‘It looks like our comrades who have gone to the village have returned’.

As soon as they heard these words, some of the guerillas walked towards the make-shift kitchen holding mugs in their hands. The place they call kitchen has not yet taken the shape befitting the name. A make-shift stove was made by placing three stones in a triangular shape. Fire was lit by gathering firewood and placing it in the ‘stove’. Some guerillas had gone into the village to bring some utensils, rice and vegetables. The third platoon of the company working in that division area had walked for four hours and reached this place at dusk. Walking in this area entails climbing up and down many hills and therefore all the guerillas were very tired. On hearing that they ran out of sugar and milk powder, everybody felt even more exhausted.

Anna (Brother), bring at least some jawa (porridge) from the village as there is no tea powder. It will take some time to cook food’, platoon commander Bandu told those going into the village. Many heard his words and they were waiting for the return of the team from the village. When company commander Manku saw that those who returned from the village were empty handed, he asked ‘What! Is nobody there in the village?’

‘Everybody is there’, the team commander replied with a sorrowful face. This reply surprised Manku.


‘We don’t know what happened but nobody gave us anything’. Manku was even more surprised. Before he could say anything, team member Tugge replied. ‘When we asked for jawa they said that they didn’t have any. We thought that it may be true. But then when we asked for rice and they replied in the negative we became suspicious. When we asked for utensils and they replied in the negative, it confirmed our doubtsthat they were deliberately not giving anything.’

‘As soon as we saw them, they did not behave with us normally like they always do. Some turned their faces away as soon as they saw us and some got up and went off hurriedly as though they had some urgent work’, Chaitu said.

‘Are Sonaru dada and Mangi didi not there?’

‘No. I think they were called by our comrades and went to meet them. There was nobody to even enquire about their whereabouts. When we asked Sonnai didi, she walked into her house saying ‘I don’t know’. When we asked Kamli didi she said, ‘how should I know?’ and took a pot and went to the stream to fetch water. When we asked Aithu dada, he got up from his bed and went off somewhere, saying ‘do they tell me and go?’. At last, when we asked the little daughter of Sonaru dada pleadingly, she said, ‘they went to a meeting’.

‘What could have happened?’ wondered Manku. Within a few minutes everybody knew what happened though none could make sense of it.

This situation only increased their wearyness. Generally they carry one or two utensils, some rice and lentils along with them. But this time, they did not get anything along with them as they had to carry a lot of weight with them and they had to return within one day. Moreover it was a big village and a strong centre for the movement. So they thought that it would not be necessary to carry stuff with them.

‘Didn’t I tell you that Civil Action Program* was conducted in this village? It is the impact of that program’, said one comrade. ‘Visits to Narayanpur have increased recently’, said another comrade. ‘We thought that there is no network of the enemy here in this village. But the enemy must have spread his tentacles here very clandestinely’. So many comments were made regarding the situation.

It did not take much time for Bandu to know the matter when he returned to the camp after taking bath in the nearby stream. He came to the kitchen surprised. ‘However much we may discuss it here, we will not get any clarity. Therefore it would be better that we all go into the village’, Manku said looking at Bandu. Bandu nodded his head in agreement and blew the whistle cautioning everybody to get ready. They all reached the village and called all the villagers for a meeting.

‘Maosits do not have the support of people’, the glaring announcement that was coming from the radio appeared to be making fun of them.

‘What happened dada? What happened didi? Why are you so angry with us?’ Manku asked the people sitting in front of him. Though he could see all the people in the bright full moon light, he could not fathom the expressions on their faces. But the tension in the air betrayed the feelings in their minds.

‘Why should we be angry? Who are we to be angry with you?’ Kamli said accusingly.

‘If you are not angry, why would you turn your face away as soon as you saw us, didi?’ Manku asked with a smile.

‘I went off to attend to some of my work. Don’t I have my personal work?

‘We came here after walking for four hours. You didn’t give us any Java, you didn’t even give us any utensils or rice’.

Even before Manku finished his words Sonnai said impatiently with trembling voice, ‘why should we give you anything, as though you are fighting a big battle for us? Why should we part with the food prepared for ourselves?’.

Manku was dumb-founded for some time.

Slowly gathering his words, he said ‘are we not fighting for you? If we are not fighting this war for you didi, then for who are we fighting?’

‘If you are waging this battle for us, then would you have done what you did on that day?’

‘Which day? What did we do?’

‘Why do you ask us? Though you were not there on that day, all these people were there. Ask them’.

Bandu who was standing behind Manku was surprised. He came forward and said, ‘We…?! What did we do?’

