Captors of the Liberated Zone - In India

Captors of the Liberated Zone
A personal visit to a part of India where Mao-spouting armed rebels are the law
By Sudip Mazumdar | NEWSWEEK; Published May 2, 2009

Late one night recently, my phone rang. It was my sister, and her voice was trembling. A member of India's nominally Maoist insurgency had just called her husband, demanding a protection payment of more than $1,000. The caller said someone would be sent to their home to collect the payment. Don't call the police, the caller warned. There was no danger of that. For years the Maoists have practically owned the impoverished eastern state of Jharkhand, where my sister and her husband live in a rented house on the outskirts of a small, dusty town. The terrified local cops seldom venture outside their station houses.

My sister didn't know what to do. The extortionists wanted roughly five full months' pay from my brother-in-law's midlevel government job. Even if the two could scrape up so much money, they didn't expect it to solve anything. When a protection victim pays off, the Maoists come back for more. But refusing is no option. My sister's husband, a soft-spoken, bighearted man, has traveled around the state as a literacy worker. In remote villages he's seen men who defaulted on small payments to the Maoists. Some were missing an arm. Others had their ears or their nose cut off. Running away wouldn't help, either. How would the family live if my brother-in-law left his job?

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