Volume 7, No. 3, March. 2006


Women’s movement in Dandakaranya –
Half of struggle and half of sky
( An interview with a member of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee;
Comrade Maina printed on the Occasion of March 8th)


Question : Would you please explain the main changes in the women’s movement in Dandakaranya?
Answer: The women’s movement of Dandakaranya is nearly two decades old. Throughout these years thousands of women have become part of the movement either directly or indirectly. The backward adivasi areas are revolutionized with various kinds of struggles and with various forms of organizations. Each and every aspect of the people’s lives is linked with the struggle for the seizure of state power. The struggling consciousness and political understanding of the masses is increasing and this in turn has increased their active role in revolution. The Bastar women’s movement started a little later than that of the Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) women’s movement.
The readers are aware of the forms of struggle we had adopted in the initial stages of the movement. I shall explain the main changes in the women’s movement.
Women now hold meetings independently. They not only mobilize in thousands in rallies but also stand in the forefront. They talk with non-adivasis fearlessly. They oppose police atrocities. They question the domination of the tribal heads. If the husbands torture them or if the parents force them into marriage they complain to the organization and discuss it in their meetings. None of this was possible in their old life. These are just a few examples of change in the past few decades of the women’s movement in Dandakaranya. Earlier, when the women did not have the knowledge of struggle they suffered silently. Readers of revolutionary literature are familiar with the women of Dandakaranya through the novel Rago. Now the Ragos have revolted and become Goldflowers, Nirmalas, the recent Karunas and many others. As the revolt started the chains started breaking. By the mid 1980s, the women’s organizations took good form; and by the mid 1990s they gained more strength.
With the understanding gained in this process the women now know that men must become part of housework and child rearing. They know that woman too go for organizational work like the man. If only one can leave the house, they know that it is necessary to discuss democratically and decide who has to go. Earlier the women were not allowed into the places where the harvest was stored. Now this tradition is not seen. The fight for wearing blouses was a turning point in the women’s lives. In the areas where the Revolutionary People’s Committees were formed, the men have been democratized and they now understand that they have to discuss with their wives before doing anything that involve both. Readers are aware that land pattas are issued by the RPCs in the name of both men and women in the newly occupied lands.
Now no one can impose the age-old traditions on the women. Perhaps these changes have not as yet occurred in society outside the struggling areas. Here the picture has changed. Here women have the right to assert power. They would demand it. Forcible marriages are almost non-exixtent. Women are part of all kinds of struggle and have even become leaders. The Bastar adivasi woman, who earlier never participated in a rally independently, who never led one such, is now enlightened with the consciousness of organization. Her revolutionary political consciousness has developed. They are now gheraoing the police station for the dead bodies of martyrs. They play an active combat role in ambushes. Due to this increased consciousness of organization, women are mobilizing into organizational activities, starting from the village level up to the state level. They are not only questioning the civil and the police officials, the Bastar women are blowing the siren of struggle as an indispensable part of the present revolutionary history in India.
The police are unleashing all kinds of repressive methods to discourage women from participating in the movement. They are assaulting them sexually, they are misbehaving with them and are going to the extent of killing them in fake encounters. Of late in the so-called Salwa Judum women activists have been gang raped, tortured and then brutally killed. To contain their assertion tribal heads are especially making ill propaganda against the activist women. But none of these could stop the women from participating in the revolution.
Women have been tempered in the difficulties of guerilla life. In the initial stage of their recruitment, they felt they would work only in their native areas. But now they are prepared to go wherever the party assigns them, with revolutionary responsibility. They are becoming professional revolutionaries. They are fighting heroically and are attaining leadership positions.
The women even question the discrimination they face in guerilla life in order to gain their rights. In the past, though they did not understand what elections meant, a few people voted. Now, they are in the forefront in implementing the election boycott as a form of struggle. This indicates the increased political consciousness in them. We feel this is an important change. We observe that women actively respond to each and every call of the Party. Women play a considerable role in the struggles, starting from protest against imperialism to that for the construction of martyr memorials.
