The winter sun is sleeping warmly cuddled up inside his quilt and throwing tantrums to get up. Just like the ashram children who were sleeping in two distinct rows of girls and boys, he tossed and turned and by the time he slowly and finally left his quilt it was already six a.m.

Twelve year old Maini hurriedly folded the bed sheets she had used to spread on the jilli and cover herself, secured them neatly in their regular places and ran to the washing place to wash her face. It was a Saturday and looks like it had unconsciously had its effect, as she got up ten minutes later than others.

She came across fourteen year old Maasal who had already brushed his teeth, washed his face and was even combing his hair. Maini felt a bit ashamed that ‘she was late’.

Wiggling his eyebrows Maasal said, “You do remember what we thought of doing today, don’t you, we must finish our chores early today.”

Maini replied, “Ingo dada,” and ran to the washing place.

The roll call was at 6.30 a.m. as it was winter. The ‘Chhatra Nayak’ Lakke is about fourteen years old. As soon as Lakke blew the whistle the children came running.

In accordance with the discipline of roll call, the children hurriedly pulled off the mufflers and kerchiefs they had draped around their ears, threw them over the hut where they kept their rations and stood in rows according to their classes, in ascending order of heights and the three ashram gurujis also stood in the lines behind the children. They do not consider themselves as being above the children or separate from them. Lakke said, “Ginti” (Count) and everybody shouted their number. Lakke confirmed that all the children were present.

“Today is Saturday. So we will have one period of drawing and one period of singing. Later as we do on every Saturday we must bring clay to pave the floors of our entire ashram on Sunday. Then we can go to bathe,” Lakke breathed deep after explaining the day’s chores. Then she added, “So, did anybody throw stones or flash lights during yesterday’s sentry?”

The children replied in chorus, “No.”

“Is there is anything else anybody wants to say?” asked Lakke.

“After bathing let us go into the villages and look at the status of our chicken and our vegetable plots, it’s been many days now,” said Maasal.

Lakke looked at Raamal guruji. He nodded.

“Ok, let’s do so. We will come back by 5.30 p.m. Otherwise it will be late for eating and doing sentries. Anything else?” questioned Lakke.

The children were silent. After half a minute, Lakke said, “Visarjan.” (Disperse)

Maasal and Maini smiled at each other and ran towards the kitchen.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

The Krantikari Janatana Sarkar gives one set of stitched uniforms per year to the ashram students. When they wash these, they wear the clothes they had brought from their homes. Almost everybody washed their uniforms that day. After bathing, as was the norm since their childhood they poured a few drops of mustard oil into their palms and rubbed it over their faces, hands and feet. They applied oil to their hair too and got ready to tour the village. The Sarkar supplies them with soaps and oil too.

The children walked in batches, flocking together according to their ages and Raamal walked behind them. Lakke walked with the younger children. Raamal always thinks fondly of ‘Chhatra Nayak’ Lakke who displays a responsible attitude in whatever she does. He always thought that she would develop into a good comrade even if she joins the PLGA in future. ‘What a nice idea she came up with during the meeting they held after the police attack!’ Raamal could visualize that meeting vividly even now.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

During the two times the looti sarkar jawans attacked their school, one thing they did without fail was to rob the chicken and ducks the ashram children were rearing and destroy their vegetable plots. After the second attack the gurujis and the children had held a meeting to discuss how to protect themselves from those attacks on that day.

“They may not take as much time as between the first attack and the second one this time. So it may not even be possible to run the school in the same place in future. That is till our PLGA and our party gain an upper hand. So I feel we may not be able to continue rearing of our ducks and chicken or even continue growing our vegetables,” said Raamal introducing the topic even while keenly observing the faces of the children.

“Why are they so angry with our schools? What harm are we causing them?  Most of our fathers, mothers, elder brothers and sisters hadn’t studied in schools. Why does the looti sarkar want to keep us uneducated forever?” Lakke’s voice filled with surprise and agony rendered Raamal speechless.

