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Adivasi activist Soni Sori to raise national flag in Maoist stronghold on August 15

Raipur: It was August 15, 2010, in a village called Tirkanar in Narayanpur district in south Chattisgarh that a teacher of a primary school was distributing perched grain coated with sugar and molasses. It was his “ritual” of celebrating Independence Day, the teacher explained to this correspondent. He was even carrying the tricolour but could not hoist it. The AK-47 carrying Maoist cadres explained the reason.

Soni Sori. Photo Credit: Suvojit Bagchi

“The teacher thinks he is an Indian, so he brings some sweet and the flag each year. We like him so we let him bring the flag but never allow him to hoist it, as this is a liberated zone, not under India,” the Maoist commander of the area said. Later the Maoists, with the help of the locals, raised a black flag in the school premises. “August 15 is Black Day for us,” they explained. After raising the black flag the teacher, the Maoists and the children shared the sweet meats and the sugar coated paddy.

For several decades, there is no Independence Day celebration in the vast swathes of forest land of south Chattiagarh, controlled by the outlawed CPI-Maoist. The flag is only hoisted in heavily fortified camps of the joint forces or offices of the mainstream political parties. In fact, Congress MLA, Kawasi Lakhma of Konta, which is still a Maoist stronghold, once said that he is “not too keen to hoist national flag in his area.” Hoisting of tricolour irks the Maoists and thus the local residents refrain from raising the flag.

However, tribal activist Soni Sori, arrested and tortured by the security forces for being a Maoist sympathiser, is now all set to raise the tricolour on August 15 in the same Konta area, in a village called Gompad, with strong Maoist presence.

“I have selected Gompad because it was in this village that an innocent villager Madkam Hidme was picked, raped and later killed,” Ms Sori told The Hindu on Wednesday during his visit to Kolkata to address a seminar. Ms Sori is expecting at least 12 organisations, including leading tribal association of Bastar Division Sarbo Adivasi Samaj and few political parties, to participate in the flag hoisting programme.

“We will start a 200 kilometers padyatra [rally] from the Ambedkar statue in the Dantewada town on August 9 to mark Quit India movement and reach Gompad in Konta on August 15 to hoist the flag,” Ms Sori. She hopes that neither the Maoists nor the security forces would stop her from raising the flag, which the forces could not do over last several decades.

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