A region wracked by violent resistance for years has now cradled a story of love, and resistance. Two married women from Gadchiroli, a district torn by Naxal bloodshed for years, have sent shock waves by professing their love for each other, and daring to stand up to social and familial pressures.Sunita, in her 30s, and Nandita, in her 20s, have been in love for a while. Breaking all conventional norms, they have separated from their respective husbands to settle with each other. The lesbian couple have faced social boycott in the tribal region–they have been denied a roof to live under and even forced to leave their native place, Etapalli.

“One of the two women told me that they were not getting a place to live, and wanted to send their children back to the village for the sake of their future. However, their families are in no mood to support them,“ an Etapalli resident told TOI.

Around 12 years ago, Sunita got married in Chhattisgarh‘s Pakhanjur and shifted to Etapalli with her husband in search of work.The family subsequently moved to a village in Mulchera, Gadchiroli, where Nandita was her neighbour. Sunita’s alcoholic husband is said to have neglected her and stayed away from home on business errands.

A lonely Sunita, by now mother of a 10-year-old boy and a younger girl child, de veloped a romantic relationship with Nandita.

They started staying together in the absence of Sunita’s husband, drawing the neighbourhood’s attention and ire. Soon, Nandita’s family married her off. Even though Nandita gave birth to a boy child soon, the duo continued their “taboo“ relationship. Sunita even asked her husband to accept Nandita into their family , but his relatives rejected the suggestion.

“Many of Etapalli’s residents had spotted Sunita’s husband sleeping outside while the women remained indoors,“ said a resident. “The women left home together twice, but returned on being cajoled by their husbands.“

Sunita’s husband eventually demanded an end to her relationship with Nandita.“Sunita, instead, opted to end her own marriage. She filed an affidavit before the panchayat and left home for the third time.“ Sunita wanted to settle with Nandita in Etapalli and start a small business.But residents opposed their plans, compelling them to move out.

(Names have been changed to protect identities)