IN their olive green fatigues, the women guerrillas look tough and disciplined. These mostly illiterate, erstwhile tendu leaf pickers are trained to wield the gun, raid police stations and set up ambushes. They can now read and write. Some have even stringed together a few verses and songs. Military training apart, they devote at least two hours a day to basic education and studying party ideology.
About 150 women in the Bastar belt joined the movement after revolting against the male-dominated tribal society. Many were tortured and hounded out of their homes. Others joined the cause because their families were already part of the PWG.
Being a woman guerrilla means roughing it out in the jungles. While there is no discrimination, there are no special privileges for them. Even as the first rays of the sun filter in through the trees, they are up and about. The morning begins with a drill. The women fall in line along with the men. From ‘sentry duty’ to ambushing police parties, these women have proved their mettle.
Though they wield their guns...