal groups dwindle and increased offensives from security agencies push them on the backfoot, the CPI (Maoist) appears to be pushing the women cadre to the frontline of def

Published: 08th March 2017 02:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th March 2017 07:16 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: As its recruitment from tribal groups dwindle and increased offensives from security agencies push them on the backfoot, the CPI (Maoist) appears to be pushing the women cadre to the frontline of defence putting their lives at risk.

This probably explains the high casualties of women cadres in Odisha last year when five female members of the Maoist group were killed during encounters with police. All five deaths were recorded in Kalahandi district and happened to be the only casualties reported during exchange of fire with the security personnel in the State.

Ironically, it is in stark contrast to the ideology which drives the women from tribal communities to join the Maoists. Oppressed and victims of exploitation, often at the hands of local administration and police, the women find a sense of empowerment in taking up the guns to fight the system but now are increasingly used as shields.

The casualties in Kalahandi are not the only evidence. Earlier this year, in Koraput’s Narayanpatna, the security forces were surprised to see sari-clad women raising the first wave of resistance during an operation to run over a Maoist camp as their male counterparts and senior cadres made a hasty retreat. In a separate incident in Nandapur, women Maoists in civil dresses offered the first challenge when they were surprised by the anti-Naxal squads.

During questioning of the lady cadres who have laid down arms, police officers have found that gender-based prejudice has remained pronounced in Maoist outfits despite their claims to the contrary.

“Many acknowledge the fact that Maoist groups do not mind losing female members which is why sometimes, Central Committee members are placed at the centre of a security ring while the outer periphery has lady cadres,” said a senior police officer.

While women are not equally represented in the CPI (Maoist) fold, decreasing recruitment has acted against them too. In LWE hotbed of South Odisha districts, the recruitments have come to a halt. Increased penetration of security forces apart, mindless killing of tribals on the pretext of police informers has left the supporters of the Maoists disillusioned.

“As it is Odia cadres are looked down upon, given the numerical supremacy of members of Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in the ranks. In such circumstances, women cadres are not exactly valued the most, let alone getting any recognition though they take part in all armed operations,” another officer said.

Expert in Maoist studies Rajat Kumar Kujur says it has been a pre-planned strategy for the last three-four years. “Maoist groups do not operate in vacuum, they target certain groups and the most vulnerable are children and women who are trained to be combatants.

It is not by accident, it is a design but governments do not read this pattern,” he says.Kujur, who teaches Political Science in PG Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Sambalpur University and is a Visiting Fellow to New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), said the gender perspective must be factored in when the government chalks out conflict resolution such as rehabilitation.

Though CPI (Maoist) trains its female recruits in the same rigorous modules as it does to their male counterparts, women are seen to be the first to fall during direct combats, according to PV Ramanna of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi.


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