‘I believed that the looti sarkar was our enemy and the enemy would behave in no other manner and so I joined the fight. Will that be a good enough answer to this little one’s question? Indeed, why is the State so angry with our schools?’ Raamal wondered. He had identified himself so much with the ashram school that Lakke’s question left him shaken for some moments.

“The government doesn’t consider us the future citizens of India. If it does, why would it attack us? Though no children or gurujis have died in attacks on schools, children have died in attacks on villages and in massacres, gurujis have been caught and killed in fake encounters or in real encounters. Some were arrested, tortured and they stopped some from attending schools. In looti sarkar’s view, you may not be future Indian citizens but you are future revolutionaries. They are afraid that the education you get here would make you realise the truth and transform you into revolutionaries,” Sunita guruji replied perceiving Raamal’s silence.

“Did everybody who studied in looti sarkar’s schools turn looters? Did not dadas and didis (sisters and brothers usually referred to the naxalites) who had studied in those schools join our party in our Dandakaranya, Andhra, Telangana, Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and other states? So, not everyone who studies in our schools may turn into a revolutionary, right?” Everybody laughed at Maasal’s logic. The somberness in the atmosphere lightened a bit.

“That is looti sarkar education. There are falsities and deceit in it. So those who understand it, may turn into revolutionaries like our dadas and didis. But our education does not contain falsities or deceit in it. So it is easier to turn into revolutionaries. The students would understand what is useful to society and which is not. So even if they do not become full time revolutionaries, the looti sarkar knows that the majority of the students would support the revolution,” Raamal spoke weighing every word of his as if he was analyzing himself.

“Okay, let us get back to our problem. What is to be done?” questioned Sunita.

“If in future we are to run our schools in mobile, then may be it would be better to stop rearing them,” said Rambatti, anger and impatience ringing in her voice.

The children were looking at one another. The majority of things they needed were supplied by their sarkar, it is true. But whatever they and their gurujis were rearing are also coming to their aid a lot. They had experienced happiness and self-respect in eating whatever they had reared or grown with their own labor and now they were reluctant to lose that.

Lakke’s eyebrows were drawn together and she was seriously thinking, looking at nothing in particular. She jolted into the present when she heard her name being called. She understood that Raamal was asking her opinion in the end as she was the ‘Chhatra Nayak’.

“Dada, if we give our domestic animals to the village people, two or three heads per household, then the villagers would rear them along with their own animals. Then the police would not know that they belong to the school. So why don’t we have a talk with the villagers?” Lakke said in a low voice as if she was thinking aloud.

The children became enthusiastic at once. Everybody started talking at the same time. ‘Yes’, ‘Let’s do so’, ‘Oh, it would be so good’, ‘The animals’ backs do not have a stamp saying these belong to the school, isn’t it?’ Everybody had something to comment.

“So our animals would join the animals of the villagers and get themselves camouflaged,” Raamal added laughing. The students laughed merrily.

“And likewise let us mix up our plants with those of the villagers. And then our vegetables would become camouflaged too!” added Somey.

“Ingo, Ingo,” the children cried gleefully.

The gurujis were proud of the fact that the children they had taught had excelled them in cleverness.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

Raamal even remembered how he fondly referred to the children as “Our Little Red Guards” when he spoke with his fellow gurujis on that day.

Since then the animals and plants of the students were growing up along with those of the villagers. Sometimes it was the villagers who reminded them, “Your chicken have grown up, take them” or that “Your vegetables are going to go stale, don’t forget to collect them.” Not just that, whenever they harvested new crops or whenever they killed a bull for meat they never forgot to send ‘the share of the students’ to them. The students too, when they visited the villages, repaired fences, chicken coups and pig sties, watered the plants and weeded the plots belonging to them and the villagers.

