In Hindu mythology, Dandakaranya is the region where dutiful Devas led by Lord Rama fought numerous battles against Asuras—demons hellbent on destroying the peace and tranquility of the realm. Even today, there is a place called Dandakaranya in eastern central India, and it is about to become a theatre for one of India’s biggest internal military offensives ever. However, the line between Devas and Asuras, divinity and devilry, good and bad, has been blurred by the burden of its blighted history. Till now, the Indian Government never really cared for this region, an area of over 40,000 sq km that’s home to millions of tribals. To British colonialists, it was worth its weight in plundered minerals and forest resources. To successive regimes since 1947, it was a do-not-disturb jungle enclave, an isolation zone best left alone in honour of tribal wishes (or presumed wishes). Intrusions of all kind were frowned upon. Even official maps of this region did not exist until recently. No Nehruvian five-year plan ever touched this region. There was no drinking water, let alone electricity, schools or healthcare centres. Absolutely nothing.
And so it remained. Till a few men and women who swore allegiance to Mao built their base there—a place where tribals once lived the lives their ancestors led thousands of years ago, many of them unaware of such dawn-of-civilisation tools as the plough—and sowed the seeds of both aspiration and rebellion. Today, almost one-third of India is under the Red shadow. As the Centre prepares to launch its anti-Naxal offensive, Open presents the first ever media interview with Ganapathi, commander-in-chief of Indian Maoists. Also, an examination of the Centre’s plans and its possible consequences. It’s a war out there, and you need to know.