Archive for November 2016


Culture minister Mahesh Sharma does some practised hop and skip around Sonia Sarkar’s questions
The minister meets each of his visitors, embraces some, laughs aloud now and then (often at his own jokes), narrates a story or two — and keeps an eye on me. I am waiting for Mahesh Sharma in his office in Delhi’s Transport Bhawan, and can hear the culture and tourism minister say — in a particularly loud voice — that he is soon going to get busy with the Prime Minister.

He has just declined an invitation to preside over a function. For that is the day when he has to be present with the Prime Minister at another event, he explains. “I’ll be there all day,” he tells the visitor, and then looks at me. “On that day, I have to focus on that event, and on nothing else. You know, he is such a perfectionist,” he says.

It is interesting to watch him from the sidelines. The member of Parliament from Gautam Budh Nagar, or Noida, in Uttar Pradesh is discussing an event with a group of men from the Gujjar community; it’s about laying the foundation stone of an archaeological institute in Greater Noida, which falls in his constituency.

“Don’t forget to add the Kashmir angle to this,” he tells his aides in Hindi while discussing the event.

Elections are round the corner in UP, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader is invoking nationalism. Kashmir and the Indian Army are subjects that the minister likes to hold forth on. He tells his visitors how Gujjars — Muslim shepherds of Kashmir — have helped the army by keeping an eye on infiltrators from Pakistan.

“Soniaji, aap jitne bhi badi editor ho jaayen, yeh general knowledge kahin nahi milega (however big a journalist you may become, you won’t get this bit of general knowledge anywhere),” he tells me.

“You know, Gujjars in Kashmir played a major role as informers for the army in our two wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1999 (Kargil),” he adds.

Clearly, for the BJP, it’s important to keep the nationalist flag flying — and the memory of Uri alive, the September 18 incident in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed by Pakistani terrorists. In the run-up to the UP polls, the party
has placed huge billboards across various towns in the state, lauding the army’s surgical strikes which followed the Uri attack.

‘‘All national television channels were showing everything about the surgical strikes. These were not visible in UP alone. If people want to link them with the elections, let them,” he says.

His ministry is contemplating steps which may or may not be linked with the polls, depending on how you view them. Sharma announced a Ramayana museum project for Ayodhya. The town is also expected to be a part of the Ramayana circuit, one of three religious circuits to be promoted by his tourism ministry.

The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Vinay Katiyar, who has been making disgruntled sounds of late, called the Ramayana project a pre-poll “lollipop”. Is that right, Mr Sharma?

“No, it’s purely tourism. We have been working on this for the past one year. We want to take tourism to new heights,” the 58-year-old minister maintains.

Sharma is an uncharacteristically reticent man, meeting journalists at any rate. He is chary of the media, which has often been critical of him. And that’s mainly because he courts controversy every time he opens his mouth. Not too long ago, he had addressed the visiting New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, as McCullum — the former skipper of the Kiwi cricket team.

Last year, he had the media zero in on him when he said that night outs for girls were not a part of Indian culture. Then again, he urged women foreign tourists not to wear short skirts if they wanted to stave off harassment.

Why does he make such comments, I ask him.

“That’s my subject, my ministry is like that,” he replies.

The hemline of skirts comes under the culture and tourism ministries?

“See, I clarified immediately [after the comment was made],” he adds. “Suppose you say that I abused you. Then someone asks me if I abused you, and I said, no, I did not. Then that chapter should be closed there.”

But he agrees to explain his stand once more. “I never said that girls should not do nights out. Whatever statement I made in the past, people made controversies out of them. I am not an expert in facing the media. I am a doctor by profession,” he says with a smile on his face.

Some would, however, say that Sharma suffers from a foot-in-mouth syndrome, I point out. “This could be somebody’s nature,” he admits.

