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Once a Naxal, Now a Commando: 30 Women Pick Up Weapons to End 'Hollow Ideology' of Extremists

The all-women anti-Maoist force is made of two groups of 30 highly trained women commandos, who are trained by Dantewada police that has an experience of fighting Maoists for over one and a half decades.

Raunak Shivhare | News18

Updated:May 16, 2019, 6:48 PM IST

On May 7, an encounter took place between Naxals and security forces in Bastar’s Dantewada district, close to the place where a BJP MLA along with his security guards was killed last month.

What was remarkable about the encounter was not just the swiftness with which it was carried out, killing two women Maoists and inflicting no casualties on the forces. It was the first time when a recently trained all-women anti-Maoist force ‘Danteshwari Fighters’ participated in the attacks.

Police sources told News18 that the all-women anti-Maoist team was at the forefront of the encounter which was jointly carried out in a coordinated manner by District Reserve Guards (DRG) and Special Task Force (STF) of the police. And their first operation is being seen as a big success.

The unit, perhaps the first counter-insurgency unit of its kind in the country, is likely to see more action in the days to come.

Who are ‘Danteshwari Fighters’

The all-women anti-Maoist force is made of two groups of 30 highly trained women commandos. One of them recruited and trained by Dantewada police, which has an experience of fighting Maoists for over one and a half decades.

Another unit of 30 women fighters have been borrowed from CRPF’s ‘Bastariya Battalion’ — a counter-insurgency unit made of only locals, which includes both men and women. The idea of having a local battalion was reportedly conceived first by CRPF a few years ago and active work on recruiting locals and training them started about a year back.

Sources said that some women personnel from Bastariya Battalion have been transferred to Danteshwari Fighters to lend discipline, skill and training to the newly-formed unit.

Danteshwari Fighters will be the sixth platoon to be formed under police’s District Reserve Guard (DRG) team. Five of the 30 women who have been recruited by Dantewada Police are former Naxals themselves, who publicly laid down their arms and decided to help police in curbing red extremism.

“It was a careful screening process. Women, some of who, as former Maoists themselves, have seen close combat were selected to be part of this unit. All the members of Danteshwari Fighters are quite familiar with the local terrain, and have been given necessary skills to take the Maoists head-on,” said Dantewada SP, Abhishek Pallav.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Dineshwari Nand has been put in charge of the team which has seen extensive training in jungle combat, Pallav added.

The all-women team has undergone a three month long extensive training in jungle warfare. They have been trained in tackling Maoist ambushes through five to ten different, complex formations. All the commandos in this unit have been trained to ride motorcycle on challenging terrain. They have also been trained in hand-to-hand combat and in using sophisticated automatic weapons.

Several reasons have been cited by senior police officers on the need to raise an all-women counter-insurgency force. One of them is the violence meted out to them at the hands of red extremists. Police officers said that the program started with giving women training to boost their confidence. But when a lot of female volunteers, including former-Naxals, expressed interest in fighting Maoists, they were put together as part of one unit.

Many of the members of Danteshwari Fighters have their own tales of sorrow, which is driving them to take on the Maoists.

Madhu Podiyami, a police constable, who became part of this unit, told News18 that in 2013 her husband was brutally murdered by Maoists. “When on Tuesday (May 7), I was selected to be part of the unit that was to take on the Maoists, it was the image of my deceased husband that was floating in my mind.”

Sunita Telan, a former Maoist who laid down her weapons in 2014, said that she started working for the red extremists in their cultural propaganda unit but was in time shifted to the armed guerilla unit. She says she broke away from the Maoist ranks because she was fed up with their “hollow ideology.”

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