‘Look at him! He is asking us as though he doesn’t remember anything’, said somebody sarcastically. Manku could not recognise that voice.

‘Why would they remember?’ Kamli’s voice was bitter this time. This piqued the curiosity of all the guerillas. They started to think about what could have happened.

‘If we don’t remember, then you can remind us too didi’, Manku laughed to lighten the tense atmosphere. But that did nothing to lessen the tension in the atmosphere.

‘That day… when the police came’, said Aitu.

Dada, didi! Please tell us in detail. Otherwise, how would we understand?’ said Manku.

‘On that day Bandu dada and others came early in the morning and set up their camp by the side of the stream. We were coming back to the village after gathering Mahua flowers. Then we saw the police. We came straight to the camping site and informed dadas. You ask them what they did’, said Sonnai.

Kamli continued, ‘we suggested to these comrades to lay ambush near the hillock adjacent to the stream as the police will definitely come in that direction. But you ask them what they did’.

‘Police are attacking our villages and harassing us like anything. They are even killing us. But do you care at all,’ said another woman emotionally.

Manku and Bandu now understoodwhat was the matter. In the Company* party meeting held recently, there was a review on this matter. When the third Platoon camped near this village, people gave them information about the arrival of the police. But they had important material with them that they could not leave there and go. So, they first hid the material and then went to lay ambush for the police. But, by the time they reached, the police had left. There was nothing more they could do at that time. That’s how all of them had felt.

We should have informed them about the review, many comrades thought. ‘Tell them about the review we made about the incident’, Manku whispered to Bandu. All the questions that clouded his mind were now clearing.

‘What our sisters said just now is true. But we could not go for ambush immediately on that day. Very important material that is needed for our war was with us. As soon as you informed us about the police, we hid the material in the dump properly and went to the ambush site. But by that time the police had left. We informed this matter to our committee on the same day. We thought they informed you. Didi! Dada! did we deliberately not take action on the police? Think about it. What could we have done in that situation? What a big blame you have placed on us! Don’t we care even if the police harass you or kill you? Then who are we waging this war for?’

Manku observed that there was an element of reproach in Bandu’s voice and so to stop him, he interfered.

Didi! Dada! You heard Bandu dada. He told you what has happened on that day. We should have informed you this much earlier. That was a mistake on our part.’ Manku observed that there was not any response even though they explained the situation.

‘Sonaru Dada informed us earlier about this. But as soon as we told you that police had come, if you had gone to lay ambush on the police, wouldn’t we have hidden and safeguarded the materials carefully?’, said Kamli. There was sadness in her voice.

‘How many times didn’t we hide your materials?’, said Sonnai.

Some more men and women raised their voices supporting their words.

Manku was at a loss for words. Bandu bowed his head. He cleared his voice and said, ‘Didi! Dada! it was a big mistake from our side. What you said is hundred per cent true. We should have done so. It is not that we don’t know that this war can be taken forward only with the active participation of the people. We had struck many big blows to the enemy and won many victories only with the active participation of the people. But we could not take correct decision on that day. We did not pay attention to the role of the people. Please pardon us. We assure you that we will not commit this type of mistake again.’

Manku continued as soon as Bandu finished his words, ‘we know that it is the people who are the builders of history. But we had forgotten that in practice on that day. You taught us a good lesson. We are very proud of your consciousness. There are many new guerilla comrades here. You  increased their confidence about the People’s war. In future also you should keep pointing out our mistakes…’

Even before Manku finished his words Kamli got up saying, ‘they walked from very far. They must be very hungry. Let us go and make some Java for them first. Come on.’ Two or three more women followed her. The atmosphere there changed within five minutes. Jokes and fun filled the entire area. Cots were brought out into the open under the moonlight. All those guerillas who had stood there as accused in a trial a few minutes before now sat on the cots and started drinking cool java.

‘Take rest after drinking Java. Within no time the food will be ready. Then you can have your dinner,’ said Aitu. To make proper use of the full moon light, the girls and boys started singing and dancing. Finishing their java as fast as they could, guerillas also joined that collective dance.

(Initially Published in Arunatara (September 2021) an organ of Revolutionary Writers Association, in Telugu as ‘Guruvulu’ and also in the collection of Viyyuka.)

Translated by N.Ravi.

* Civil Action Programme is a government sponsored programme to malign the revolutionaries and wean away the adivasi people away from the movement.

* Company is a unit of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army and party members of the company constitute the Company Party.                                                 

Didi and Dada mean elder sister and elder brother.

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