Sunday, 21 June 1998

Tribal women doggedly resist Naxal wrath

Published in The Indian Express on Sunday, June 21, 1998
RAJAHMUNDRY, JUNE 20: It was a well chalked-out Naxal plan to demoralise the tribal women of Pedamallapuram in East Godavari district. But, the scheme fell flat on its face as the women resounded their conviction to keep the Naxals at bay, come what may.
The Naxals' intention behind the midnight attack on the sleepy village of Pedamallapuram was to weaken the resolve of the tribal women, who have been leading an anti-Naxal movement in the agency area of East Godavari district.
But as has been the case with Pedamallapuram since the start of the movement in February, Naxals propose and tribal women simply dispose. A band of 40 Naxalites swooped on the unsuspecting tribal hamlet tucked away in the vast hilly tracts in the early hours of Thursday. After gunning down two tribal leaders, Jarta Rambabu and Bodoju Venkateswara Rao, the `Annalu' as the Naxals are known in local parlance then attacked 10 tribal women.
But, their ire was concentrated on Thonta Ramulamma and Bodoju Lakshmamma, the twins wholaunched the anti-Naxal movement. The incident far from demoralising and weakening the tribal women leaders has in fact strengthened their resolve to fight the Naxals and assert themselves. Their number has burgeoned and the men too have joined hands with the women in their fight to teach the Naxals a lesson.
That the tribal women of Pedamallapuram cannot be cowed down by acts of violence can be gauged from the fact that despite the danger hovering over the village, the women took an oath before Chandrababu Naidu yesterday to continue their movement.
``Had the Naxals attacked us in daylight, we would have taught them a lesson. But cowards as they are, they came in the cover of darkness after blasting the electricity transformer,'' says Ramulamma.
Pedamallapuram serves as a gateway to the agency area in the district. The hilly and bushy environs around the village provide a perfect camouflage to the Naxals to carry on their operations.
Further, women in around 50 hamlets in the agency area got inspired from the anti-Naxal movement in Pedamallapuram. This, the Naxals believe, will jeopardise their interests in the long run.

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