It’s clear that Sharma is measuring his words. On some issues, he prefers not to comment. He will not react to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray’s demand that Karan Johar pay the army’s welfare fund Rs 5 crore as “penance” for signing up a Pakistani actor in his last film.

“Why should I comment on that,” Sharma asks. “If I say something, you will again say, I have a foot-in-mouth disease,” he says.

He won’t comment on self-styled cow vigilantes or gau rakshaks who have lynched Dalits for allegedly skinning dead cows. I prod him a little bit, and he responds. “No human being should be lynched — it’s to be condemned and stopped,” he says.

In that case, how is it that he paid homage to Ravin Sisodia, who was accused of lynching Mohammed Akhlaque in Dadri in 2015 for allegedly storing beef?

“You know, people have polluted minds,” Sharma says. “I am the member of Parliament from that area. Except me, nobody has the right to visit those places. And remember, he was an accused, not a convict. Also, there was a stress situation between locals and the police after his death. I went there to ease the tension.”

He points out that he also met Akhlaque’s family after he was killed. “I also got his injured son operated in my hospital,” he says, referring to Noida’s Kailash Hospital, which he owns. “I gave consent to his surgery at midnight. So as the MP, I did the right thing,” says Sharma, who had earlier called Akhlaque’s murder an accident.

As a minister, Sharma has often been in the eye of raging storms. It was reported in July that his ministry was grading writers and artistes in the country as “promising”, “outstanding” and “waiting”. His ministry is also pushing for the Rs 5-crore Kashi to Kashgar road project, proposed by the Archaeological Survey of India. This project seeks to retrace an ancient route that Buddhist missionaries took from Kashi to Kashgar in China’s Uyghur region.

Sharma has also come under periodic fire for replacing heads of government-run cultural institutes with people said to be handpicked by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). He, however, insists that there is no concerted move to “saffronise” these institutes.

“Whenever a new Prime Minister comes, he has a vision on how these institutes should work. When I am entrusted with this responsibility by the PM, I ensure that all these organisations work for the cause for which they have been created. Their job is to showcase India’s rich heritage and culture for the country and the world,” he says.

And that didn’t happen earlier? “I won’t comment on how they worked earlier. But I don’t have a vision about throwing out the Left. All the institutes required some changes, so I made them,” he holds.

Sharma’s links with the RSS are known — and he is proud of them. “The RSS instilled the idea of ‘nation first’ in me.” He came in contact with the RSS just before he joined Delhi University’s University College of Medical Sciences.

Sharma says he always wanted to be a doctor. “When I was eight or nine, somebody in my village said that was a 25 paise coin inside a squirrel’s head. To know if that was true, I killed a squirrel,” he recounts.

“There were people who buried their children in the village. I, along with my friends, dug them out to study them. I
always had a medical bent of mind,” he says.

Sharma opens up — and he may well have put the foot back where it belongs with these gory details — only when he speaks about his childhood. But on matters of policy and governance, he has clearly decided that he is going to be circumspect when the media is around.

He says as much to a visitor who wants to discuss a proposal for a heritage reality show involving school children.
“I think, every child should know about the country’s rich heritage and culture. They should have a ‘country first’ feeling,” he tells her. “But when I say this, the media will write, dekho, bhagwakaran kar rahe hai (he is trying to saffronise them),” Sharma tells her, pointing to me.

It’s not easy being Mahesh Sharma. And it’s certainly not easy being a mediaperson with him.