‘As long as the unity of the villagers was without cracks all this went on smoothly. But now some changes are occurring. When the villagers go to work as labourers in Telangana, the SIB there is trying to turn them against the movement by bribing them with money. Nowadays anti-people elements are throwing stones on the schools or flashing big torch lights on the schools and running away. Our Sarkar could not catch the culprits yet. We came to know that recently an informer had entered the No.2 ashram school with the intention of killing the guruji but due to the alertness of the sentry the danger was averted. We are getting information from other places that each ashram school is taking up some measures or using some tricks according to their conditions to survive. But as we all know, the Operation Green Hunt Phase 3 is going to be more severe than ever. We do not know how long such tricks would help us survive.’

Though Raamal was sauntering along, his brain was on overdrive.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

It was afternoon and Jogal was basking in the winter sun. It is difficult to guess his age. His wife Seethi is older than him. Their lean, sun-baked bodies steeled with hard physical labor are now covered in wrinkles. But they never behaved like ‘old persons’. They would do all their work themselves with enthusiasm and were very active. But a few days back their fully grown son Rinku had died due to a snake bite and old age mercilessly pounced on them at once. Their backs became bent.

The Krantikari Janatana Sarkar had stood in their support and through the villagers it is extending the necessary help to them in agricultural and other works. How much ever may be the help, there are always some daily chores which you cannot avoid. But Seethi is not able to carry them on as before. Anybody who takes a look at their home could easily gather that much.

Hearing the merry laughter of the ashram students, Seethi happily looked into the street and said, “Looks like the students are visiting the village today.”

But Jogal did not stir, nor did he say anything.

‘Why are you so annoyed with the ashram children?’ The question did not escape Seethi’s lips. Since her son’s death she stopped arguing with her old man as she used to. She knows very well how much suffering he is going through.

Seethi crossed the bamboo threshold and stepped outside. The children were weeding the vegetable plot in her neighbour Kosi’s yard and were merrily chatting with her. Seethi watched them fondly.

And then she found two children coming towards her hut. Theirs was the last hut in the street. So, she questioned them with surprise, “Where are you going?”

“To your home kako,” replied Maini with a smile.

“Is grandpa not at home?” Maasal crossed the bamboo threshold and entered the yard displaying familiarity.

“But we do not have any chicken of the school children,” she said following the children into the yard.

“Do you think we come only if you have our animals with you?” answered Maini while taking the broom into her hands.

Jogal did not even say a ‘hello’ to them and went outside. Seethi sighed.

Maasal took hold of metal pots and went away saying, “I shall bring water.”

The two children finished doing all the household chores while chatting with Seethi and had even chopped some firewood.

“Kako, tomorrow after we finish paving our school floors, we will come and pave the floors here,” informed Maini while taking leave of Seethi.

Jogal came home after it turned dark, after roaming about here and there.

“The children said they would come tomorrow to pave the floors, get some tender maize cobs for them,” Seethi said to him.

Though he could discern the works done by the children at their home, Jogal kept mum. He washed his feet and began building up a fire at the fire place in the yard.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

 “Where did you disappear? It is almost five o’clock, go, go,” Lakke tried to hurry Maini and Masaal who came running panting.

“We went to Seethi Kako’s home and did the entire house work,” replied Maasal.

“Didi, we also promised that we would pave their floors with clay tomorrow,” Maini said enthusiastically holding Lakke’s hand and walking beside her.

“Good. Poor old Seethi Kako is unable to do her chores. Okay then, tomorrow you need not participate in school paving work. You come directly here, I will send two more children with you,” said Lakke. 

The children of this No.1 ashram school had decided long back that they would help the families of martyrs, old or sick people as much as they can and had been following it since then. They had a Chinese story titled ‘Little Red Guard’ in their syllabus and the school girl who similarly helped old people in her village was one of their favourite characters. So they decided that they would also do so after reading it. So Lakke naturally thought that Maini and Maasal were just continuing that practice. But only Maini and Maasal knew why they went to the old peoples’ home. Nobody knew what happened ‘that night’.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

 ‘That night’ Maasal took over sentry duty at 12 o’clock. Sentry meant just a watch, without any weapon. Though they were in a guerilla base and though the militia sentry was also on in and around the village, it came naturally to the ashram children to have their own sentry. It was unimaginable even for such little children to be without sentry while residing amidst ‘battle field’. Though there was no menace of wild animals, who knows what may happen when. So sentry was necessary on those grounds too. How can they afford not to be alert?

