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Metal avatars for statehood stalwarts

- Inspired by Modi’s Sardar Patel statue, Kurmis launch similar tribute project for JMM trio

Jamshedpur, Feb. 11: BJP prime minister nominee Narendra Modi’s initiative to put up an iron statue of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel — at a proposed 182m, it is almost double the height of Statue of Liberty — through mass mobilisation has inspired Jamshedpur-based Kurmi Sena to start a similar exercise.

The Kurmi Sena, in a Monday meeting, has decided to construct bell metal statues of JMM stalwarts Nirmal Mahto, Sudhir Mahto and Binod Behari Mahto at prominent locations of Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad, respectively.

Each of the three statues will be 51ft or 15.54m high.

On the lines of Modi’s impassioned plea to lakhs to donate soil and iron tools for constructing Patel’s gigantic statue near Sardar Sarovar Project dam in Gujarat, Kurmis have likewise decided to reach out to the community across Jharkhand, asking them to donate bell metal.

Bell metal, a hard alloy, is locally known as kansha. Utensils and bells of kansha are usually found in most Kurmi households.

“We have chalked out plans to collect bell metal items from Kurmi homes at a meeting yesterday evening. The statues of all three JMM leaders will be 51 ft each. We will form collection committees, which will fan out in specific areas. This initiative is aimed at saluting stalwarts of the statehood movement,” Kurmi Sena president Shailendra Mahto told The Telegraph.

He added that they would also collect bell metal from Kurmis residing in Bengal and Odisha.

“Our leaders were popular in those states too,” he said.

The Kurmi-Mahtos constitute 27 per cent of the population in Jharkhand, Bengal and Odisha.

“We will write to chief minister Hemant Soren to allot us space for installing the statues. Our delegation will also meet chief minister with the same request,” said Kurmi Sena general secretary Virendra Mahto.

JMM president Nirmal Mahto, one of the youngest and most respected names of the statehood movement, was shot dead near the Tata Steel guesthouse in Jamshedpur in 1987, 13 years before Jharkhand was born.

Binod Behari Mahto, a lawyer and friend of Shibu Soren, co-founded Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) with him. The leader, extremely popular in Dhanbad-Bokaro and Hazaribagh, died in 1991.

Only Nirmal’s brother Sudhir lived to see the state and rose to become a former deputy chief minister in Jharkhand. He died of a massive heart attack on January 22, 2014.

The powerful Kurmi-Mahto faction in the JMM wanted Sudhir’s widow Sabita to be given the Rajya Sabha ticket, which Hemant could not, to keep allies Congress and RJD happy.

After resignation threats from Kurmi-Mahto MLAs and a successful statewide chakka jam by outfits to retaliate against Sabita’s “humiliation”, the JMM top brass is bending backwards to woo the disgruntled community that constitutes a crucial vote bank.

The Kurmi Sena general secretary said they already started a survey in Sakchi and Bistupur, Jamshedpur’s two main commercial hubs, to install Sudhir Mahto’s statue.

“The statue will be installed in one of the roundabouts in Sakchi or Bistupur. We are also writing to the district administration as well as Tata Steel in this regard,” he said.