Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I don't know what will happen to this girl.

I don't know what will happen to this girl
Himanshu Kumar
September 12, 2011
Translated from Hindi by Vinay Bhat

This time when Linga began his departure from Delhi to Dantewada, I pulled him forcefully and gave him a bear hug. I said to him what my heart was telling me which was that this might be the last time we might see each other. He began laughing and said “Sir, I want to remove the fear of the police from my heart. I have done no wrong. The police have committed all crimes. Why must I fear? Is it because I am an Adivasi and an Adivasi must fear the police?”.

Linga is the same boy who was forcefully arrested and detained for forty days in a toilet in a Dantewada police station and kept famished by the then DIG Kalluri and SP Amaresh Mishra in order to persuade him to become an SPO. He was later released after we, along with his aunt Soni Sori, intervened by appealing to the Chattisgarh High Court. After that both these officials made numerous failed attempts at murdering Linga. Ultimately we had to send him off to Delhi. There, he enrolled in a journalism course. It was during this time that DIG Kalluri and SP Mishra released a press statement saying Lingaram Kodopi was the mastermind behind the attack on Congress MLA Adhvesh Gautam's house. But, when noise was raised in Delhi that this boy is out here and how could he carry out an attack in Dantewada, the omniscient Vishwaranjan mentioned that this press statement was released in error. Oh well, making mistakes is human nature. Even the best of writers will frequently write a flop story. This time this story horribly failed.

I tried hard to explain to Linga and told him that we all have to work towards stopping the state sponsored genocide of Adivasis that is taking place in Chattisgarh. “If you go there, the police will either register a false case against you or call you a Maoist and murder you in a fake encounter,” I said.

“How can they prove I am a Maoist?” he asked.

“For people who can label a famous Gandhian like Narayan Desai or an established scientist like Professor Yashpal Maoist sympathizers and rally parades against them, it is not difficult to prove you are a Maoist. The Government of Chattisgarh has resorted to hooliganism, and lost all shreds of morality,” I responded.

Linga mentioned that his villagers had expressed to him their wish that he help opening up the their schools and hospitals that have been shut down. “Let me finish up this work, and then I will think of what lies ahead,” he responded adamantly. Ultimately we agreed that Linga would go to Dantewada for three months and return to Delhi and begin his career in journalism.

Linga used to frequently call me. He told me about his meeting with the Commissioner of Bastar Srinivasalu and Collector Om Prakash Chaudhari and how he informed them of the torture meted out to him by the police and of the hardships faced by people in his village. He informed me that both these individuals assured him of help. After a few days, he called me again and told me that some Naxalites had called him and reprimanded him for having met Government officials. They apparently also threateningly mentioned, “Don't try and display too much Netagiri (leadership).” He asked me, “Can I not even work for the betterment of my own people?”

During the course of another phone call, Linga informed me that he met an official from the Adivasi Development Department and told him that there was no building constructed in his village. However, the Collector was informed that a building was constructed. “I will complain to the Collector,” Linga told him. On hearing this, the official started pleading with Linga to not take this matter up with the Collector, in return for which he would give Linga the contract to construct several buildings. Linga responded, “I have not come here to become a contractor. In fact, I want you to work with the utmost integrity.”

Between the months of May and June, I had to make a trip to America, and I received a phone call from Linga once again. He frantically said “Sir, we are in deep trouble. Naxalites have looted the house of my aunt Soni Sori's father's house – meaning my grandfather's house and shot him in the leg.” I assured him that I would relay this news to everyone. He told me not to and mentioned that he himself would go to Delhi and inform the press.

He called me once again after a few days and told me he was constructing a mud house for himself. He told me that he met the police officer and requested that his motorcycle be returned. The officer threatened to press arbitrary charges against Linga if he returned again to ask for his motorcycle.

I then received a call from Linga's aunt Soni Sori. She told me that during independence day celebrations in the school where she teaches, some Naxalites came and told her that they would wave a black flag in place of the Indian tricolor. She said that she argued with them and told them that she would not bring down the flag for which patriots like Bhagat Singh had sacrificed their lives. “I did the right thing, didn't I?”, she asked of me. I began thinking whether I should salute this lone Adivasi girl who is fighting for the pride of the national flag, or should I salute those high officials of the uniformed security force who besmirch the tricolor everyday by killing innocents and insulting them.

Last night I received a call from the same girl, “I have been declared a Naxalite. Today the police came to kill me and even fired at me. I have run to the forests to save my life,” she said. I began thinking once again. Will this be the end to the girl who risked her life for the sake of the tricolor? If only she didn't dare to perform the unconstitutional act of speaking out against the police in court. If only she was not an Adivasi girl. If only her district did not have all the mineral wealth. If only the higher echelons of power were not occupied by money hungry creatures. If only, then this girl would be rewarded for her patriotism. But now the traitors who beat the drum of patriotism and loot the nation's wealth, selling it to foreign companies, are trying to kill her. Soni Sori also told me that Linga had removed a Naxalite black flag in a school and driven the Naxalites out after a brief verbal tiff. I asked her why they were picking up quarrels with everyone out there, and who would help them in the jungles. Oh well.

Linga's last phone call came two weeks ago and informed that he would come to Delhi, but wanted to live in his village permanently. “Will you arrange for a camera and a second-hand laptop for me?”, he asked. When I told my friends about this, a friend of mine arranged for a laptop. I am writing this piece from the very laptop. This laptop is waiting for its owner. Let us watch how long its wait continues.

Earlier this year in March, the government burned down three villages in Dantewada. Tadmela, Timmapuram and Morapalli. Linga was in Delhi at that time. He told me that he would go to these villages and meet the people. Linga went. He shot photographs and videos there. I have copies of these with me, and I have also distributed these amongst some of my friends. Because the investigation of this incident has been handed over to the CBI, and because the government knows that Linga is a key witness for the CBI, they conspired to arrest him.

Four days ago Soni Sori called me and told me that Linga was arrested from his grandfather's house in Palnar. She told me that the police had earlier told Linga that they would drop the case against him involving the attack on Avdhesh Gautam, and all he would have to do in return was to meet a person named Lala in the market who would be carrying a bag filled with money. Linga would have to take that bag and hand it over to the police. “After that, all your cases will disappear,” they said. Linga refused to carry out the police instructions and went to his grandfather's house. After a while, plain clothes policemen came in a white Sumo, grabbed Linga and left. The next day the same people came to take Soni Sori away. Soni ran away to the forests. “Get arrested,” I told her, “Or you will get killed”.

To which she responded, “Sir, I have three small children and my husband is also in jail. Linga is also in jail. Who will fight for all these people. I want to reveal the truth to the world. After that I will go to jail.”

I don't know what will happen to this girl.

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