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Desperate wives

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FULL OF REGRET: After her husband's surrender, Salomi has not been able to make ends meet

Salomi Tuti can often be seen sitting on the verandah of Jharkhand high court. Her mood swings between anger and sadness. A lot of her misery comes from the fact that she blames herself for persuading her husband Marshall Tuti to surrender to the police. The promise of a speedy trial for her imprisoned husband is far from being fulfilled and her dreams for a better future for her two daughters are fading fast. She has now challenged the government in the high court.

A former area commander of the Tamar region, Marshall was a close associate of the notorious Maoist leader Kundan Pahan of Koyal Shankh Zonal committee. Enthused by the surrender policy announced by the state government under the Nayi Disha scheme, Salomi pleaded with her husband for more than a year and finally convinced him to surrender in August 2010.

"I feel guilty about my family's suffering and that is why I decided to go to court, " she says. "We lead a hand-to-mouth existence now and I have not been able to pay my daughters' school fees for over seven months. "

The day Marshall surrendered before the then DGP Neyaz Ahmed along with Suresh Munda, he was paid the Rs 50, 000 promised under the scheme. But the other promises speedy trial, secure residential facility, free education for his kids, vocational training for self employment and an insurance cover of approximately Rs 5 lakh - have not been kept. Salomi goes to the extent of saying that things were better when Marshall was still underground as he ensured that his family had enough to survive with dignity.

Reeta Devi, the wife of former zonal committee member Ramendra who surrendered in 2011 before the Bokaro police, doesn't have as many complaints. After all, her family does have a two-room police quarter to live in and Ramendra's case has been put on the fast track. But life is still tough. Reeta, who comes from the Tori region in Kaimur district of Bihar, says she used to get Rs 3, 000-4, 000 every month to run her household and raise three children when Ramendra was underground. Now that Ramendra has surrendered, the police have helped him get a job with a private firm where he earns around Rs 3, 000 per month. But the other promises of free education for her children and a permanent home remain unfulfilled.

Another fear haunts the family. While earlier there was the fear of her husband dying in a police encounter, today it is the threat of a Maoist attack. Reeta puts up a brave front when she is asked why the family was not moving back to Kaimur. "We feel safe here, and when almost every bit of land has been mortgaged, what's the use of going back there?" she says.

Rajiv Kumar, an advocate at the Jharkhand high court who has taken up the case of families like these in a PIL, says that the plight of Maoist wives is common.

Strangely, one wife whose husband was arrested says her life is more peaceful. Kiran, wife of Udayji, a top-rung Maoist leader of the Bihar-Jharkhand-North Chhatisgarh special area committee (BJNCSAC), had trouble finding a lawyer to file a petition on her husband's behalf. But she found that regular harassment at home came to an end once he was arrested. "Nothing much changed for me after he was arrested but the police now have no reason to raid the house, " she says. She is a part of the family business of selling milk and this helps her make ends meet.

The wife of Shyam Bihari Kandu alias Vijay Kandu alias Salim has a different story to tell. Her husband, accused of participating in the Malbaria (Palamu) massacre of 1995, was among the first to surrender during the Babu Lal Marandi regime in 2001. The government at the time had yet to come up with a formal surrender policy. Kandu is still in jail and is being used by the police to create a dent in the Maoist organisation. But his wife is apprehensive that the Maoists will eliminate Kandu the day he is freed. Through human right activists, she has requested that he not be used openly by the police in its anti-Maoist campaign.

With inputs from Divy Khare in Bokaro

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