1960s: Sharma spends his early years in Alwar, Rajasthan. While he is still in school, the family moves to Delhi and at 14, Sharma gets involved with the RSS. Joins ABVP eventually; completes the rest of his education
1983: Starts his career as a general physician in Noida. Later, establishes Kailash Healthcare Limited, a chain of hospitals in Uttar Pradesh
2009: Contests the 15th Lok Sabha elections on BJP ticket from Gautam Budh Nagar and loses. But in 2012, gets into the UP Assembly
2014: A week before Lok Sabha polls, the Congress candidate for Gautam Budh Nagar — Ramesh Chand Tomar — crosses over to the BJP. This tips the scales in Sharma’s favour. He wins and is inducted into the Union Cabinet
Given the portfolios of culture, tourism and civil aviation. Hogs headlines with his remarks about the late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam — that he was a great man “despite being a Muslim” — and the need for a “cultural cleansing” of the country
2016: Announces bonanza of nine airports for UP. Manages to get the ministry to agree to build a second airport near Delhi, in Jewar. (Kailash Hospital in Jewar started functioning in 2015)
A day later, loses crown of junior civil aviation minister in Cabinet reshuffle. Bureaucrats describe him as a “big talker” always trying to hog the limelight


Sonia Sarkar travels to the benighted Bastar heartland and discovers a populace scalded by a rogue conflict between Maoists and proxy striking arms of the state. Her report

  • DEATH AIN’T NO WAY OF LIVING: Anita and Ramesh Mandavi at their home in Surnar village, Dantewada. Their brother, Kanki, was allegedly killed in a fake encounter in January this year; Pic: Sonia Sarkar

The two teenagers were inseparable. They danced together at village weddings, laughed together – and died together. They were near a stream, chatting the way they always did, when they were gunned down by a group of policemen.

“I saw the cops shooting them,” says 19-year-old Vanjam Hungla, another resident of Palamadgu village in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.

Sariyam Pojje and Vanjam Shanti fell to the ground. Hungla saw that. Pojje was still alive. “Then the cops shot her again,” Hungla says. “The bullet hit her stomach and her intestines popped out.” He could see a packet of tamarind chutney tied to her waist.

Hungla, detained by the police for 19 days after the killing, says he was asked to carry the bodies to the Polampally police station, 10 kilometres from where they were killed on January 30.

The police later said that the girls were Maoists: their names were added to the growing list of “Maoists killed in encounters” in Chhattisgarh.

The two teenagers, villagers say, were killed by constables of the ” arakshak police” or the District Reserve Guard (DRG). Most DRG members are surrendered Maoists. Some left the underground guerrilla group after being disillusioned by their ideology; some for a better life. Joining the DRG or the Gopniya Sainik (Secret Police) assures them of an income and perks.

“Some of them ate a roti and sat under a fan for the first time in their lives after joining the force,” says IG (Bastar range) S.R.P. Kalluri.

  • Divide and kill: File photograph of a District Reserve Guard team returning from an anti-Maoist operation

In the last two years, 123 former Maoists have joined the DRG. Villagers tell you that the DRG has the freedom to do what it wants. Homes are looted, villages burnt down, women raped and killed, men tortured and left to die. “They are not fighting Maoists, but the Adivasis (tribals),” says Somali Hemla, a 55-year-old Bijapur villager.

Hemla knows that well. Her 27-year-old son, Situ, was killed – allegedly by the DRG – in July.

“Situ was working in the fields when some 100 policemen dragged him to a nearby forest. He was nailed to a tree and shot,” Hemla recalls. “Later, we heard that the cops thought he was a Maoist commander who had the same name,” she says as she looks at a photograph of Situ, tears rolling down her gaunt cheeks.

Her youngest son, Paklu, 25, says he saw the men. “I recognised them. They were from our village.” He was picked up by the police and detained for over a month at the Gangaloor police station after Situ’s death.

His elder brother, Sukharam, 31, was charged with being a Maoist and has been in jail for 11 years. He was picked up by members of the proscribed civil militia group, Salwa Judum.

Salwa Judum is dead, but long live DRG. The former was disbanded in 2012, following orders from the Supreme Court. But the DRG has emerged from its ashes – and is seemingly serving the same purpose.

The 1,500-member DRG is the Chhattisgarh government’s way of dealing with Maoist-dominated Bastar. The force was set up in 2015, and emerged as a powerful body after its members were allowed to carry out search operations. The Central Reserve Police Force, too, has started recruiting tribals for a new force called the Bastariya Battalion.

