Once a Maoist, he now stitches 90 masks a day to combat Covid-19
Life has come a full circle for Madakam Lakha, who would stitch uniforms for the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) commanders such as Ramanna --- he died last December --- and Madvi Hidma in the remote jungles of South Sukma in Chhattisgarh till he surrendered eight months ago. Now, he is devoting all his energy in sewing masks to combat the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Lakha (38), a resident of Bhimapuram village under Jagargonda police station surrendered in August 2019, is lodged in Sukma Police Line, which is located about 400km away from the state capital Raipur.
“Lakha came to know about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) units such as masks a few days ago and started stitching them inside Sukma Police Line. He’s making up to 90 masks a day that are being distributed by the police among the local tribal people,” Sundarraj Patilingam, Inspector General of Police (IG) in South Bastar Range, said.
“Lakha joined the Maoists in 1998 as a member of Bal Sanhgam (child soldiers). Earlier, he used to stitch the Maoist commanders’ clothes, but after he surrendered he’s helping the police,” the IG said.
Lakha, who hails from the Muriya tribe, a sub-tribe of the Gond, from the state’s Sukma district, feels privileged that he got the opportunity to stitch masks for the local tribal people amid the Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s a matter of great personal satisfaction for me that I’m contributing in my humble way in this battle against Covid-19. I wanted to utilise my stitching skills to good use to help the local tribal people,” Lakha said.
Shalabh Sinha, superintendent of police (SP), Sukma, said that Lakha has been a goldmine of information about the Maoists. “Lakha comes from that inaccessible part of Sukma, which is the core of Maoists’ activities in Bastar. He’s helping us with invaluable inputs and also interpreting the local tribal dialects for us,” the SP said.
Besides, Lakha holds the key for the police because of his access to the ultra-Left party’s top brass in Chhattisgarh. “He’s an asset for us because he has stitched clothes for Maoist commanders such as Ramanna and Madvi Hidma,” the SP added.
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