Saturday, April 17, 2010

Feature: Resource-rich Indian state lives under shadow of Naxal rebels

Saturday, April 17, 2010 10:52 PM

India, Apr. 18, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) -- With ever increasing incidents of jail break, blowing up of schools, hospitals and economic installations and brutal slaying of politicians and professionals by extreme left-wing Naxal rebels, the central Indian state of Jharkhand has added more grief to its list of woes which started ever since it attained statehood in 2001.

While the government has decided to weed out the Naxalites, who refuse to abjure violence, the on-going savagery in Jharkhand has pushed back all hopes of economic development.

Even as lives and limbs continue to get affected here, Naxalism, the first enemy of the country, is busy spreading base in the state.

Already Naxalites are operating in 19 of the 24 districts in Jharkhand including Garhwa, Palamau, Chatra, Hazaribagh, Girdih, Bokaro, Latehar, Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Dhanbad, Seraikela-Kharsawan, Koderma, Dumka, Deogarh, Jamtara and Godda.

With their sinister agenda, the rebels are increasingly penetrating bigger cities, trying to indoctrinate people and collecting funds for the movement. Some even believe that Naxals are already entrenched in the state capital Ranchi.

According to state intelligence, wishing to mobilize disgruntled elements including the urban unemployed in favor of their ultimate "cause" of eventual seizure of state power, Naxalites have drawn up detailed guidelines for their urban operations.

"The Naxal guerrillas, who do not even trust cell phones, have now confined their activities to propagating their ideology, setting up secret cells for frontal organizations and recruiting people. So much so that they have even tried to draw out students and trade and labor unions," Abhinav Saini, a local social activist here in Girdih, said.

The Naxal violence in Jharkhand has claimed the lives of about 1,000 people so far, which includes over 200 policemen.

Incidents like the recent jail-break in neighboring Chhattisgarh state where rebels attacked a jail and escaped with hundreds of their accomplice showed that the rebels are only getting bolder.

"For long it has been known that our police force is not as trained, equipped and motivated as their Naxal counterparts who are increasingly growing in strength. They are better armed, organized, motivated and trained to execute their agenda," said George Massey, a volunteer who works with a non-governmental charity organization.

Apart from targetting police personnel, the rebel have also carried out major strikes against the leaders of the day.

In 2007, rebels shot dead Member of Parliament (MP) Sunil Mahato as he watched a football match.

"Naxalites are no longer champions of development. They have instead a vested interest in keeping poverty alive as it enables them to expand their turf," Massey states.

Interestingly, a number of schools exist here but not many students seem interested in attending classes. Apparently, they place life before education.

"Schools are soft targets for Naxals. We are six teachers with over 150 students. Around 500 students enrolled over the last five years but due to the fear factor, every year the number of students goes down," said Navani, head mistress in a school here.

Locals here said that the doctors who treat men from the police forces are always in the hitlist of the rebels.

So far the state police force has not been able to take on the might of the guerrillas. Operation Shikhar, Operation Eagle, Operation Hill Top, Operation Black Thunder and Operation X are some of the offensive measures launched by the police from time to time, but none of them has yielded any result.

The state of Jharkhand is blessed with iron ore, manganese, coal, limestone, graphite, quartzite, asbestos, lead, zinc, copper, and some gold, among others.

It supplies to the region electricity from thermal and hydroelectric plants. But there has always been a discrepancy between generating wealth and its application, said locals.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

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