Over the years, the Bastar police have hired villagers in different forms. Tribal members were encouraged to join as special police officers (SPOs), and then enroll in the Auxiliary Armed Forces. The joining rules – including educational and physical requirements – were tweaked to enable the government to recruit tribals. The SPO has since been disbanded.

The DRG, villagers believe, kills anyone thought to be linked to the Maoists. Villagers say that Pojje and Shanti used to attend meetings convened by Maoists, like many other villagers.

For many of the new DRG members, the job comes with the promise of protection. “I had no option but to join the force as police officials said I would get killed [by the Maoists or by the police itself] if I didn’t join them,” says a DRG constable. “It’s better to be here. At least, there is protection.”

There is also money. The government gives Maoists Rs 10,000 when they surrender. On being recruited as constables, they are paid Rs 20,000 a month. Some are sent for specialised arms training to the Counter Terrorism & Jungle Warfare College Kanker in Chhattisgarh, and a few to Mizoram’s Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School.

The police claim the new strategy is yielding results. Over 110 Maoists have been killed in anti-Maoists operations carried out by the DRG and the special task force (STF) so far this year – recording the highest number of deaths in the last 16 years.

“They know the terrain and topography well. They also know the Maoist hideouts,” Kalluri says.

This was the role that was given to the Salwa Judum, too. Set up in 2005, it is believed to have displaced over 1,50,000 people and killed 250 over seven years. Its demise led to the formation of new groups. The villagers allege that the names change, but the aim and execution remain the same.

In Jagdalpur, the district headquarters – where Kalluri’s close lieutenant, R.N. Dash, is the district superintendent of police – groups such as the Action Group for National Integration (AGNI), Police Friends, Police Natya Mandali and Jai Bastar Vikas Sangharsh Samiti have come up in recent times.

For the forces, the men’s knowledge of the terrain is all important. They can trek to the hilly and forested interiors with ease – something that the city police have difficulty doing.

Development has bypassed many of the villages, as has governance. The heads of most village panchayats live in the cities as they fear Maoist attacks. Villages such as Palamadgu and Koraiguda in Sukma are governed by a “Janatana Sarkar” – people’s government. Villagers say that the “Sarkar” repairs wells and distributes medicines. The two villages have freshly painted memorials for Maoists killed by the police.

Some villagers accuse the police of forcing them to join them. “They come for search operations and make us stand in a line. Then they ask, ‘Are you with us or with them’,” says Basuram Kuriam, a Dantewada villager. “I wish we could tell them that we are not with either.”

Sometimes, the villagers succeed in resisting the police. When constables from the Dhaudai police station asked young men of Narayanpur’s Sulenga to join them, the entire village opposed the move. “We asked them to first give us good roads, then to come to us for our boys. Now they don’t harass us anymore,” a villager says.

Mostly, however, villagers have little choice but to give in. And they allege that young men of their villages continue to be killed for no reason. That is what happened to Kanki Mandavi of Surnar village in Dantewada, they say. The 20-year-old deaf and mute man was picked up by the police from a market on January 26. A day later, he was killed with two Maoists, Bal Singh and Kosa, in an alleged encounter at the Turrempara-Lakhapal forest area.

“But Kanki had no links with the Maoists,” says his malaria-hit brother, Ramesh.

The world outside Bastar is taking note of these deaths. The Supreme Court in April slammed the state government for fake encounters. Top police officials also admit that there have been human rights violations. “In February, I wrote to the SPs to say that no police force is above the law,” says D.M. Awasthi, special director-general (Naxal Operation and Special Intelligence Bureau).

Some among the new recruits are troubled by the operations. “Perhaps I will join the Maoists again, if I get a chance,” says a surrendered Maoist, now in the DRG.

In Bastar, nothing changes.


