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'There's no difference between police and Naxals'

By Prasanna D Zore
Last updated on: July 19, 2010 10:33 IST
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Prasanna D Zore speaks to the man the Chhattisgarh police claims masterminded a Maoist attack in the state.

Lingaram Kodopi, the alleged Maoist, calls you at six in the morning.

"You had sent a message on my phone on July 12," he tells this correspondent on July 15. "Can we talk now?"

Lingaram was branded by the Chhattisgarh police as the mastermind who planned an attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam and a police station in Kuakonda in Bastar, according to a newspaper report on July 11.

The 22-year-old tribal villager from Sameli in Bastar vehemently denies all the charges, but dares the Chhattisgarh police to arrest him if they have -- or even if they don't have -- any proof of his involvement.

"I'm on the 'most wanted' list of the Naxals now," he told

Despite failing his Class 10 exams he was recently (on July 4) admitted to a journalism college in Noida after they heard about how he had come into the crosshairs of the Naxals because he had dared to defy them by exhorting people in his village to not support their armed struggle and violent acts.

The Naxals threatened him with death if he didn't obey them. Now the Chhattisgarh police want him as the mastermind of an attack that left a 15-year old dead at Gautam's home.

In an interview with's Prasanna D Zore, a determined Lingaram takes on the Naxals as well as the Chhattisgrah police.

The Chhattisgarh police said you are the mastermind behind the attacks on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam's home and the Kuakonda police station in Bastar. What is your side of the story?

I am in Delhi now with good people. I am with various people's organisations that are raising their voice against injustices in Chhattisgarh. I do meet people like (Narmada Bachao Andolan leader) Medha Patkar, (sociologist) Dr Nandini Sundar and (author-activist) Arundhati Roy during press conferences. But is it a crime to meet people?

The Chhattisgrah police is trying to frame me by lying that I am the mastermind behind the attacks on Avdesh Gautam Singh's house and the police station in Kuakonda. They are doing it to deter me from doing my international journalism course.

They fear that I will expose their atrocities in the state if I become a journalist.

Earlier, they killed Sodhi Shambhu by alleging that he was an outsider. They said he used to extort money from the poor Adivasis.

They can't say that I am an outsider. So they are framing me to stifle my voice and the voices of many others who want to expose the shenanigans of the police as well as Naxalites.

You want to expose the Naxalites as well.

A lot of poor people in Chhattisgarh now believe that they can carry out their struggle against an unjust system even in a non-violent way, without resorting to an armed struggle. And they have been doing it under the aegis of the Indian People's Tribunal for quite some time in Bastar.

We had started to organise ourselves. When the Naxals realised this they sent a few of their comrades and took me deep into the jungles, some 50 km off a village named Potali, which is some 20 km from my village Sameli.

I was on my way to Potali on my motorbike when a gang of Naxals accosted me and took me along with them. Ganesh Uike, who is the secretary of the CPI-Maoists in Dantewada, threatened me.

They abused and threatened me with death if I continued to urge my village people to carry out peaceful protests against the government and stop supporting the Naxals's armed struggle. They were scared that the people's support for them was waning because of our movement.

They said that if I defied them and organised people they would kill me.

Why did the Naxals let you go? Why didn't they kill you then?

That's not their style. They warn first and if somebody still goes against them then they kill him.

They thought that if they scare me like this I would start dancing to their tunes. But I have defied them and I am on their 'most wanted' list now.

Atrocities like?

Like the killing of 76 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel in Dantewada. Why should the Naxals kill anybody? What had the poor CRPF done to them?

The politicians are the real culprits. I would blame all the big politicians as responsible for the plight of the poor tribals in the state.

Poor people join the CRPF so that they can help their families earn a decent living. Nobody will feed the poor if they don't find some sort of employment. They (the Naxals) are killing people who are fighting to quench their family's hunger.

Would you prefer going back to your village and launch a peaceful movement despite the Naxal threat?

Where else can I go? For me it is do or die now. On the one hand the police has branded me as a mastermind and on the other the Naxals too are after my life.

Now I can't go anywhere. I think either the Naxals or the police will kill me. But now I am not scared of anybody.

I will expose the Naxals as well as the police in Chhattisgarh whenever they commit atrocities.

Don't you fear the Naxals?

I have come here to study journalism only to get rid of that fear.

I have begun to feel the Naxals and the Chhattisgarh police are in cahoots with each other. Both of them want to cow down people who are daring them, demanding justice for the tribals and are not following their agendas in Chhattisgarh.

There is no difference between the police in my state and the Naxals.

Both of them engage in violent acts and kill people.

You don't believe in violence?

No. I believe in history, in peaceful agitation. Even Bhagat Singh believed that an armed struggle in itself couldn't achieve much. But the Naxals feel they can bring in a revolution by an armed conflict.

I condemn violence as a means to achieve goals.

The Chhattisgarh police have declared you as the mastermind behind two attacks. Has anybody from the state police come to arrest you?

First of all, they don't have any proof that I am the mastermind behind those attacks. From October 2009 I have been in Delhi and have been using the same mobile number.

I was in Sameli last April when the Naxals took me away and threatened me.

When they come calling on you and if you are alone you have to follow what they ask you to do. So I had to go along with them.

After that incident I had been to Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, who advised me to go to Delhi for he feared that the Naxals would kill me.

If I were to be the mastermind that the Chhattisgarh police wants the world to believe, then why would I waste my time thinking of attacking or killing a small leader? I would plan assassinations of big people.

If they have adequate proof then they can come and arrest me anytime.

Even if they want to arrest me without any proof they are free to do so. I am studying journalism in a Noida college.

They are also forcing my family to sign an affidavit saying that I had gone to a foreign country to train (in guerrilla warfare). Let them produce my passport and visa.

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'Chidambaram's action endangering peace and integrity'

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Prasanna D Zore