He was 27 when he fought the 1971 Indo-Pak war, sustaining bullet wounds in both his legs. Samuel Dang is now 72. With old age, the pain in his legs has not blunted but he treks the forests, into the dens of extremists, to tell them to give up guns.
His aim is to convince youngsters who have joined left wing extremist outfits to shun the gun and return to the mainstream.
Dang says in five years, he succeeded in persuading at least nine area commander-rank left-wing extremists to leave bloodshed behind and become law-abiding citizens. Several other foot soldiers also shunned violence after attending his prayer sessions.
“It’s not me but God’s advice they hear and follow,” Dang told HT while travelling to Simdega to hold a prayer session.
Tall and lean, dressed in formal trousers and shirt with a rucksack dangling around his neck, Dang travels from village to village, sometimes on invitations and sometimes on his own, meeting people and singing Biblical songs.
The Maoists and People’s Liberation Front of India treat him well during his travel to the interiors. And many come to attend his prayers in battle fatigues and guns.
But doesn’t he fear for his life?
“Why should I fear them when I do no harm to them?” he asked. “I am spreading knowledge and God’s preaching among the people living in darkness.”
The police, too, do not fear for his safety.
“He is a preacher and needs no security. The Maoists do not harm religious and spiritual people,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.