The rise and fall of Salwa Judum

  • A civil militia started by the state government in 2005
  • Accused of raiding and burning down villages, torture, rape and murder
  • More than 250 people estimated to have been killed and 1,50,000 villagers displaced by the group over seven years
  • Was active in Dantewada, Bijapur and Sukma districts
  • Top leaders — Mahendra Karma, Ajay Singh, Soyam Mukka, Chaitram Attami and Sukhdev Tati
  • In 2011, Supreme Court called it illegal and unconstitutional; asked the state to disband it
  • Disbanded in 2012


District Reserve Guard (DRG)

  • Operates under the superintendent of police of a district
  • Since 2015, surrendered Maoists have been encouraged to join the force because they know the terrain and Maoist hideouts
  • Some of them are trained in the Counter Terrorism & Jungle Warfare College Kanker, and a select few are sent to Mizoram’s Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School
  • Many members state that they joined the force for police protection

Other Vigilante groups aiding security forces

1. Action Group for National Integration (AGNI)
2. Police Friends
3. Tangia
4. Jai Bastar Vikas Sangharsh Samiti
5. Samajik Ekta Manch (recently disbanded)


  • Number of Maoists killed: 188
  • Number of surrendered Maoists: 1902
  • Number of surrendered Maoists who joined the DRG (2015-16): 53 
  • Number of surrendered Maoists who joined the Secret Police or Gopniya Sainik: 70
  • Number of Maoists camps raided by the police: 21

Police figures; from June 2014 to November 2016

List of alleged fake encounters in 2016

  • January 2016: 13 civilians killed in Pedda Jojod and Akwa in Bijapur, Palamadgu in Sukma, and Surnar in Dantewada
  • February 2016: Three civilians killed in Singaram, Itanapara and Chintagupa in Sukma
  • May 2016: Four civilians killed in Marjum in Dantewada and Kanaiguda in Sukma
  • June 2016: Madkam Hidme of Gompad in Sukma was picked up from her village, raped and killed by police. Chhattisgarh High Court later directed that the body be exhumed and a postmortem be conducted and videographed
  • July 2016: Teen undertrial killed in Chandometa in Bastar
  • September 2016: Two children killed in the Sanguel forests of Burgum

Figures and names given out by Maoist groups and villagers



Bastar police boss S.R.P. Kalluri reveals to Sonia Sarkar the symptoms of his troubled reputation

  • Illustration: Suman Choudhury

    The mood changes palpably as the white car enters Jagdalpur Airport. Men in uniform straighten their spines; civilians are on their feet. An eerie silence descends on the helipad.

    But the man who alights from the car looks surprisingly innocuous. Is this short and stout man, just about five feet tall, the one who is referred to as the terror of Bastar? I can’t believe it.

    Neither can K. Sivarama Prasad Kalluri, the controversial inspector-general of police (IGP), Bastar Range, Chhattisgarh. “The people of Bastar love me,” says the 45-year-old officer in charge of the seven districts of Bastar, a Maoist hotbed.

    Perhaps not all of them. Bastar villagers accuse Kalluri of unleashing men on them who torture, rape and terrorise them. They are behind fake encounters and forced surrenders, many villagers allege, Kalluri is fighting Adivasis, not the Maoists.

    Not the villagers, Kalluri – a follower of Rajneesh, the late godman of Pune – counters. “It’s only people from Delhi such as Nandini Sundar who come to Bastar and spread negativity about me,” he says.

    Kalluri brings in the Delhi University professor often into the conversation. Sundar and three others were booked by the Chhattisgarh police last week for the murder of a tribal, Shamnath Baghel, of Namapara in Soutenar village in Sukma district.

    Baghel, a member of a local armed vigilante group called Tangia, had lodged a complaint in May against Sundar, Jawaharlal Nehru University professor Archana Prasad, and political activists Vineet Tiwari and Sanjay Parate. According to Kalluri, Baghel had said that Sundar had threatened him, saying that if he didn’t stop his battle against the Maoists, they would kill him.