In all these years they faced no problems. But since two months they were facing a new problem. At night somebody is throwing stones at the school and it had already happened twice. They were trying to catch the culprits but they were escaping. Sometimes the culprits were focusing big torch lights on the school and running away.

Who is against the school? No amount of analyzing and several days of keeping a watch on the suspects by the Sarkar hadn’t yielded any results. So, the children carried on their sentry duties with much alertness and determination.

‘Let them come today, I’ll show them,’ thought Maasal while trying to pierce the darkness with his eyes in all directions on that new moon day. Exactly at one o’ clock two stones landed in front of him. Immediately Maasal switched on his torch and began running guessing the direction from which they were thrown. He saw somebody running and Maasal ran at top speed after the figure. But the figure was running faster than him. He could reach the figure at the end of the street near the tamarind tree. ‘I caught you, you thief, I will not leave you,’ thought Maasal and extended his hand to catch the figure. But then he stopped short. Utilizing that opportunity the figure merged into the darkness and escaped.

“What happened dada?” Maasal started when he heard Maini’s voice.

“Few more seconds and you would have caught the thief, what happened?” questioned a disappointed Maini.

Maasal turned back and began walking towards the school with her. He was in serious thought.

“I woke up for ‘one side’, saw you running and I also ran,” said Maini waiting for his answer.

Maasal stopped walking and said, “Maini, the thief is none other than our Jogal grandpa..”

 Maini also stopped and cried out in surprise, “Is it true?”

Maasal nodded. Maini could not speak anything for a few moments. All the children loved Rinku who had been active in the militia. Everybody cried when he died. Maini could not at all believe that Rinku’s father had done this.

“Did you see properly? Are you sure?” Maasal nodded.

“Tch. What can we do? We will inform the gurujis and the Sarkar and then they will ask him why he did so,” said Maini feeling dejected.

“No, don’t tell anybody.”

Maini was doubly surprised. “Even to Lakke?” She had not known even one instance where they did not inform the Chhatra Nayak.

“Hm, we will inform later. Already the old couple is in distress after Rinku’s death. If the villagers come to know that he has thrown the stones, they will become more depressed. And Seethi Kako may not even know that he is behaving like this.”

“So what do we do?” questioned a puzzled Maini.

“We will think later. Go and sleep,” said Maasal assuming his sentry post again. He was finding it difficult to erase Jogal grandpa’s figure out of his vision.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

 “What happened to you? Why are you behaving as if you cannot bear the presence of ashram children?” Seethi questioned Jogal as she followed him out of the hut hurriedly. Jogal had just then started going out as soon as he saw four children coming towards his hut carrying clay. But Jogal walked so fast that he had already reached the end of the street and Seethi turned back. By then the children had reached the hut and immediately began their work.

Though Jogal walked out of his home rapidly, he now walked slowly as if he did not know where to go. He was in an agitated state.

‘If the student sentry had caught me on that night what would have happened to my honour in the village? Somehow I ran fast and escaped. Rinku was to become the militia commander within a few days; he had won everyone’s love. Everybody in the village respects us a lot as Rinku’s parents. And now if this becomes known what would they think. Leave alone others, firstly Seethi herself would not approve of my conduct.

I don’t know what is happening to me. Since Rinku’s death my courage has left me. I became a coward. True, the Sarkar, the Army and the Party have stood in our support, but somehow that is not giving me enough courage. How terrible had been the recent police attack! We did not think we would survive. Every one of us understood that the attack was done in such vengeance because the village sheltered the school. The police shouted threats before leaving that they would destroy the village if we allow the school to continue. And my house is near the school. If they come once again to attack I don’t think it would even be possible for me to build the hut again. What do I do?

