Munger, Feb. 14: They were recruitment advertisements with a difference. Invariably written with red ink, some of them appeared as wall-writing while others were hand-written posters.
They announced a recruitment drive by the Maoists. 'Samaj badalne ke liye, sangathan ko ladka, ladki chahiye (the organisation requires young men and women for changing society),' they read. Significantly, they also offered a stipend of Rs 3,000 per month, free arms and ammunition and training in guerrilla warfare.
There was no attempt to hide the identity of the organisation either as they were signed by the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
Police acknowledged the presence of the posters, one of which ironically appeared in a Central Reserve Police Force camp that has come up before the polls. 'Investigation revealed that they had been put up by mischievous elements,' said Jamalpur deputy superintendent of police Binod Kumar. This is not the method Maoists apply for their recruitment, he reasoned.
But villagers at the foothills of Dharhara hills, 19 km from the district headquarters, not only confirmed that the Maoists had held an interview on the hill-top, but led this correspondent to some of the interviewees who had just come down.
Attempts by this correspondent to climb the hill were blocked by armed men in uniform. 'Since you have already spoken to some of the interviewees, we request you to go back,' said one of them.
Sangeeta, who claimed to be from Lakhisarai, broke down while talking. Soon after her husband died in a road accident, she recalled, she was sexually assaulted by some of her in-laws and driven out of the house. 'A mukhiaji advised me to join with the forces which could control such social evil,' she claimed.
Bibhuti Das from Sheikhpura claimed his father and brother were murdered by influential upper caste landlords, who captured his ancestral land. He himself was falsely implicated in criminal cases and spent two years in jail. He didn't know what to do until he saw the Maoist advertisements.
Five men and two women constituted the interview board on the hilltop and they were guarded by an armed group of 30 people. Questions related to their village, education, likes and dislikes and their leisure activities. Anandi Yadav, also from Lakhisarai, said he had been instructed to get down at a particular railway station, from where he was escorted to the hilltop through a short-cut.
The account of Bijli, a girl from Heru Diara in Munger, was even more dramatic. 'They asked me to prove my courage and passion for the cause by writing down my name with my blood. I cut my finger with a blade and obliged,' she says.