Life after Maoist campshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/life-after-maoist-camps/

Life after Maoist camps

Raghu wrote to Bharati one day in 2009 and they fled and surrendered.

Raghu Saolmake,40,alias Jalamsai,is keen to adopt a baby girl. The former Maoist commander,who hails from Lahiri,had to undergo a vasectomy while his wife,Bharati,who was commanding a women’s wing,is recovering from a uterine surgery. “Since the two of us are more or less settled now,I would love to adopt a baby girl,” says Raghu,who has been engaging in agriculture since he surrendered four years ago.

Raghu was leading a group of around 70 cadres since 1990 and met Bharati,who is from Chhattisgarh,in 1998. “I can count the number of times I met her in the first 10 years since we married,” he says. “We were not allowed to stay together. One day she wrote to me that she was suffering from a terrible pain in the abdomen. Our seniors tried to treat her but the pain kept increasing.”

He wrote to her one day in 2009 and they fled and surrendered. They now live in a small house on the outskirts of Gadchiroli town,built with the Rs 3 lakh he received from the government for having surrendered. “We have five rooms,” says Bharati,whose “surrender money” has gone into a fixed deposit. She can barely walk after an operation to remove a tumour from the uterus.

“I don’t know how many times I might have opened fire on security forces. But not many people in our neighbourhood know what I was before coming here,” says Raghu,who grows maize in his backyard and shares it with locals,for whom it is an unfamiliar crop. “I was inducted as a special police officer as an incentive for surrendering. Neighbours think I do something for the police.”

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A small flat next to the SP’s office in Gadchiroli town has been designated the “surrender cell”. Before the money and facilities are given,cadres are supposed to stay under police watch for at least six months. If convinced,the district magistrate decides on the compensation.

Another surrendered couple is Mahesh Dev Mattami,30,and Sumitra Lalu Wadde of Chhattisgarh. He joined a Maoist dalam in 2004 and rose to become a divisional commander. He was sent to Bastar in 2008. “We were shown various movies featuring Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi. There were videos of wars in Vietnam,Russia,China and Sri Lanka ,too,shown to us. I met Sumitra on the job in 2008,” says Mahesh. “Someone else wanted to marry her but she chose me. She had joined the dalam as she was fascinated by the song and dance.”

He adds,“Once I fell into a ditch during an operation. I badly hurt my left leg. There was nobody to take care of me as my wife was not allowed to stay with me for more than a week. The pain was too much for me to bear,and one night the two of us ran away. We had to hide for six or seven months,till we came here.”