When I said, “Why don’t they shift the school to some other place? Why should we be subjected to attacks again and again because of that?” Seethi countered by saying, “We have to follow the path the villagers follow, we can’t live in isolation. We have the Sarkar, we have the Bhumkal, and everybody will collectively take the decision, why are you bothered?” The villagers are no better. They say, “It is not just that the children have a school to go to. Because of the presence of the school, the gurujis are present to examine the sick and give them medicine. They are also running a night school for us. The children are helping the sick and the pregnant women as if they are their own children. How can we let the school go? Let us protect it, let it not go anywhere.”

Do I not know all this? Am I a person who does not want the children to get educated? Did I open my mouth all these days? Since my house is nearby how many times had I not helped with several small things required by the school along with Rinku? There was never a day when we had eaten something without first giving the children a share. But the conditions have changed. And nobody except me understands this. They had even threatened that they would carry on another massacre like Basaguda. Is it not enough? Why doesn’t anybody understand?

Mallesh told me that if I throw stones they would become afraid and close the school soon. That hasn’t happened and instead now the children started coming to my own home! Their sentry has become more foolproof. Oh, I thought something would happen and something else is happening. I must be careful and see to it that my secret doesn’t get exposed.

What a shame! What kind of a situation is this I am facing after Rinku’s death? I lived with my head held high my entire life and now what is this clandestine living? I have never kept anything secret from Seethi till now. Shall I tell her? No, don’t, how devastated she would become….’

Jogal was filled with self-pity and anger towards himself. He recoiled from his own shadow.

After paving the floors of the hut with clay, the children took the pots to the stream for another round of water filling. Maasal did not go with them and started chatting with Seethi.

“Kako, since Rinku’s death grandpa has changed a lot, he is not talking to us as he used to.”

“True. I have given birth to Rinku, am I not grieved? But what can we do? I am seeing Rinku in all of you and am surviving. Recently this Mallesh has started meeting your grandpa and stuck himself to him like a leech. I don’t know how he had worked in the squads even for a few days. He never works, lazybones. I think that is why he abandoned his life in the squads. Now he turned into a vadde and is gobbling up the goats, pigs and cattle of the villagers. I don’t know when our Sarkar would tackle this corrupt fellow, meanwhile he is brainwashing my old man. He is going on and on about how the police are targeting our village because of the presence of the school. It became so intolerable for me that I warned Mallesh not to come to our house anymore. Did those bastards not destroy the villages that did not have a school? It is just a crazy idea of my old man.” Seethi poured her heart out to the small boy. She had not been able to share her complaints with anybody all these days.

Since he got the information he wanted even without asking for it, Masaal expressed some words of sympathy for Kako and kept chatting with her. As soon as the children returned with the water, Seethi gave them some tender maize cobs. They bundled them in a towel. Seethi knew that within a few days the maize would be fit to eat and the children would be given special holidays to go home and eat them.

So she said, “Before you go home for holidays, do come. By then the maize would be fit to eat and you can eat your share,”

The children replied, “Ingo,” and ran towards the stream with muddied clothes to have a bath.

Maasal let the other two children run and stopped Maini and told her about the real issue. “Maini! This is the doing of Mallesh Vadde, he tricked our grandpa into doing this.”

“Oh, is that so. The Sarkar would teach him a nice lesson some day. But you told me not to tell anybody. So what do we do?” Maini had trust in him.

 “That’s the question. What do we do?” counter questioned Maasal. Both walked slowly, deep in thought.

“Let’s continue coming every week and help the old couple in their chores. May be that would change grandpa’s heart. Let us not tell anybody about what grandpa did. But we will tell everybody what kako told you about Mallesh. Don’t you agree?” Finally it was Maini who untied the knot.