So we are able to sustain the movement in the struggle areas and are able to realise the establishment of liberated area as the main objective. The government bureaucracy and their domination/authority have been destroyed in the main areas of the movement. We are enriching the Revolutionary People’s Committees (janathana sarkar) that are the embryonic form of democratic people’s political power as the real alternative. Men and women have an equal role in this process. As far as state power is concerned women have an indispensable role in all the organs of the people’s power, the village level party and the militia units. There is a major change in lives with the seizure of state power. Q: What is the role of women in the RPCs? What kind of responsibilities are they taking up? A: In traditional Adivasi areas women do not have any authority and say in public matters. A Woman is a victim of the chains of tribal customs. She does work in the fields, cuts wood in the forest, and works day and night. But she does not have any power. As the Kranthikari Adivasi Mahila Sangam strengthened and women started leading their struggles, the eyes of the women in the forests opened. They became part of the people’s war. The results of this war are seen in the janathana sarkar (Revolutionary People’s Committee), that are the embryonic form of the New Power. Women take up various responsibilities in each and every RPC unit. Some women are even holding the post of president in the janathana sarkar. In some places they are holding the post of vice-president. In addition to this the women are working in the various departmental committees of the RPC. Whatever responsibility they take up they are making distinct efforts to fulfill their responsibilities. Let us take the example of the Jungle Bachao Committee. The members of this committee take care of the forest. They check regularly to make sure that no one has cut the forests without the permission of the committee. They also check whether anyone is taking away timber and other such forest produce. The checking done by the forest department in other areas and that by the RPC is fundamentally different. It has a different class perspective. The forest department harasses and loots the poor while they join with the tribal elites to illegally cut wood and make fortunes. The RPCs impose restrictions on cutting considering the environmental damage. It is nothing but an example of people’s power being asserted in the interests of the people. Today, we have definitely laid the seeds for a new democratic power. The red guerilla base areas (in embryonic form) in the country are the first of its kind. We introduced the form of the present janathana sarkars taking into account the positive aspects of traditional Adivasi society (negating the negative) and destroying the ruling class mechanism and the state structure. Women are in the forefront of this struggle. Democratic consciousness rises through this struggle. Look at the situation in the other areas. Here feudalism and imperialism have crushed democracy under its iron heel. We have to destroy these two mountains all over the country. We have made the men and women stand firm in this struggle. They own and assert the new state power to an extent. In this process we have revolutionized the family. Husband, wife and children, all are an indispensable part of revolution. Women are part of the judicial department too. It is unimaginable in the traditional Adivasi and feudal societies for women to give judgments. Participation of women in health, education, medicine, protection and other such departments have helped develop their organized strength. It helped them overcome an inferiority complex. We see this assertion in many spheres, due to the assertion of the New Power. Q: What are the changes in the village culture? How far were they accepted among the masses? A: As a part of building the movement, we have revolutionized people’s thoughts and are making efforts to enhance New Democratic values. Scientific knowledge is necessary in order to achieve this. We are working in an extremely backward area. Market, transport and other modern facilities are comparatively poor. In the last two decades market relations and transport facilities have increased in a big way. The influence of feudal and imperialist culture is increasing in the areas near the roads and the markets. Chathisgarhi, Bengali, Telugu and Oriya cultures are now influencing Bastar from four sides. This apart bourgeois culture is also infiltrating. Sangh parivar and its frontal organizations entered the forest areas in many forms in the past decade. Missionaries and mandirs started making their presence felt in all these areas. Rama, Sankara and Christ are seen. Some have changed their surnames with this propaganda. In the past few years, the situation revolutionized people’s thoughts in order to control the culture of the dominant tribes and decide what is necessary and what is not. The organizations conducted struggles against expenditures for the village priests and the quacks preaching blind superstitions. They closed the doors to reason in the name of domination and traditions. Q. How could you make the adivasi people celebrate International Women’s Day? A: As the revolutionary movement strengthened and the people participated in the movement more and more under the leadership of the Party the women’s organization and the movement strengthened. In the decade of the 1990s, the party guided the women so that their role increased in the movement. As a result people developed the understanding that if there are no women there would be no revolution. We could make the people understand that women are half of the revolution. And we did not achieve this only through propaganda. We turned this issue of propaganda into struggles in practice. This struggle now enlightened the women. When non-adivasis came to Bailadilla and abused the adivasi women, the government took up tear shedding