She could have been India’s Malala Yousafzai, leaving behind a life of Maoist violence she was lured into as a child, to start afresh, enrolling herself in school for studies and a bright future.
But Sanjeeta Kumari’s dream of returning to the mainstream was shattered this week when Maoist insurgents killed her for allegedly spying on behalf of the police. Her blood-stained body was found near the hills of Gumla in Jharkhand on Thursday.
Kumari, who also went by the name of Guddi, was lured into the outlaw group when she was 11 by a neighbour and transformed from a cook into a crack shot, serving under the Maoist banner for eight years, before she decided to turn over a new leaf.
The 20-year-old ran away from the rebels and went into hiding in Gumla, where she rented a house and enrolled herself at a local school but the outlaws continued to threaten her regularly.
When HT met her on July 28, Guddi recounted chilling tales of the looming threat to her life but said she was committed to her studies and wouldn’t return to the extremist fold under any condition.
“I cannot surrender because the moment my leaders come to know, they will kill my parents and siblings,” she told HT, on the condition that her story wouldn’t be published.
“I will be able to study as long as I am not identified and captured or my bosses in the jungle do not take me away forcibly,” she said.
But her dream wasn’t to be. When she went home to see her parents and siblings in the Maoist-infested village of Sibil on Tuesday, she was abducted by the insurgents, who left a handwritten note saying Guddi had to die because she didn’t mend her ways despite several warnings.
Her body was brought to the hospital by local villagers, not police personnel, who live in constant fear of Maoist attacks. “She was not our spy, and do we not know of any Maoist related case against her name so far,” said Gumla police superintendent Bhimsen Tuti.
Guddi said she was lured into the group by her neighbour Savita Didi, who was a Maoist leader. Guddi served as a cook for a year before undergoing arms training and became an expert at handling Insas rifles and carbines.
Once fighting the forces in the Latehar jungles, a bullet pierced through her foot. “With the injured foot, I ran and walked for four days and nights till we reached a safer place,” she said.
She fell in love with zonal commander Kanchan and wanted to marry him but he died from police bullets in an encounter.
Guddi also said Maoist commanders regularly exploit women sexually but it was often projected as consensual sex. “Abortions are a routine affair as female commanders cannot become mothers,” she had said.
“When I had left the camp in April, there were 23 minor girls in zonal commander Nakulji’s camp, few of them were as young as 10 years.”