    “Sundar will be investigated for this. We are going to make an issue out of this. But we are otherwise very busy,” Kalluri says when we meet in Jagdalpur on November 6.

    But something doesn’t seem right. When Kalluri speaks about Sundar on Sunday, there has been no mention in the media about the murder charges against them. Yet, when the news breaks, it appears that the charges were filed on November 5, Saturday.

    Baghel’s wife Vimala had delivered a baby boy on November 2. Baghel, who lived elsewhere with other Tangia members, visited her that day. He was killed two days later, at midnight, when he was sleeping at home, Kalluri says.

    Four days later, Kalluri informs me over the phone that an FIR against Sundar and the others was lodged at the Tongpal police station on November 5, based on Vimala’s complaint. Vimala, however, later told a news channel that she had not named Sundar or the others in her complaint.

    Further, it’s a distance of 14 kilometres or so from her house to the police station. Did she walk all the way right after giving birth to a baby, I ask him.

    “How does that matter,” he retorts. “You’re insensitive, inhumane and uncivilised. You are not a court of law. Do you think I care for you? You are just a journalist like hundreds of others. You cannot interrogate me. From your question, I can make out that you are going to come up with a negative story. I care a damn for journalists like you, coming from outside and trying to play havoc with Bastar.”

    He rants on for five minutes and 30 seconds. “Ask proper questions, be humane. Tribals are getting slaughtered because of remote control [actions] from JNU and DU. I will eliminate Maoism from Bastar, it’s my challenge. If you are sympathetic to the cause of tribals and democracy, I am willing to spend days and hours with you. If you want to write a negative story, don’t waste my time. Are these professors running terror camps in PoK or educating enlightened students? She threatens and the complainant gets killed, is this civilisation?”

    He bangs the phone down.

    Sundar, whose legal actions led to the ban on the government-led vigilante group, Salwa Judum, in 2011, is the Chhattisgarh police’s favourite bugbear. The 2010 Infosys Prize winner has often highlighted excesses committed by Kalluri’s forces. In May, she had filed a report about staged surrenders and mass arrests of tribals by the police. Her interventions also led the Central Bureau of Investigation to file a chargesheet against special police officers and Salwa Judum members for burning down 160 houses in Tadmetla in Dantewada district in 2011. Kalluri was then the senior superintendent of police (SSP) there.

    Kalluri is a lot more effusive before I raise the issue of Vimala and infuriate him. I ask him if the chargesheet has come as a setback for him.

    “I am working in full force, so where is the setback,” he asks. “Nandini Sundar and others will not be able to enter Bastar. People will stone them. They are on the run, and they are on the back foot. Strict legal action will be taken against anyone trying to tamper with our internal security. She has been inciting people to violence. They are inciting mutiny, a rebellion. They are all renegades,” he fumes.

    The super cop has no time for people who talk about human rights violations. He himself has faced such allegations. In 2007, civil liberties groups in the state took up the case of Leda Bai, a tribal woman in Balrampur, who had accused Kalluri of killing her husband and then raping her inside the Shankargarh police station. Leda later withdrew her complaint before the Bilaspur high court, and the case was dismissed. There have been allegations against him relating to fake encounters and forced surrenders, too.

    “So many commissions have been formed in these so-called fake cases (encounters) but, so far, all the allegations have been proved baseless,” he says.

    Kalluri doesn’t care too much for “people from Delhi” who come to Chhattisgarh to talk or write about tribal issues. The phrase “you journalists from Delhi” figures often in his conversation. He tells his aides, “These journalists who come from Delhi think that Maoists are Robin Hood.”