reforms. It opened centers for them. But the decaying culture only increased. It did not help the women stand up on their own legs. It did not give them the necessary scientific knowledge. Now, the path we chose gave confidence to the women that we can eliminate oppression on women through struggle. International Women’s Day penetrated in the hearts of the masses as the day of women in struggle, as a part of this enlightenment. Repression was unleashed in various forms. But the people always stood against it. The KAMS alone did not achieve this success. The PLGA and all the revolutionary mass organizations jointly opposed them under the leadership of the Party. In this process the KAMS strengthened. They were participating in the class struggle and as a part of it we organized and enlightened the women to oppose the oppression on them. We thus brought forward 8th March as an important day of the KAMS programme. For the past 15 years we have been deciding the theme of the 8th March program each year and conduct seminars, meetings and rallies on that day. Once it started we saw that it continued unhindered. So, though the repression increased, the party and the masses had the initiative and upper hand. We understood the situation and adopted the mass line with flexibility. As a result of this, 8th March symbolised the form of women’s struggle. We are aware that revisionists and bourgeois parties conduct 8th March in the cities and the plain areas. But we cannot expect these celebrations to mould the women as fighters. Even in the parliamentary form they do not give them the necessary consciousness to take up programmes. Moreover these forms do not break with the domination of patriarchy and do not allow women to stand on their own legs. We see this in each and every place. Feminists and the NGOs are bringing forward anarchism, liquidating their mental preparedness and developing opposition towards males, etc. We have to mainly develop a political struggle on all these issues. We must fight against the bad tendencies. We have to fight for the solution of the problems. Throughout the past decade women in Bastar have been increasingly participating in struggles. The period between 2003 and 2005 indicates the period of a rising revolutionary movement. People’s armed resistance increased unprecedentedly and progressed forward. The wide mass base improved through the active role of the masses in the struggle. The movement did not gain the upper hand through sympathy. This applies to the women’s movement too. A few days before 8th March, scores of batches take up political propaganda campaigns. Last year (2005) propaganda was conducted in more than one thousand villages. In South Bastar alone we could mobilize around 20,000 women. The number of women mobilized in North Bastar, Maad and West Bastar is no less. On the whole nearly 60 – 70 thousand women came for the meetings. However much the attendance, the meetings take place secretly. There are police camps and one or two police stations in a radius of 4 to 10 kilometers. Right from the beginning meetings would be conducted without any information going to the police. All the KAMS meetings, initial meetings of the organizations and conferences are being conducted secretly without the knowledge of the enemy. The executive committees formed from the village level to the division level work secretly. Conferences are conducted at three levels in an assigned form and the executive committees are functioning. Women’s rights and their participation in the revolution would be the agenda in all these activities. The KAMS propagates the slogans to be taken among the masses on the occasion of 8th March. For example this time it took up the two issues of government reforms and the revolutionary alternative, and for developing the role of men and women in the cooperative teams formed for the development of agriculture. The slogans are formulated according to the necessities of the war and the main resolutions of the day. The implementation of these all depends on the strength of the movement, organizational capacity and the initiative of the KAMS. Q: What are the problems you are facing in taking up the war with the enemy forces in the guerilla war and on the other hand taking up the struggle on patriarchy. A: In the past it was said muthina maata mulaku (meaning keep aside the wife’s opinions). Man was dominant in all family relations. Now wife-beating, beating children, etc. are relatively less than in other areas. In society a woman is looked down upon as a part of social oppression. This is the main aspect in the contradiction between men and women. Initially, that is in the first half of the 1980s, KAMS was not formed. Masses (men and women) participated in the class struggle together. They started joining the people’s army and the Party. It is not easy to start a women’s organization without forming any organization or struggle. Women are part of the wage struggle for tendu leaves, road labor, harvest, transplantation, wages in the bamboo fields, etc. But the men opposed forming women’s organizations. Women too were reluctant or would say the men would not agree and such other things. The members of the organization too opposed encouraging the women members of their families to join the organization. It took two to four years to change these opinions. This is of course a part of the contradiction between man and the woman. Earlier men never received the opinions, suggestions and the activities of women in the leadership in the Party, squad and mass organizations. Most men would not accept them. There was a lot of discussion on these issues. There was education. There was constant struggle and criticism and self-criticism. To an extent this helped to solve the contradiction. Now women are respected for whatever responsibility she holds. Her opinions are received in a serious manner. Coming to power the contradiction between man and the woman is the main one as earlier on ly male authority