Jungle Terror 7
MADIVI MUTHI, Refugee from Gompad village
As we walk into the clearing, the children emerge. A few minutes later, they have firmly laid claim to our bags and books. It seems like any other village where children mill around strangers and greet them with enthusiastic curiousity. It is only as the women flock around and begin sharing their stories that the feeling of normalcy recedes. These are the voices of people who have watched their fellow villagers being killed in Gompad.
It was early in the morning and I had just walked a few steps out of my house when I came face to face with men carrying guns. They stopped me and asked me about the men in my village. I told them I didn’t know and started running. They pulled at my sari; it came undone. I ran anyway, I wanted to alert the villagers and make sure my children were safe. I rushed back home, picked up my son 8- year-old son, Nageshwara, and ran to the forest, screaming all the while. People who heard my screams fled their homes. Those who didn’t were killed.
The men either shot them or hacked them down —inside their houses. I lost my uncle, Madivi Bajar, my aunt, Madivi Subbi and another family member, Madivi Venkaiah. Two others in the village, Soyan Subbaiah and Soyan Jogi, were also killed. The men looted their house as well —I heard that they took away all the money in the house.
I don’t know if the men who attacked our village were people from the Salwa Judum or the police.
We left Gompad the next day. We were afraid that if we stayed back, the attackers would come back to kill those who had survived. We left at 6 am and walked the whole day. The children were crying but we didn’t stop for more than a few minutes —not even to eat. We were so afraid that the Salwa Judum was following us and that we would be caught before we reached the village.
We had heard of relatives staying in this village and hoped we would be safe here. It was only when we came here that I realised that we had crossed into Andhra Pradesh. Life is difficult here and food is always scarce. My 10-year-old daughter and I work as daily wage labourers. My husband and my son take care of the cattle we brought back from Gompad.
The only other choice that was left to us was to shift to a camp run by the Salwa Judum. I have visited others living in such a camp and I know I won’t be able to survive in a place like that. Running away and leading a life of half-starvation is the only choice we had.
• WITNESSED 5 MURDERS
• WALKED 24 HOURS TO ESCAPE
After I came here, I was told that the police claim that the people who were killed in Gompad were Naxals. The people they killed were not Naxals —they lived in our village. I knew them my entire life. They killed innocent people sleeping in their houses and called them Naxals. Were they afraid to catch the real ones?
(A petition challenging the police claim that the nine people killed in Gompad village were Naxals has been filed in the Supreme Court.)
This article was originally published in Tehelka, a leading independent news magazine in India, known for its investigative journalism.