A murmur of amusement rippled through the corridor in Jagdalpur court on October 1, as Joga*, a panchayat member of Bhadrimahu village, read out the headlines in the previous day’s newspapers to a group of his neighbours. “About 150 villagers from Bhadrimahu village of Darbha block descended 14 kilometres by foot to reach Darbha thana seeking security against the Maoists,” one of the newspapers reported. The report went on to quote SRP Kalluri, the Inspector General of police, Bastar, as saying: “The population of Bastar is now wake. They are fed up with the Maoists, which is why the villagers reached Darbha thana.” The Superintendent of Police, Ajay Yadav, was quoted to say : “The villagers want peace now… It was only after much persuasion and sufficient assurance of protection that the villagers left for their homes.”
Listening to the reports, the villagers could not suppress their laughter, despite the grim circumstances that had brought them to the region’s administrative centre. The policemen were lying, they said. They had trekked from their village on September 29 to secure the release of five village boys arrested by the police. A local journalist, Santosh Yadav, had noted their testimonies. Hours later, he too was arrested by the police. Now, the villagers had gathered in his support outside the courtroom where he was being presented by the police.