The Maoist threat has acquired a new dimension in Jharkhand. After years of mindless violence, aimed at policemen and political rivals, the extremists have now turned to forcibly seizing land and distributing it to the landless. Maoists — or Naxalites, as they are popularly known — have tried this route to “people’s liberation” in other parts of India since the late Sixties and always failed. The result has inevitably been unnecessary bloodshed and anarchy. The poor people in whose name the so-called liberation battles were fought were subjected to untold sufferings before they realized the futility of such violence. Legal reforms, and not bloody rebellions, can go a long way in helping the landless. But extremist politics tries to survive on selling impossible dreams and championing lost causes. It is also a cynical way of recruiting poor people to the groups’ cadre. Long before Jharkhand was born as a separate state, several Maoist outfits had tried land-grab movements in Hazaribagh and Palamau by taking advantage of the relative inaccessibility of the forested terrain. The latest such incident suggests that the People’s War Group of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) has plans to strike in the areas closer to the state capital of Ranchi. It is an advance of anarchy that the government must stop to maintain peace in the state.
At the same time, the government has to seriously address the land question. It is no secret that many landlords still own land far beyond the ceiling approved by the government. It is the government’s responsibility to identify the ceiling-surplus land, seize it and distribute it to the landless in accordance with the provisions of land reforms laws. Jharkhand’s land problem has other complications too. Since the state was separated from Bihar because of its tribal majority, it is crucial for the government to end the alienation that vast numbers of tribals suffered from their traditional land. Because of historical factors, large areas of tribal land were usurped by non-tribal people who had migrated to Jharkhand from other areas. The transfer of tribal land to non-tribals is prohibited by both Central and state laws. The Jharkhand government is believed to have taken a decision to restore such alienated land to the tribals. It has another plan to acquire the plots of land that were “donated” to the people during the Bhoodan movement of the Fifties. Most of these were subsequently usurped by big landowners. But the plans must not fall victim to the red tape. The poor tribals must be assured that well-meaning laws can get them peacefully what lawless groups cannot with their violent means.