If the jungles of Maharashtra are home to the gun-wielding and throat-slitting life of Naxalites, it is also home to the love that often blossoms among their men and women.
However, it is not the rough and tumble of their lives that has driven 25 such couples to the flee the movement over the last two years, but the very principles that brought them within its folds.
While 10 of them surrendered, the rest escaped to safer destinations. The surrender of one such couple last month — two senior Naxalites, both area committee members — brought forth a tale of love, the unique manner of solemnising marriages within the movement and the consequent heartbreaks of a gun-toting life.
The Naxal movement does not encourage marriage. Yet, with very young men and women — often in their teens — being inducted, love blooms more often than not.
This was the case with Nagesh, alias Shuklal, and Renuka. They had joined the movement in early 1990s and rose to the position of area committee members. Finally, both of them surrendered.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Shuklal said that when two members of the movement fall in love and decide to get married, they are supposed to tell the dalam commander. They can even be in separate dalams which meet for joint operations, said Renuka. These meetings are also a time for love to blossom.
The commander then gets in touch with the higher authorities, the divisional committee. Reminiscent of a family senior, the committee may even find the match unsuitable, said Shuklal.
Often, the committee may take advantage of the situation to further entrench the youngsters in the movement. Shuklal said: “They analyse the progress made by members in the political ideology of the movement. ‘Study politics for the next six months and we will permit you to marry’, they often say.”
On the wedding day, a divisional committee member usually turns up or in his absence the commander may preside as the priest. Only, instead of exchanging garlands, the couple exchanges weapons.
Cadres at the wedding hold their guns in the maun shastra position and the wedding vows go somewhat like this: “In the name of the party (CPI-Maoist), we solemnly swear that we will never leave the party. Also, we will never leave each other. If we have any differences, they will be placed before the party.”
Shuklal said that earlier there were garlands and even sweets. But now, the beleaguered naxalites celebrate with a cup of tea. “We try not to stay in the same place for celebrations for more than two hours,” he added.
Getting married is, however, not the beginning of a life of bliss. There are no concessions for married couples. They may even be in separate dalams as before, meeting only once a year, said Renuka.
For if a couple could deviate enough from the Naxal ideology to want to get married, they may deviate further and want children, something the movement does not allow. By compulsion, a couple has to undergo surgeries within a week of getting married to ensure they never have children.
Children are forbidden in this life that is lived on the move in forests. A single member getting caught can mean strategic information being leaked out.
Area committee secretary Bharataakka, who surrendered while husband Renu continues to work with the dalam, told Hindustan Times that she wanted children. “But the party said no,” she added. Shuklal and Renuka also did not get operated for quite some time after marriage. “We tried convincing them. With pressure from the party on me, I had to get operated,” Shuklal said.
Shuklal said there are women within the movement who conceive outside marriage. In such cases, abortion is the only way out.