As they opened my eyes, all I could see around was trees and more trees. It seemed as though we were deep in the jungles where the four prominent states met. Having worked in NGOs in the most difficult of regions around the country whether it was Kashmir or the North East, I always knew what to expect in war torn troubled areas. I had always seen people being tortured to death whether it was physically through assault or mentally and psychologically through rape. I was working in the Naxalite corridor for the Mukti Foundation helping the poor and the downtrodden when I was simply taken away by the Red Army.
I had heard a lot about the Red Army as the ‘Naxals’ are generally called. Whether it was the cause they were fighting for or the kind of methods they used to attack the state which they felt was their enemy no 1, I was always interested to know more about them. Yes, there were dangers in what I did. But then if helping the poor and the needy is your job, why would you fear anyone? But they didn’t feel that way.
I was simply blindfolded, stuffed into a makeshift vehicle and taken away. The area resounded with the screams and cries of many like me who I suppose were being taken away for no fault of theirs. We must have travelled about half an hour into the jungle when we came to a stop. As I began to get my bearings, I was stunned to see almost an entire city built in the jungles. There seemed to be makeshift buildings and houses lined up till the eyes could see. The Naxals were dressed in army fatigues which easily camouflaged them from the jungle surroundings and roamed about the areas as if it was their fiefdom. Many of them seemed almost in their teens or just about their 20s. But their bodies which were rough with all the training they received belied their age. Interestingly, the number of female comrades seemed to outnumber the number of males.
Almost immediately as I got off, I was greeted with two incidents of torture that made me completely nauseatic. In the first instance, one of the Naxal soldiers pumped bullets into the body of an unarmed man and then began cutting open his stomach. In the second instance, a couple of Naxalites began drilling into the brain of an unarmed individual who had been tied to a chair. They were screaming. They were yelling. They was blood all around. But no one seemed to care a damn. These so called messiahs of the tribals seemed to think that torturing everyone was the best way to get yourself heard.
They kept me in a small room which had some basic facilities like a bed and a toilet. There was also a TV as well which was quite a surprise since we were inside a jungle. Seeing the royal treatment I was given as compared to the others, I was thanking god that I was lucky. But, Was I really lucky? Catching a foreigner would be a prize catch for them, wouldn’t it? With the kind of money they would get, they would be easily able to finance themselves. Seeing the construction around and their weapons arsenal which included AK-47s, rocket launchers, hand grenades and the likes, one could see that they had a lot of money. And obviously, most of it seemed to be generated through abductions.
This world seemed a far cry from the simple world I came. As the seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours, I was left wondering whether I would survive the toughest test of my life. Would someone save me? Would I face the same wrath as the others? Would I stay on to tell the tale? How much money would they ask for me? How many more days would I have to go through this? All these questions kept swirling in my head as I sat in the jungles of the Red Army.