In 2005, the government of Chhattisgarh in central India raised an armed civilian vigilante group called the Salwa Judum (Peace March or Purification Hunt in Gondi) to complement state and central security forces in combating Maoist insurgents in the state. Given almost unlimited powers, the Salwa Judum soon outgrew its mandate and became a feared name in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.
Caught in the crossfire between security forces and Maoists, many indigenous Muria tribals undertook a long and hazardous passage to the neighbouring state of Telangana. Here, too, they continue to be harassed by police and forest officials.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of India disbanded the Salwa Judum, terming it illegal and unconstitutional. Several NGOs have since facilitated the Murias’ transition back to their respective villages but most opted to stay back rather than revisit memories of home, where the conflict had no resolution in sight.