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Jharkhand inherits flames

Ranchi, Dec. 25: The fire in the “flaming fields” of Bihar seems to have been doused while the jungles of Jharkhand have been “burning” non-stop with Naxalite-inflicted violence and “retributive action” almost since bifurcation two years ago.

The significance of central-south Bihar not witnessing caste/class killings on the same large scale — for which the state is notorious — cannot be underestimated. What, however, is more puzzling is that Bihar has become “silent” despite the contradictions of land relations in the state being where they were when guns boomed in places like Jehanabad or Aurangabad.

Police sources in Jharkhand admit that there “could have been” a movement of rebels from the MCC and the non-conformist CPI(ML) factions, notably the People’s War, from the Bihar side into Jharkhand and beyond, in “contiguous” regions like Chatra and Garhwa.

But now that almost entire Jharkhand — except the Santhal Parganas and the Jamshedpur region — are in the grip of Leftwing extremism, the lull in Bihar has become deafening.

The extremists’ “infiltration” into neighbouring Orissa, Chhattisgarh and parts of West Bengal from Jharkhand has been accepted by senior police officials and the Union home ministry.

Leaders of the Left movement cite two reasons for the “shift” in the operational grounds of the Naxalite outfits in the region. “The favourable topography of the state with its hills and jungles has enabled the Naxalites to carry on the ‘guerrilla warfare’ with relative ease. Second, easy money, through collection of levies from kendu leaf growers and other forest produce like timber, accounts for the lumpenisation of the MCC cadre. Then you have the pumping of government funds for development that makes district and block officials easy extortion prey for the Naxalites. We have information that a good part of the booty travels to the extremist cadre,” a Communist leader said.

A senior police official supported the contention. “The money said to be on offer for the release of MCC mastermind Nathuni Mistri was up to Rs 1 crore. Nothing close to such an amount could be dreamed of in Bihar had the authorities there managed to lay hands on a big fish.

“The recoveries made by the Jharkhand government, when the state police in the initial months busted the extremists’ bunkers in the Palamau-Garhwa-Chatra region, were also astronomical,” he said.

But CPI(ML)-Liberation functionary Ram Jatan Sharma told The Telegraph from Patna that “struggles” involving his outfit, Naxalites and the Ranbir Sena were “very much on” in Bihar in the villages.

“It is true that Bihar has not witnessed a massacre in the recent past. But that is more due to the falling apart of the Ranbir Sena. The reactionary outfit is facing intense internal contradictions with one faction baying for the blood of another.

“As for the MCC and the People’s War, we do witness violence inflicted by them in Bihar, though on a lower scale now. These outfits have had an old presence in the Palamau region,” Sharma added.

Ideologically, the Jharkhand region has hardly been known to have a history of Left movement rooted in tenancy relations. Pockets of Giridih, Hazaribagh and Ranchi have been exceptions, apart from the fertile “working class” grounds in the industrial townships.

But the history of central-south Bihar has been different, where Sahajanand started a peasants’ movement way back in the thirties, followed by the CPI’s land-grab agitations and the rise of the Indian People’s Front/CPI(ML)-Liberation.

This, sources assert, gives credence to the hypothesis that there has been a continuous southward shift across the Kaimur mountain range towards Jharkhand and beyond, besides other corridors north of the Parasnath hills.

“The rebels had targeted a police party even as north as a pocket in Koderma district a few months back. Not long before that, the adjoining Rajauli-Nawada belt in Bihar had acquired notoriety for extremism-related violence. It seems the Laloo-Rabri regime has passed on its headache to Babulal Marandi,” a police officer said.

Maoists own up

The Maoist Communist Centre went on record today about their attack on police in Saranda forest on the night of December 19 saying this was “an uprising of the oppressed” in the “red and heroic soil” of the forest.

The MCC Special Area Committee published a handout dated December 22, which was released today. It said the attack was a “tactical offensive” which will be kept up in the forests to defend the fundamental rights of the poor tribals of the region.

The release was issued in Patna in the name of one Raman, secretary of Special Area Committee, Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal.

The MCC said on November 27 last year, one of the MCC commandants, Iswar Mahato, had been killed by the “fascist police of Jharkhand”.

“The MCC has proved they have the people’s support as the people reacted strongly to the killing of the MCC leader. Many women and children joined the platoons of the MCC to attack the police on the night of December 19. Without their support the operation would not have been successful,” said the statement.

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