Friday, November 19, 2010

Changing face of red zone in Bihar

Agencies Posted online: Thu Nov 18 2010, 15:46 hrs

Imamganj (Sherghati) : When Saman Kumar Daangi set up the first cyber cafe in Imamganj bazaar of this naxal-hit area nine years ago, there were no takers.
But that was then. At least three cafes within an area of half a kilometre have come in the bazaar now, nothing short of a revolution for the people in this backward constituency.

Scores of village youths, including girls, can be seen waiting outside Prime Computer Centre for their turn.

"I had opened the first computer centre in the bazaar in 2001. Then as the law and order situation improved, two more computer centres came up in 2008. Currently three of the five computer centres in the area have internet facilities. And terminals hardly remain unoccupied with village youths evincing keen interest in net-surfing," says Saman.

The cyber cafes, which have come as a boon for residents of nearby villages like Bovandi, Malhar, Dubhal and Karain, do a brisk business but power supply remains a problem.

"Electricity connection has come but power plays truant during day time. Out of 24 hours, power is for around 10 hours during night and we have to depend on generators to run our business," says Saman.

"Despite, Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Project, there is no electricity in major parts of the constituency. Electric poles are there in many villages but wiring has not been done while at some places, transformers have not been installed," a local Baleshwar Prasad said.

But Prasad is hopeful that the area would see a turn around once it is connected with 153-km state highway connecting Dumaria with the state capital. The under construction road will bring down the distance between Imamganj and Patna at least by 50 kms.

The Vasudha Kendras opened by the state government which provide villagers at panchayat level facility for internent use have added to the cyber revolution.

However, out of the 17 panchayats in Imamganj, only eight have these centres.

In the newly-constituted Sherghati assembly segment, Muslim girls cycle their way to school, a rare sight till a few years ago.

"My sister Sana has got the cycle from the school. Since the bicycle has come, our parents no longer forbid us from cycling. 10 to 15 girls in our village have got bicycles," says Nazneen in Akouna village.

The school, which is almost seven kms away from Akouna, has been a sudden surge in attendance particularly after the state government provided the girls free bicycles.

"They are paddling to power," remarks a school teacher in Sherghati.

Imamganj, the hot-bed of naxal activities and caste/class wars fought between erstwhile MCC and Sunlight Sena, is also witnessing for the first time a resistance to such "forced" violence.

Maoists had swooped on a high school building in Maigra in broad daylight during Independence Day celebrations and asked villagers to hoist a black flag. An angry school girl snatched the flag from the Maoists' hand and burnt it in their presence.

As the group tried to drag the girl, students accompanied by locals attacked the extremists forcing them to flee.

"This was something that was unimaginable ten years back," says a local in this constituency represented by Bihar Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhury.

The area has not witnessed any major caste violence in at least six years with residents more keen on addressing the basic issue of livelihood.

A noted Urdu poet Harendra Giri "Shad", who has studied social strifes, says, "the caste-strife has reached a saturation point in the area and there is a realiasation in both sections that mindless violence is not going to solve their problems.

"Though the divide persists, the eruptions are not so extreme," he said.

In Sherghati bazaar, the screaming wall writings for making Sherghati a district which were visible till a few years ago are absent and it appears the decades-long movement has lost its edge. The recent incidents of some highly publicised murders appear to have had some bearing on RJD's Muslim-Yadav combination in this constituency, though its candidate and former Power Minister Shakeel Ahmed Khan is the most known face in the area.

The most talked case is of Neema village, where Aftab Khan, who had married a Yadav girl almost thirty years back, was bludgeoned to death soon after he returned the village with his wife a few months ago.

Neema falls in Gurua constituency, which was represented by Khan three times.

Khan used to hold five portfolios during the heydays of Lalu Prasad's RJD and even now he is a prominent Muslim leader in the state.

The SP, BSP, and JDS have also fielded Muslim candidates while at least four Yadav candidates are also contesting from the area.

The JD-U has fielded Vinod Yadav, who is banking on his personal rapport in the area and Nitish Kumar's development plank.

All the three blocks of the constituency Aamas, Dobhi and Sherghati are naxal affected.

In the adjacent Gurua constituency, it appears to be a direct contest between RJD's Bindi Yadav and BJP's Surendra Singh. Congress has fielded a local Anirudh Yadav. Bindi Yadav has been the Chairman of Zila Parishad.

Karma village, described as "cultural hub" of Maoists, is just a few kilometres away from here.

Auto rickshaws and mini buses ply even in the first few hours of the night on the road connecting Karma and Gurua bazaar, which was earlier considered o go areas after 4 PM. Howver, rampant unemployment and poverty prevails in villages dotting the road.

"There are no jobs. The road is there but the road should also lead to somewhere," says Ravi, an under-graduate student

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