Raipur, Sep 30 (IANS) Twenty- five children who have each lost one or both parents in Maoist-related violence in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region in recent years are now trying to rebuild their lives - far from areas effectively controlled by the insurgents.
Raipur-based orphanage Gurukul Ashram has adopted the 20 boys and five girls, saving them from the possible fate of being used as human shields by the Maoists whenever they attack police and civilians.
The Maoists have been waging a bloody war against the state for over two decades and run a de facto administration in large tracts of the thickly forested 3,900-sq km Bastar region, the main city of which - Jagdalpur -is about 250 km south of state capital Raipur.
'I had never attended school till late 2007 when I was adopted by the orphanage. Now I can write a small letter in English and do math tables up to five,' Tati Rahul, 8, told IANS.
After Rahul's father was killed by insurgents, he was adopted by the orphanage from the Konta relief camp in the state's worst insurgency-hit district Dantewada, part of the Bastar region.
Rahul is now in Class 2 at the orphanage. 'Before being adopted I knew just two words of English - A and B - and I was taught A for AK-47 and B for Bomb. But now I can write the real meanings of letters from A-Z,' said Rahul.
The orphanage centre director, Narayan Rao, said that he adopted most of the children from Konta and Injeram relief camps, close to the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border.
These are among the 22 camps set up by the state government in Dantewada and Bijapur districts. Nearly 50,000 people are living in these camps after being uprooted from their villages due to a government-backed civil militia movement called Salwa Judum, launched in June 2005 against insurgents.
Rao said these 25 are the most enthusiastic about studies among the 58 boys and girls in the orphanage, no matter that their day begins at 5 a.m. sharp.
He now plans to adopt dozens more of children orphaned by Maoist-related violence.
Pulli Laxmi, 16, aims to join the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). She was adopted by the Ashram last year from the Konta camp after her father was killed by Maoists and her mother moved to Andhra Pradesh to work on daily wages.
'I am in Class 8 and my teachers say I have the potential to become an IAS officer. I never dreamed about an IAS job when I was living in my village of Banda,' she said.
'In fact, each day I thought that the Dadas (as the Maoists are known locally) would come and take away all of us village girls and train them to become part of their group.'
(Sujeet Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)