existed. Now we are solving this too. Strengthening the women’s movement, equality, equal status to women, authority and any such thing cannot be achieved without struggle. We are gaining these rights only through struggle. But our first and immediate aim is to intensify war against the enemy, strengthen the PLGA, build liberated areas and build the state. The struggles and forms of struggles of the women’s movement are formulated according to this. The contradiction between man and woman is a friendly one. We adopt the attitude to solve it in time and in a proper manner. We brought women to participate in the revolutionary people’s committees in the village, area, district or any other level. Women are participating in all these. If they were not made part of these they would fight. They make the concerned person realize and give them responsibility. They criticize. We have to understand one more issue in this. There is an inferiority complex among women. Though there are changes in struggle, study and consciousness, there is a lot of patriarchal ideology among the women. So many of them hesitate to take up responsibilities. They have to struggle against these thinking so that they could take up the responsibility. Constant efforts are necessary to overcome this. The Party is taking up education campaigns to rectify this. This has to continue and improve. Women’s organization and training should be made a part of the women’s movement in all the areas across the country. Let us see how we are linking the war against patriarchy with the people’s war. The erstwhile People’s War took up a rectification and education campaign against the evils in the party. Patriarchy was one of the evils. In view of the importance to this issue we took up a special campaign. Later the members of the DAKMS and KAMS, i.e., both the men and women participated in the political propaganda and education programme. They explained the specific form of patriarchy in this society. Two thirds of the participants of these meetings were women and one third were men. We took up the campaign in nearly 400 villages. No women, no revolution. We must eradicate patriarchy, demand equal rights to men and women, making women part of each and every work. These were the main slogans of our campaign. Women are part of all the military formations formed for the protection of the village from the enemy offensive. Now there is no satirical comments on women that they are weak or that they cannot work for revolution. They are part of all kinds of actions starting from bandhs to ambushes. When the women are not made part of the struggle in a democratic manner we take up struggle and rectification to achieve a higher level of unity. In facing the enemy all stand united.. It is said that we cannot gain victory on patriarchy without the victory of revolution and that we cannot concentrate on this issue right now. This is not correct. The struggle against patriarchy increases to the extent to which the class struggle and war rise. We cannot separate it mechanically. Q : What are the problems and progress in training women politically and militarily? A: We have considerable experience in mobilizing women in large numbers so that they become half of the movement. Basing on this we took up many programs. Right from the beginning the Party has the understanding that we have to specially concentrate to improve the role of women. So we made such efforts in DK too with specific plans. We now see the results. As a part of organizing women we formed organizations where they were not in existence. We reconstructed wherever they were weak. We strengthened the weak ones. We developed the village, area (range), division and state units. The organizations are carrying out their activities amidst enemy repression and are being tempered. Now there are more part-timer comrades working like professional revolutionaries who are able to work regularly and guide the respective units. Professional revolutionaries are taking the responsibility of the mass organizations, PLGA and other such responsibilities in the Party. In the past decade there have been a lot of changes. These changes now took a leap and speeded up the development process. Thus the participation of women too increased. We conducted special women’s meetings, special military camps for women, political classes, women’s magazines were brought out and knowledge was imparted through education schools, MAS and MOPOS. All this developed the consciousness of women. Women are increasingly coming into the leadership of the party, military and mass organizations. Women who were ordinary members have been made members of Area Committees. A few are on the Special Zonal Committee too. They are working as section deputies, platoon commanders. They are holding responsibilities at the village leadership to the state leadership and in various departments. They are working in the RPCs as presidents, as staff members in the technical field and such other work. On the whole, these results were possible due to the efforts in the past twenty years. The Party made relentless efforts to develop the consciousness of men and women and planted the seeds for this leap. The seeds have now flowered. There are yet certain problems to solve. Mainly women do not have a considerable role in the theoretical and political fields. They have a positive role in implementing the policy of the Party and the decisions taken in the committee meetings. However, we have to develop more role of women to play in decision making. Women are half of the combat forces but their fighting capacity and war skills have still to increase. To become more and more a part in the people’s war and to understand the problems in building base areas are the problems faced in the women’s movement. We must allot more time for those who can read. The leadership committees must plan to send women to MAS (Mobile Academic School)




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