“Yes, that is what we will do,” said Maasal looking admiringly at Maini.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

Looking at the more than half a dozen letters that the Area Janatana Sarkar President Ungal was handing over to her, Area Committee Secretary Sushila said “Oh my, I haven’t yet read the letters you had given me yesterday dada. By the time the Division Committee was concluded it was 12 o’ clock. I got up very early to talk and send each of them on their ways”. She looked tired. There were black circles under her eyes and her eyelids were drooping.

“That is the nature of our work, isn’t it didi?” said Ungal. As they were working together since ten years they knew each other’s work. There was a lot of respect and understanding between them, for each other.

“Let’s have some tea first, that would give the energy to look at the letters,” said Sushila yawning.

“No, you drink. Vikas guruji sent word that he would come to meet me. So I must go. You can read the other letters later, but first read this. Neither you nor me or anybody else for the matter, would have seen such a letter till now,” Ungal smilingly took out a letter from his shirt pocket and gave it to her.

“Oh, is that so? And whose is this special letter?” asked Sushila curiously.

“See for yourself. By then I would meet Kosi doctor and give her the jadibooti roots she asked for.” Ungal left.

Sushila requested Raje to prepare tea, sat on a stone near the fire place and opened the letter.

“Dear Area Krantikari Janatana Sarkar President Comrade Ungal dada,

Lal Salaam. (Red Salute)

We are students of the No.2 ashram school run by our Krantikari Janatana Sarkar. Recently an informer had come into our school with the intention of killing our Vikas guruji. Since our sentry Somey was alert she shrieked loudly, ran and fell over the sleeping guruji to protect him. The informer became afraid and ran away. We all got up and ran with the intention of catching him but he escaped. None of us know who that informer was till date. You are aware of these happenings. So under these circumstances if we are to protect our gurujis, we need guns. The informers know that our sentries are just watches without guns and that is why they are coming to attack us with such audacity. If they know that we have guns they would not dare. So please consider our request and give us some guns. If we have guns we would do sentry duty more boldly.

Our gurujis are teaching us very well and working very hard for our development. And we think it is our duty to protect such gurujis. Our gurujis do not know that we are writing this letter. We know that if they knew they would not allow it. So we haven’t informed them. We thought it over among ourselves and are writing to you in consultation with our Chhatra Nayak Bhimal.

Please excuse us if there are any mistakes in spelling and try to understand by correcting them in mind while reading.

With Revolutionary Greetings,

Students of No.2 ashram school.

By the time Ungal came back Sushila still held the letter in her hand and was looking at the fire as if lost somewhere. There was a mug of tea on the ground beside her and it was cold.

“Did you read it? Is not what I said true that none of us had read a letter like this till date?” asked Ungal. When Sushila lifted her head he could discern a layer of tears in her eyes and was moved.

“Just look at the amount of love our gurujis had earned from the children!” It was obvious that she was moved.

“It is not just the children didi, even the gurujis behave as if they cannot live without them. You know, the demand of the children in both the No.1 and No.2 ashrams is that we should extend the school to include sixth and seventh standards. They do not want to go to outside schools after they complete their fifth standard here.”

“Is that so? Why?” asked Sushila curiously.

“If I tell you, you will be even more moved. They say – if we go to outside schools we will learn bad habits like gutka, tobacco etc, we have seen children who had gone and joined outside schools and they are even forgetting our own mother tongue Koya. Here our gurujis teach us all good things, they look after us with lot of love, we live a disciplined life, even gurujis of outside schools are surprised after seeing how clever and knowledgeable our students are. Those who have studied fourth standard here are being admitted in sixth or seventh standards there. So they are demanding that we start the higher standard classes here.”

Sushila could not control her laughter. “What! They themselves are saying that we may learn bad habits?” She laughed out loud. Ungal said, “Ingo,” and he also laughed.

“So what are the gurujis saying to that?” She was still chuckling and the earlier tiredness in her face just vanished.

“They are also echoing the same. If the Sarkar starts higher standards then they are ready to teach even if it means harder work for them. Not just that, in the No.1 ashram they had already built up extra classrooms in advance!”

