Friday, May 08, 2009

Trapped In Naxal domain

8 May 2009, 2009 hrs IST, Rajiv Mani, TNN



ALLAHABAD: Imagine a situation wherein around a dozen students, including three girls, are camping in a primary school located at a hill top with
thick forests around and no provision of electricity or portable water. To make things more frightful vigilant eyes of naxals watching their every move.

No, we are not talking of a scene from a Hollywood thriller, but the first hand experience of postgraduate students of the department of anthropology, Allahabad University, who had gone on a 15-day field trip to Simdega district of Jharkhand — a naxal stronghold — where all terms of personal chores and public governance are dictated by the whims and fancies of Maoist guerrillas sitting snug in the thick forest cover around Ramrekha Dham of Simdega.

"We were sure that we were watched by naxals as every now and than young men, with faces covered, visited the site on jeeps and motorcycles. We made sure that none of us would utter the word Maoist, as it could land us in trouble instead we called them `tare' (read stars)," said Pankaj Upadhayay, one of the PG students who accompanied the group of 12 persons including three girls and six boys apart from head of the department VS Sahay and two guest faculty members. "Once naxals started haunting our days and nights all the natural beauty spread around us became sour to the eyes," he said.

It is worth mentioning here that the students of MA final of anthropology, AU, undertake an excursion of fortnight for which they had chosen Ramrekha Dham of Simdega this time. Of the 18 students, nine went on the tour, which started on April 20. Prior to landing up at the site, the head had contacted the district collectorate and Simdega SP as the area is known to be dominated by naxals.

But it so happened that after landing at the Dham, the team was confronted with the inhospitable conditions wherein there was no electricity and water was filthy. Immediately after arriving (on April 21 ), the team was confronted with Jharkhand bandh which went on for the next four days. Since, the team had to stay at a school, which itself was not cleaned for years together and was located on a hill top with minimal amenities and the market on the foothills, the team was virtually trapped. Mobile being the only connection with the civilised world, which was charged through the solar panel installed at rooftop of the Dham, news of naxals blowing stations or police van made things worse for the students. On April 23 the Mahant, Haridwar Das, told, "Commander baba had come in the afternoon and inquired for you people but nothing to worry, yet no one can predict the nature of these men."

It was only on April 25, that the 'bandh' was called off and the team left the inhospitable place and continued their study at Banstoli village where they stayed for rest of the time before returning to AU on May 6.

"I had personally spoken to the district collector and SP of Simdega who had assured us that there would be no problem with naxals. Had it not been the bandh, we would have shifted the same day of our arrival," said the HoD.

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