Cop brother hunts his Maoist sister in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district
At around 7am on July 29, a team of 140 security personnel cordoned off a Maoist camp near a hillock in the jungles of Balengtong in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.
The squad had been on the move all night, following the cues of the man leading them — Vetti Rama, a gopniya sainik (secret trooper) of Sukma Police and section commander of the operation. Their prey was one of the top Maoist members of the Konta area committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Vetti Kanni, and her 30-member team.
When the two sides eventually squared off, Rama and Kanni saw each other. Their eyes met and suddenly Kanni’s guards started shooting at Rama, whose men retaliated. Two Maoists were gunned down in the fierce July 29 gunbattle. Kanni managed to escape.
The encounter proved that blood is not always thicker than water. Kanni, 50, and Rama, 43, are brother and sister, and have found themselves on the opposite sides of the Maoist rebellion in Chhattisgarh.
“I didn’t want to fire at her. I was constrained to do so because, within a few seconds, her guards started firing at my team. Hence I retaliated. Later, after a few minutes, I saw her firing and suddenly she disappeared in the jungle,” said Rama.
Kanni is an area committee member (ACM) of the CPI(Maoist) in Konta with an award of Rs 5 lakh on her head. She is in charge of the “podiyaro” of Maoists, which means she looks after the legal support of arrested Maoists and also reviews the rehabilitation of families of CPI(Maoist) cadre who die in police encounters.
Maoists enter Bastar from Konta, which borders Telangana and is one of the oldest Maoist bastions. It was in the mid-1980s that Maoists came to Konta and spread in the Bastar region. The Konta area of Maoist dominance ranges over about 60 square kilometres. It covers around 116 villages. According to the police, about 50 villages come under the liberated zone in which Maoists’ janatana sarkar, or parallel government, is still active.
Both Rama and Kanni joined the Maoist movement in the early 1990s along with the other young people of Gaganpalli village, which is situated on NH-30.
“We both joined as bal sangham (child cadre) as we were told that the movement is for the poor of the region. But things have changed now… The present Maoist movement lacks dedication and hence I decided to surrender in 2018. I then got a job in the police and in the next couple of months, I will be promoted to the post of police constable,” said Rama, adding that he had led about 10 big operations for the security forces after surrendering.
The post of a secret trooper is sanctioned by the Chhattisgarh government. These troopers are appointed by superintendents of police, and they later get promoted to the constable rank.
Rama was also ACM and looking after the jantana sarkar of the area. He had a ~6.5 lakh reward on his head when he surrendered in August 2018.
“Both Rama and Vetti were the most influential Maoist leaders of this area. Nearly all recruitment of this area used to be done by them. Hence Rama’s induction in police was tactically very important for us,” said Chandresh Singh Thakur, a sub-divisional officer of police (SDOP), adding that after Rama surrendered, the police had managed to conduct some successful anti-Maoist operations.
When Rama was asked about the reason behind his surrender, he said, “Even after dedicating two decades of my life to the movement, I was demoted from the post of ACM and later, I was transferred to another division of the CPI (Maoist)... Can you imagine? I had not met my wife for seven years and senior cadres had no respect for my unswerving commitment.”
After Rama surrendered, he wanted his sister to give herself up. Rama wrote three letters to his sister, urging her to surrender. Kanni wrote back, branding him a traitor.
“Don’t ever write to me urging for surrender. I am not in greed of rehabilitation and compensation; I am a revolutionary... You must never think that you will able to save yourself …You are a traitor,” read Kanni’s letter dated November 8, 2018, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times.
The letter accused Rama of weakening the Maoist movement since he joined the police force.
“Since you [Rama] joined the police force, you are involved in arresting innocent people, torturing them and also in identifying cadres. This betrays your intentions,” the letter says.
Police say that all that is written in the letter is wrong. “This is just propaganda of Maoists,” said SDOP Thakur, adding that he wrote letters to other cadres also in response to which a top Maoist, Arjun Madkam, a divisional committee member, surrendered this year.
Rama now lives with his wife in a police accommodation in Sukma. He says it is not easy to kill his own sister.
“I don’t know! I will always try to arrest her or urge her to surrender, but in an encounter anything is possible. I pray to God that it never happens,” said Rama, his eyes tearing up.
For police officers posted in Sukma, it is a rare instance of a brother and sister being pitted against each other in the Maoist rebellion.
“Every time I meet Rama, I ask about his sister and Rama tells me that he is urging her to surrender. I have been posted in this area for a long time but this case of a brother hunting his sister is rare. I believe that he is trying his best to persuade his sister to surrender but unsuccessfully so far,” said superintendent of police Shalabh Sinha.