OpIndia’s conducted an interview of surrendered Naxal Pahad Singh who had been an armed Naxal for 18 years. He had surrendered to the Chattisgarh police on 24th August and is said to be a high ranking Naxal. This surrender has proved to be a massive win for the security forces.
In OpIndia’s interview, Pahad Singh had made startling revelations. We had earlier reported that during the course of our interview, Pahad Singh had said that he had met Arun Ferreira in a high ranking Naxal meeting where Singh was made the secretary of two areas. He had also alleged that senior Central Committee members were present at this meet and that Arun Ferreira is actually a member of the “Rajya Committee” of CPI (Maoist). It is noteworthy that at this point in time, the interviewer had not named any of the ‘activists’ arrested by the police.
Pahad Singh had also asserted that he had heard the names of the ‘activists’ like Sudha Bhardwaj, Varavara Rao and Gautam Navlakha from high ranking Central Committee members on various occasions. He spoke about how there is no difference between the unarmed ideologues and gun toting Naxals.
Amidst all the revelations, Pahad Singh, as a man must be understood. It is imperative, that his journey from being a hardworking Tribal, to being a gun-toting high ranking Naxal and finally, his surrender is understood. Therein lies the key to defeating a violent ideology that works against the sovereignty of the nation and even the interest of the very adivasis they claim to fight for.
His early life
When the interview started, Pahad Singh appeared to be a soft-spoken and coy man who, after spending 18 years in the thick of forests, had lost connection with the outside world. However, once probed about the ideology, it didn’t take Singh time to open up. His monologue, his answers, almost an outpour of disgust. What made this deeply ironical was that Pahad Singh was no ordinary man. He was a hardened Naxal, albeit surrendered, who had seen his ‘comrades’ fall and had taken the lives of many, in his time. A hardened criminal who left the ideology that made him so. His journey holds the key to understand how Adivasis are brainwashed into joining Naxalism, how their misery is exploited with dreams of revolution, how they are made to feel like the mirror images of Bhagat Singh, and how, they are mercilessly betrayed.
Pahad Singh sat straight (and looked rather uncomfortable) when spoke about his early life in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. His voice picks up pace when he talks about his father who was a school teacher and wrote poems about the lives and struggles of Tribals. He said he was partially disabled as a child and was ridiculed by everyone for his limited physical abilities. He strived to be athletic and continued to be physically active. Eventually, he overcame his physical limitations.
He was inspired by patriotic poems written on Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and other freedom fighters. He completed his matriculation in 1987 and passed higher secondary examinations in 1989. He further added that due to poor financial conditions and his father’s deteriorating health, he used to work in the fields and go for collecting tendu leaves like his fellow villagers.
His first encounter with the Naxals and his subsequent joining
It was in the jungles while collecting tendu leaves that he had first seen Naxals. He recalls that the Naxals used to approach the Tribals and claim that they are fighting for Tribal rights. Adivasi Asmita. The Naxals used to tell the Tribals that the government is corrupt and unable to provide employment to Tribals hence they should join them to fight for their dignity.
Pahad Singh proudly recollects his early days stating he was an ambitious young man who wanted to achieve something in life. He says that when he completed his studies, the first job he had applied for was in CRPF. He tried subsequently for jobs in police forces and school teachership positions. He recollects that even after being selected and having his name displayed in a notice board among the successful candidates for a teaching position, he was denied a job because corruption and petty politics had favoured those who could afford to give bribes.
Disappointed after repeated failed attempts to secure a job, Pahad Singh says he started to see the truth in what the Naxals were claiming. He adds that despite him being an Adivasi and the government announcing various schemes and reservations for Adivasis over jobs and social welfare programs, the benefits still eluded the deserving Tribals because of corruption and neglect.
Pahad Singh recalls that it took almost decade for him to finally join the Naxals. He states that he believes in the rights and dignity of the Tribals and for the world to maintain its ecological and cultural balance, a thriving Tribal population is extremely necessary because it is the Tribals who protect forests and preserve the nature.
The ideological shift after joining Naxalism
He describes his first shock after joining the Naxal cadre as witnessing the ideological shift. He recalls that while the Naxals quote and talk about the ideas shared by freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Rajguru while trying to lure bright young people, once a person enters their ranks, it becomes all about Carl Marx, Mao, Stalin and Lenin. Being an educated and inquisitive person, he adds that he took an interest and tried to learn all about the ideologies of these leaders too.
The interviewer then asks what he learnt about Mao’s ideology, in all the years of being associated with the Maoists. Pahad Singh, emphatically replies that the strategy planned by Maoists is to start a guerrilla war from the forests of Gondwanaland and spread it all over India. He adds that while the Naxals pontificate about Tribal rights and dignity, their actual plan calls for war and bloodshed where the very Tribals will be the worst affected victims. He asserts that the ‘jobless intellectuals’ or ‘nithalla buddhijeevi’ as he claims the Naxal strategists are actually working to wipe out the Tribal population for the sake of their political goals. He further adds that in all these years of Naxalism and Maoist insurgency, the only thing the ideology has achieved is a genocide of innocent Tribals.
In a thought-provoking criticism of the Maoist ideology, Pahad Singh claims that it is only ironic that the Maoists claim to care for India’s indigenous Tribal people but they enforce an idea that was conceived and planned in China. Had the Naxals bothered about protecting the culture and rights of Tribals of India, they would have tried to implement the ideas of Chanakya, that were designed to integrate every village and rural settlement into receiving fair governance and sustainable growth.
Pahad Singh was asked what he thinks about the contradiction displayed by the ‘jobless intellectuals’ as they claim on one hand that Tribals are being suppressed by Brahminical impositions by the government and on the other hand they use Tribals themselves to labour and serve them while they dictate rules. His reply was that there is a huge difference between the words and deeds of the Naxal leaders. They preach about Tribals rights and powers while being completely ignorant about the basic structures and needs of the Tribal population.
Upon being asked about who were the people who dictate and rule over the Tribals sitting in ‘Chaar Manzil’ (A hill with bolsters where the Central Committee members or the Naxal ideologues sit), he replied that there were hypocrites who talk tall on Tribal rights and justice. They had power, they had weapons. The Tribals they recruit have no idea about the realities of the world, many of them are the kind of innocent souls who had never seen a train in their lives, such people are exploited for their service and often their lives so the ‘jobless intellectuals’ can run their agenda and enjoy comfortable lives in cities. He asserted that the Tribals don’t even know who the head of the village is, forget understanding what Mao’s ideology was. They trust whoever convinces them in the name of ‘Jal, Jungle, Zameen’ (water, forest, land). He adds that while the rest of the world has been progressing with science and development how can a failed ideology uplift the Tribals. It is worthy to note here, that Pahad Singh himself had seen the city perhaps for the first time in 18 long years.
Upon being asked how exactly the ‘jobless intellectuals’ exploit the Tribals and earn money, Pahad Singh replies that the Tribal areas are full of natural resources and that is the reason why Naxal leaders strive to keep control over the forest areas. They demand a share from contractors and businessmen for every natural product and mineral obtained from the forests. Crores of rupees are accumulated and none of it goes to the Tribals or the lower cadre Naxals. All the money goes to the higher committee. He reveals that the lower cadre Naxals get neither salaries nor benefits. Their families are told that the service to the Maoist cause should be selfless and dedicated. He further adds that the top leaders and urban Naxals often maintain another face for the outside world so the government and media do not get to know of their activities in the Tribal areas.
This portion of the interview can be viewed here: