In 2005, the state government of Chhattisgarh in central India raised an armed group of tribals called Salwa Judum (Peace March’ or ‘Purification Hunt’ in Gondi) to complement the state and central security forces combating the Maoist insurgents in the state. Conferred with almost unlimited powers, Salwa Judum soon outgrew its mandate and became a much feared name in the jungles of Chhattisgarh.
Caught in the crossfire between the security forces including the Salwa Judum and the Maoists, many Muria villagers walked through thick jungles for days and crossed the border into the neighbouring state of Telangana, where they are harassed by police and forest officials.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of India disbanded Salwa Judum terming it illegal and unconstitutional. Several NGOs have since facilitated the Murias’ transition back to their respective villages but most of them opted to stay back as the memories of home were too painful and the conflict is still raging on.
On assignment for Fountain Ink, August 2013.