“Oh, what a lovely combination our students and their gurujis make,” said Sushila fondly. After a second, “If our resistance increases more, why, we will definitely be able to increase the classes, let us do it, after all our entire fight is for the sake of our children,” she said deep in thought.

“That’s what even I told them,” said Ungal and extended his hand for the letter. Sushila made as if to give him but then withdrew. Saying, “Dada, leave this letter with me, you had already read it,” Sushila secured the letter in a plastic cover and put it in her bag, cherishing it as something precious.

“Vikas guruji had asked to meet me to talk on these same security related matters, so what do I tell him?” seeing how deeply moved she was, Ungal asked softly.

“We have anyway to explain to you people the resolutions passed by the Division Committee. We had discussed in the Committee about the proposals you sent and we have discussed about the schools too. Not just the schools, in order to protect all our activities inside the guerilla base, our higher committee has decided to conduct another round of military training camps on a vast scale to the militia and the people. They are also sending the Instructor Team to us for this purpose. We are anyway to discuss the planning too,” said Sushila pouring her cold tea into the tea vessel to heat it again.

***                                                            ***                                                            ***

 Nearly 150 women, men, old persons and children were coming towards the military ground from their deras (camping places) under the trees to attend the flag hoisting inaugural programme of the military camp. Instructor Mahender was engrossed in looking at the stream of people pouring towards him and there was a look of wonder in his eyes.

It has been nearly ten years since Mahender was transferred to Dandakaranya as a military instructor. He had been working as a Local Guerilla Squad Commander in Nallamala before the transfer. In these ten years he had given military training to scores of PLGA fighters. Even so, every instance where he is to give military training to the militia remains an exciting prospect to him to this day. These instances give him a feeling of talking directly to the earth. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mahender who spends most of his time conducting military camps awaits eagerly such opportunities where he could gauge the pulse of the daughters and sons of the soil.

The review that one of the main reasons for the Nallamala movement taking a back step was their failure in achieving such progress in militia building as in DK is something he never forgot. For that reason too, the militia that is visible in every village of DK with bows and arrows, bharmars (country guns) and sometimes with big guns is a source of constant inspiration for him. There are hundreds and thousands of examples in all guerilla zones about how the people tend to sacrifice in a genuine People’s War and Nallamala was no exception. But it was the DK movement which showed him the vast participation of a militia in a People’s War.

He keenly observed the stream of people approaching him. Children up from the age of fourteen to young women and men, some married persons, some middle-aged ones and even some whose hairs had turned white were seen. Women who wore saris and had knives secured in their hair buns, young men with bows, some wearing skirts and some shorts…all of them laughing and hopping merrily and moving forward with such enthusiasm…

His heart was filled with happiness to the brim. A People’s War where there are no hurdles or restrictions of height, weight, body mass indices, age or physical handicaps to join up as soldiers, unlike in the bourgeois army.

A People’s war for the people, by the people, where all kinds of people participate.

A war waged by the people under the leadership of their own Party and Army to protect themselves, their crops, their children, their lives, their land, their forest, their culture, their wealth, their heritage, their history, their villages, their schools, their future and also their country.

Like in Vietnam, in China, now in DK and Bihar-Jharkhand …

Mahender sauntered towards a group of children.

“Did you come to learn how to lay booby traps and unarmed combat or did you come to sing the flag song?” Mahender deliberately taunted them curious to see how they would respond.

“We would sing the song and also take training,” pat came the reply from Maasal. All the children flocked around him as if in support of what he said.

“You very well know that you cannot join the PLGA unless you are sixteen years old, so why do you want to learn to fight from now, you very well know that your duty is to go to school and get an education,” Mahender upped the taunting attack a notch more.

“Of course, we know. But if we have to study, first of all we need our school. If we have to protect and preserve our school we need to learn about booby traps. Our school had already been attacked twice,” the relation between cause and effect was explained by Lakke.