    The aides, including Jagdalpur superintendent of police, R.N. Dash, mill around him as we chat at the airport in the Bastar district headquarters (from where Kalluri is going to take a chopper). A 1994 batch IPS officer, Kalluri belongs to Andhra Pradesh, is a devotee of Lord Balaji, and sports an ash tilak prominently on his forehead. A constable brings him a glass of water. But Kalluri doesn’t want it. ” Hataao yahan se (remove it),” he shouts.

    The civilians waiting for him are members of a civil vigilante group called the Action Group for National Integration (AGNI), created under his guidance. They are lawyers, teachers, doctors, trade unionists and Bharatiya Janata Party members. Some of them were with the disbanded group, Samajik Ekta Manch, which allegedly harassed activists and journalists in Jagdalpur.

    “They are all nationalists who want to do something for the nation,” Kalluri stresses. “But there is a policeman in everyone.”

    I find that I am not the only one taking down notes; an AGNI member is scribbling everything down furiously, too. He is a journalist, he says.

    Kalluri uses the social media extensively to spread his messages. A day after we meet, he sends me on WhatsApp over 35 images, videos and newspaper clippings – some of which show him posing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Kalluri tells Modi will eradicate Maoists before the next election,” says the headline of one newspaper clipping.

    He has the blessings of chief minister, Raman Singh, too. That’s the patent Kalluri style – staying close to power. (He was also known to be close, as Bilaspur SP, to Chhattisgarh’s first chief minister, Ajit Jogi.) These days he is seen as the current CM’s man. In 2009, he became the senior SP in Dantewada; in 2014, he was Bastar IG.

    The cop measures his success in numbers. He talks about the appreciative letters he has received from the ministry of home affairs in Delhi. More than 110 Maoists have been killed so far this year – the highest number of casualties in 16 years. He has been encouraging surrendered rebels to join the District Reserve Guard (DRG), which has led to successful anti-Maoist operations.

    “They (surrendered Maoists) are always after us, saying, ‘Sir, party nikaliye, operation jana hai (bring out a posse, we want to go on an operation),” Kalluri says.

    What about allegations that DRG recruits have been killing innocent villagers in the operations? “The police fire only in self-defence,” he replies.

    And then he elaborates, “It may appear that they are villagers but they are basically members of their frontal organisation, the People’s Liberation Army. When the man goes to a bazaar, he is a villager. But when the police run after him, he will pick up his bharmar (firearm) and fight.”

    Human rights activists allege that Kalluri is pitting tribals against each other. “They are using villagers and we are equipping villagers to fight their own war,” he says. “We ask villagers, are you on this side or that?”

    Kalluri insists that he has a humane face. Recently, he organised the wedding of former Maoists. “Sex is a biological instinct. So we tell them, if you want to join the mainstream, we will also see that you marry someone of your choice; we will pay for it. And we do it in a fabulous way,” he claims. “If someone’s marriage breaks, I am the first person to help them patch up. There is lot of love and hard work in it,” he says.

    He is getting ready now to board the helicopter, accompanied by Dash and AGNI members. He is going to Burgum, 72 kilometres from Jagdalpur, to meet villagers. “We want to leave behind a legacy,” he tells me. “In two years, Bastar will become a heaven.”

    I can already hear the harps playing.


    2000: Kalluri, a 1994 batch IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh, opts for the Chhattisgarh cadre

    He is posted as SP in northern Chhattisgarh. Is credited with decimating Maoist legions in Surguja district

    Efficiency apart, he also comes to be known as a ruthless figure. In 2007, Leda Bai, a tribal woman in Balrampur, accuses him of killing her husband and then raping her when she tried to get legal help
    2011: During his tenure as SSP Dantewada, three villages are burnt down allegedly on his orders. Uproar follows. Judicial enquiry is ordered and Kalluri is transferred
    2013: He is conferred the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service despite criticism by civil rights activists
    2014: The Chhattisgarh government appoints him IG of Bastar Range to battle Maoists. Kalluri’s hot-pursuit targets include social activists, academicians and journalists