Monday, April 27, 2009

Jharkhand's insurgency, there are no rules, just fear

27 Apr 2009, 1620 hrs IST, ET Bureau

Suggested understrap: In Jharkhand’s insurgency, there are no rules, just fear. Not content with the dominance born out of political patronage,
money and arms, Maoists are now reaching out to take over the reins of power. For the locals who have been living under the shadow of terrorism in a state helmed by short-sighted corrupt politicians for years now, the only thing that matters anymore is peace.

"Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today"
-- Mahatma Gandhi

There were masked, hooded men before too, men who moved like shadows in the dark of the night, a high-calibre rifle cradled carelessly on the arm, men who caused the police and administration of three adjoining states decades of fitful sleep, men who killed for honour, the Baaghis of Chambal.

But there was romanticism surrounding Man Singh, Panna, Sultan, Lakhan Singh, Madho Singh, Mohur Singh, Chidda Singh Sikarwar, Lukka Daku or Lokman Dikshit as he was born.... . Villagers feared them, but they adored them too. Honour ruled their activities and stories about them usually portrayed them as custodians of moral righteousness, even if they were not entirely so.

In Jharkhand, masked men rule too. However, they change their names to suit the area they operate in and they sport a trademark "ji" suffix in all non-Christian areas. So Mukulji of Dumka is Kundanji at Latehar or Salimji at Pakur which is Muslim dominated.

The same person may be John at Rajmahal or Zakaria in Littipara, where Christians form the majority. They aren’t baagis; they are de-facto zamindars. They virtually control 18 of the 24 districts in the state, have paralysed the constitutional authorities who are supposed to run the administration, bludgeoned policemen into submission and killed well over 1,400 people just to make their cause known. They are sometimes referred to as Naxals, sometimes as Maoists, but essentially they are followers of a sect that believes in creating anarchy as a self-sustaining realisation of a revolutionary dream to create a classless society.

Welcome to Mao-land Jharkhand, where six successive state governments since its formation in 2000, have all tried their damndest best to topple the other in order to rule and in the process, have befriended Maoists to spread anarchy during the other’s regime.

Very simply put, you cannot exterminate Maoists in Jharkhand by use of force, because every local political honcho wants them on their side, irrespective of party colour. And the motive is entirely selfish, because unless you can destabilise the ruling government, you cannot come to power yourself and so on... . Naturally therefore, everything has taken a backseat in Jharkhand. Only the Frankensteins rule. A taste of that this country witnesses in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Cut to this very powerful politician, an MLA who spoke to ET about the Naxal menace last week. "A road which was supposed to be built under a government scheme in my constituency, was not getting built. So I asked about the delay. To my utter shock and dismay, the engineer in charge told me that there was a delay because extremists have demanded a levy and if it was not paid, they wouldn’t allow the road to be built.

There was so much of public pressure for the road, that I had to ask the engineer to do whatever was required so that the road gets constructed. I was helpless, but I cannot escape the ground reality."

Obviously, money had to be given as ransom for the road and in all likelihood the MLA paid out of his pocket or shelled out party funds or maybe funds from other sources. But that’s what Naxalism or Maoism in Jharkhand is all about. No matter who you are, or what you want, you need to keep them happy first.

That Maoists rule with political patronage is an accepted fact. No political party in Jharkhand has raised the issue of Naxal menace prominently in their manifestos. There are vague references to bringing back "those who have been misguided to the mainstream", some appeals to "shun violence", but nothing more than that.

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