‘We will overthrow the government’

Naxal ‘commander’ Kunjam, somewhere in the forests of Dantewada, outlines his worldview
Up in smoke Tribal women Sanni salvages a fraction of her harvest after the Judum set it on fire Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Who do you hold responsible for the Salwa Judum?
The people find the government fully responsible for it. This is class war. There are the rich, and there are the poor. With the rich robbing the poor, the poor had begun to organise against their exploitation. This scared the government and it launched this brutal movement so it could continue to loot.

Continue to loot?
This is the government of the capitalists and middlemen. They are looting national resources and have raised Salwa Judum for that purpose.

A few Salwa Judum men, who were earlier Naxals, told me that they were sick of your violence because you forced them to kill others.
That’s not true. They have crossed over because the police took to killing Naxals or Naxal supporters, and that scared them.

Are you in touch with your former comrades who are now with Salwa Judum?
We are in contact with those ex-Naxals who have quit the Salwa Judum camps and gone back to their villages.

The government says the villagers have sought police protection because you kill innocent villagers.
We have been here 35 years. The villagers always lived in their homes, celebrating festivals, praying to their gods. They had no fear of us. They moved to the Salwa Judum camps only after the government began burning their villages and brutalising them.

The government says it wants to bring education, healthcare, roads and electricity to Bastar but the Naxals don’t want development.
The people want hospitals and schools but not roads, which don’t bring development. The roads are built for the police to access our villages and tyrannise us.

The government, too, wants to bring schools and healthcare. Where is the conflict?
We don’t trust this government. Our goal is to establish the rule of our party on the basis of the Maoist-Marxist-Leninist ideology. We are fighting for that.

Do you have any demands from the government?
No. The people want their own governments to take power: in the villages, districts and the state. The schools will be ours, as will be the hospitals.

What will be the key features of a Maoist-Marxist-Leninist nation, should you achieve one?
Apart from the hospitals and schools, we will create a panchayati raj-based judicial system.

People took to the guns in Kashmir and Punjab but were brutally put down. What makes you think you can defeat the state?
We will properly organise the poor among India’s 1.1 billion people, build good politics among them, and be successful one day.

Mahatma Gandhi showed the way of nonviolence. Mao showed the way of the gun. Do you think Gandhi’s way has failed India?
We only believe in the Maoist-Marxist- Leninist way of life.

How will the cities be under your party’s rule?
Factories will be there. People will get their full wages.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said India faces its gravest danger from Naxalism.
Manmohan Singh rules India. [Chief Minister] Raman Singh rules Chhattisgarh. We challenge their authority and are on course to overthrow them and establish our rule. That’s why they think we are their biggest threat.

Do you see industry, too, as your enemy?
This government has contracted with foreign countries such as the US, Russia and Japan to sell off India’s national resources. It is a puppet in their hands.

What do you think of the US?
It is in great financial danger now, as is India.

Were the Chhattisgarh Government to agree to wind up Salwa Judum and invite you for talks, how would you respond?
We have shed blood in this fight. We won’t betray our slain comrades by talking to this or any other government.