Women commanders have come to constitute almost half of the armed cadre of Maoists and are playing a major role in encounters, like they had done in the Sukma encounter in Chhattisgarh on March 11, security forces believe.
It is difficult to get a headcount but a rough number of women killed in encounters last year was available after security forces stumbled upon Maoist posters and pamphlets to pay them homage on International Women’s Day. One poster in Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra paid homage to 17 women commanders killed in encounters over the year.
In the past one year, there has been a significant increase in women joining the armed wing of Maoists.
Maoists do not leave behind their dead and take away the bodies. The posters enabled security forces to get a headcount.
Posters recovered from Gadchiroli identified some of the women as Indra, Dhanni, Geeta, Anita, Swarupa, Santila, Pramila, Seema, Reshma, Vasanti, Champa and Mamta. It said, “mahila bina kranti nahin, kranti bina shoshan mukt samaj nahin (no revolution without women and without revolution there can’t be an exploitation-free society).
In the March 11 encounter in Sukma in Chhattisgarh where 15 security personnel were killed, women Maoist commanders played a role, according to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which lost 11 men. The state police personnel lost four men. In a presentation to the MHA, the CRPF had said Maoists were divided into three groups, and one group comprised mainly of women commanders in black uniform who fired from behind. After a drop in male recruits and desertion, Maoists have started recruiting women on a large scale.
A Maoist document accessed by security forces says not many men were coming forward to join the People Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), their armed wing. The document in Hindi says, “Villagers should be requested to join PLGA. Once they join, they should be taken care of and given adequate leave. If a PLGA cadre has erred, he should not be scolded, threatened or beaten up.”