For 17 hours over Monday and Tuesday, traffic on the national highway that connects Chhattisgarh to Andhra Pradesh came to a grinding halt. More than 1000 adivasis, both men and women, blocked the highway in protest against the arrest of Mutchaki Hadma, a primary school cook. The protestors brought food and utensils, pots and pans, and sat on the highway, determined to not budge till Hadma was released. The protest started gathering steam in late afternoon as people from eight villages clustered outside the Tongpal police station where Hadma had been detained. Not only did people come from the Chhindgarh block of Sukma district, where Tongpal is located, but also from the Darbha and Kuakonda blocks of Dantewada district, many walking more than 20 kilometres.
Sukma and Dantewada districts are part of the Bastar region in southern Chhattisgarh, where armed Maoist guerillas have been fighting a prolonged low intensity war against the Indian state for more than three decades. The last decade has seen a heavy influx of government security forces in the region. Viewing local people as agents and supporters of the insurgents, the police and paramilitary forces carry out searches and interrogations in the villages, which have created a heightened sense of anger and resentment.