Due to the Naxal movement in 2005 (Salwa Judum), Sukma is one of the highly militarized zones in the country. Every 5KM, you find a military base camp. This part of India is also known as ‘The Red Corridor‘. The conflict between the Indian Army and Naxalites is evident in the district. Tribe lives have been highly impacted due to the ongoing conflict. The place looks more like a cantonment area.
However, there’s more to it. One can witness the beauty of Sukma only after coming here. The place is covered with semi-tropical forests, and hills in the distance with the Sabri river flowing across the district, making it one of the most beautiful places in India. The region is home to different types of tribal communities like Gondi, Halbi, Dorli and Dhurva. Every 10KM, you can see settlements changing. The pre-monsoon summer is another very hot season in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, India. It has an average temperature between a minimum of 25.2C and a maximum of 39C. The month of May is very hot, appraised at a burning hot 45.8C. June is the first month of the rainy season in Sukma. The temperature starts falling in June and the weather gets chilly.
When you think of the monsoon, what comes to your mind? If it is about clogged roads, potholes, dirty cloth, and puddles of muddy roads then you need to plan a trip to Sukma during the monsoons. Because you have not yet seen the beauty that this place has to offer after rains. Monsoons are an immediate relief from the scorching summer heat. The region is at its best during monsoons. Sukma is surrounded by dense forests. The flora of the forest started blooming during this time. You can see everything so bright and green. You will be greeted by lush greenery, waltzing waterfalls, and fascinating canals all over the place.
The Bastar region of which Sukma is a part is a great tourist place during the monsoon. It’s a mixture of the beauty and culture of the tribe. With the arrival of the monsoons, the tribes start farming activities as they depend on rains for cropping. During this season farmers are seen in the field doing the farming activity. In the tribal community, the villagers work in a team. They decide in their village meeting on which family will start their farming and when. Once that is decided, one person from every house has to come to help the family who is working on the field on that particular day. This keeps going until every field of the villagers has been covered. It is so beautiful to see them working in unison in a field. They support each other till the time their crops get ready.
In the monsoon, you will see many new insects, reptiles, birds, and animals that will not be seen in any other season in Sukma. I regularly travel at least 30KM to my field areas. I witness so many insects and snakes while driving my motorcycle. A lot of butterflies hit my face and I wait for so many snakes to cross the road to find their home.
On the other hand, when it starts raining heavily in the month of July-August, the Sabri river overflows. Sukma became an island, surrounded by the Sabri river and there are so many canals in Sukma that overflow and the roads get blocked. After that, there are four other ways in which one can get out of Sukma which are via Dantewada road, Contact road, Jagdalpur road, and Malkangiri road. All four roads get blocked because of heavy rainfall. Sukma gets surrounded by water and one can only go up to 10km from Sukma, but not more than that.
Field Visits During Monsoon
On the 8th of August early in the morning, I was ready for my field visit. I have to visit two schools, as usual. A new member, Hemant had joined Shiksharth. It was his first day in the field. So, I had to take him with me. I dropped Hemant at his school, where he was to teach and I went on to visit other schools.
When I reached my last school, the teacher there told me “Sir, school band ho gaya hai kyunki pool bar gaya hai” (Sir, the school is shut because the nearby bridge; has overflowed). I then made my way to Hemant’s school to pick him up. We were riding towards the bridge where the water was overflowing and suddenly a CRPF officer stopped and informed us that we cannot go to the other side because the water is flowing with a lot of force and it’s overflowing on the road now. He asked us to wait until they called for boats for people to reach the other side. I got a little scared because I had no clue how I should go back. Then, I started calling my colleagues and asked them if they can suggest something. Most of them replied that it would be best to wait there.
I got a call from my other colleague who was stuck in his school. Hemant and I went to our colleagues school and waited there for 4-5 hours. After that, we got the news that buses are going to Sukma. We thought it was time for us to get going. On our bikes we then came back to bridge. I asked a person if we could go now. He replied
Yes, you can but you cannot take your bike with you because people are traveling by airboats. This service will be available till 6PM. So, if you want to go back to Sukma, you sit on the boat and leave your bike behind.
While we were discussing what to do next, we met a guy on the roadside who told us that there is another way he knows to reach Sukma. He sat on my other colleague’s bike and we took the road he directed us. We started our bikes and entered the jungle where there were no roads except the trails. The roads were muddy. The front tire of my bike got stuck multiple times and sometimes it slipped. But we had no choice except to keep driving. We had been driving for 2 hours when we finally reached Sukma.
The monsoons were like a rollercoaster ride for me. I was enjoying the adventurous ride and on the other side, it was a bumpy experience for others who were pillion riding with me. The blocked roads were just a one-day thing for me, which I enjoyed and had a great story to tell the children at school during my next visit. But on the other side, for the local people, it is an everyday challenge. Their daily routines get disrupted, crops get spoiled and even schools get closed due to floods.