In the beginning, the Bastar tribals welcomed the Maoists because they were harassed by corrupt revenue, police and forest officials and were exploited by the traders from plains areas who never gave them fair price for their products. The Maoists appeared as the benefactors, protecting and upholding their interests. However, in due course, as the Maoists entrenched themselves in the region, they started showing insensitivity to the feelings of tribals. They interfered with the social customs and cultural practices of the local tribals. Ghotuls were closed. Weekly bazaars were looted. Traditional celebrations at the time of marriage were discouraged. Images of Buddhadeb (Lord Shiva) were damaged and the tribals were asked to worship Mao only. Village priests were driven away. All this deeply hurt the tribals. There was a strong feeling of resentment. The Maoists did not allow the tribals to pluck tendu leaves also. This was a regular source of income for them and every family earned Rs.10, 000 to 15,000 from the trade. This was denied to them. The resultant economic hardship proved to be the proverbial last straw. Enough was enough, the tribals felt.
It was against this background that the tribals rebelled against the Maoists. Large groups of people held rallies where they expressed their vehement opposition to the aggressions of the Maoists. This was the beginning of Salwa Judum, reflecting the resentment of the tribals against the activities of Maoists interfering with their social customs, cultural practices and hurting their economic interests. Mahendra Karma, Congress (I) Leader, gave them the leadership. It was a spontaneous movement, though it is also a fact that at present the camps are being maintained and financed by the state government.