Ageing Maoist woman commander, never photographed, ‘key link’ to Gadchiroli arrests

An AK-47 slung around her tiny frame, she walks with a stoop, it is said.

The 50-something Narmada Ekka (Ekka means elder sister in Gondi language) is one of the most dreaded woman Maoist commanders in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli, one of the 27 districts in the country worst affected by left-wing extremism.

The arrests of JNU student Hem Mishra and former journalist Prashant Rahi, alleged couriers for Maoists, were linked to her, say Gadchiroli police.

Narmada is said to have arranged for other couriers to bring Mishra and Rahi to Abujhmaad in Chhattisgarh, where the top Maoist leadership is reportedly hiding.

Police claimed Mishra and Rahi were carrying coded information for Maoist chief Ganapathy as the leadership tries to hold a major meeting of cadres. The last such meeting was held in 2009.

"The two men arrested with Mishra have confessed before a magistrate that Narmada sent them to receive the JNU student. She is a crucial link," said Suvez Haque, Superintendent of Police (Gadchiroli).

"Narmada Ekka has risen in Maoist ranks. She is one of the seniormost members of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) comprising nine divisions spread over eastern Maharashtra and south Chhattisgarh. She used to head the military wing of DSZC but now, due to poor health and age, she has been given the task of recruiting tribal women. She has high blood pressure and is a diabetic. She heads Dandakaranya Krantikari Adivasi Sangathan," said a senior police officer in Gadchiroli.

He said Narmada can speak around 12 languages, including Gondi, Oriya, Telugu and English.

Said to be a postgraduate, she belongs to Guntur in Andhra Pradesh , like most CPI (Maoist) central committee members.

She has been an active Maoist since 1985 but no security agency has her photograph. The description they have from surrendered and arrested Maoists includes the fact that she has spots on her face and body.

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