“Are the police sparing us from their attacks because we are children? We will decide whether to join PLGA or not when we grow up, but for that sake firstly we and our school have to survive, you know,” argued Rambatti.

“See dada, if the informers come to catch us or our gurujis, won’t it be good to be trained in unarmed combat so that we can free ourselves from their clutches?” countered Somey.

“Dada, isn’t it true that last year during the 2013 Chhattisgarh assembly elections after our Bastar people had dug thousands of pits and laid booby traps, the police commented that now they were more afraid of these than the big guns of PLGA?” Sannu displayed the results for everybody to see.

“Dada, is it true that the Militia Company Deputy Vijay had beaten the three informers who had planned to grab him and instead arrested them after you people had taught him unarmed combat? You know dada, our sentries are still performed without any guns. If we learn unarmed combat even we would grab the informers just like Vijay dada,” Maini expressed confidence.

Mahender crossed his chest with his hands in mock fear and said, “My, my! Nobody can argue with you Janatana Sarkar school children.” The children burst out laughing.

“Okay, learn well then,” Mahender waved his hand in a good bye and walked towards an old man who was looking like the oldest among the lot.

“Oh Pepi! All this training is for the rough and tough, for those who can run around and the young. Why did you come? Did you come to see how they are learning?” asked Mahender.

“I still have lot of strength left in me. If I do not perform every exercise they are doing, you can question me then, let me see how many of these can compete with me,” said the old man whose two front teeth were long gone, laughing and filling the people around him with gusto. Everybody burst out laughing.

After the laughs and the friendly banter about the old man had subsided, Mahender said, “It is not just about learning father, if you know that the police had arrived, irrespective of whether it is mid-day or mid-night you will have to run hither thither, dig, lay traps, saw the logs, carry them…how will you be able to do all that? Even if you learn unarmed combat how will you be able to fight with informers and the policemen who look like fattened bulls?” Mahender was curious to know his answer but he was also really sympathetic too.

The old man did not say anything for a few moments. Mahender felt sorry for asking him that question. But after seeing his wrinkled body he could not help asking it. All those who had been laughing till then were looking at him with interest to know his answer.

“If I had children I would have sent them for this training. But the only son I had died of snake bite. So I came. If I have the training, I will do the running hither and thither as much as I can. And when I cannot, at least I can teach a bunch of children how to go about it, don’t you think so?”

Mahender moved forward to pat the old man’s shoulder affectionately and two children who had followed him came into the old man’s vision.

Looking sideways at the children, the old man said in a serious manner “The ashram school is in our village as yet. Even if they change its location in future, how far can it go? It is our school, so it will be in our Panchayat and in our Area. So if we have to protect and preserve the school, our village and our children, it is always good for all of us to have the training comrade”.

Everybody nodded in agreement. The whistle for flag hoisting sounded and everybody moved. Mahender respectfully followed the old man.  

Maini and Maasal who had listened to Jogal grandpa with rapt attention without batting their eyelids looked at each other happily and ran skipping and hopping to stand in the children’s line.

Foot notes: DK – Dandakaranya; Ashram – Residential School; Jilli – plastic sheet; Ingo – Yes, Okay in Koya, an oft used word; Chhatra Nayak – Student Monitor; Guruji – teacher; Kako – maternal grandmother in Koya; Vadde – akin to a priest; ‘One side’ – passing urine; Pepi – father’s elder brother in Koya; Jadibooti – herbal medicine; Bhumkal – Village meeting where everybody meets to discuss and decide important matters; Basaguda massacre – on 28-06-2012, 17 innocent unarmed villagers including children at Basaguda and two more at Simlipenta were murdered in cold blood by the Indian State; Division Committee – Party Committee at the Division level; Party – CPI (Maoist); Nallamala – Forest area spread in some districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, reference to the AP movement that suffered a set back; 

In DK, the Krantikari Janatana Sarkar (Revolutionary People’s Government) is referred to as the Sarkar. To distinguish, the Indian State’s governments are referred as ‘looti sarkar’ (exploitative government).

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