He is 19, brandishes a .303 rifle, wears combat fatigues and has the sharp gaze of a trained commando. He cannot reveal his name or identity, for he is high on the Maoist hit list he is a defector who was once trained by them to kill the very people he now defends.
He refers to the Maoists as ‘they’ and ‘them’ and talks matter-of-factly about the people who have died at his hands. But when it is time to leave, I can see he is fighting back the tears. He bids us a hasty goodbye, picks up his .303, checks if it is loaded and walks away. Then stops to turn towards us. “Happy Diwali,” he says, raising his rifle in salute. This is his story.
Every time my bullet killed a policeman, I asked myself, ‘Why am I killing my own people?’ But we were not allowed to ask questions.
I stayed with them (the Maoists) for 11 long months and I was part of many teams that ambushed police parties. Today I hold the gun to defend the people I once killed. <b1>
I joined them because I thought it would put an end to my family’s misery. My father, like his father and grandfather, was the Patel (village chief) of Murliguda village near Konta, which is now part of the so-called liberated area. It was my father’s word that counted in the village, so they (the Maoists) wanted his support. But he refused to be part of the violence.
Every time they came to our village, asking for recruits, we would refuse and they would take Rs 500 from us. Then they started harassing my parents and beat up my father twice. I could not take it any more and decided to quit my class VIII studies to join them, hoping the harassment would stop. And it did.
They looked after me and trained me for those 11 months. But it was not easy. I had to kill my own people and however sick I felt while doing that, I could not open my mouth.
When I couldn’t bear it any longer, I fled the (Maoist) camp and crossed over to Andhra Pradesh, where I worked as a daily-wager at Kunawaram, near the border. Two years ago I heard my village had revolted and everyone had shifted to Konta. So I returned. And found many others from my village who had taken refuge there.
I became a Special Police Officer appointed by the government. I did not want to lie to them and told them everything about my days with the Naxals. I thought I would be put behind bars. Instead they commended me for my honesty and made me part of the core team.
But I wish they hadn’t, because that meant I had to accompany them on their combing operations. The first one was to my own village. And I discovered that my house had been burnt down. Whenever I think of it, I wonder, will I ever get to return to my village and my own home?