| An examinee leafs through her book a day before the test for primary teachers at Ranchi railway station on Monday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
May 26: Most of Jharkhand shut down on the first day of the 48-hour state-wide bandh, which evoked spontaneous response except in a few urban centres.
While the government patted itself for ensuring an “absolutely peaceful” bandh, pro-domicile groups exulted that the strike was “total” despite most of their top leaders being behind bars.
“We expect a more vigorous response tomorrow. People are with us,” said Jharkhand Front leader .E. Horo.
Home secretary J.B. Tubid described the bandh as “absolutely peaceful” and said no untoward incident of any significant scale had been reported.
The bandh has been called in protest against the recruitment test for around 10,000 primary school teachers. The three-hour test begins at 10 am tomorrow amid possibly the heaviest deployment of forces since the formation of the newly carved out state. Chief minister Arjun Munda has issued instructions to conduct the test at “all costs”.
The government said it has made adequate arrangements, but “underground” pro-domicile groups warned of “surprises”.
“This is not a question of a mere recruitment test. This is a question of our survival. If outsiders are so easily allowed to infiltrate into even subordinate class III and IV jobs, the purpose for which Jharkhand was formed will be defeated. This is a fight for our identity and self-pride,” an underground Jharkhand Disom Party leader told The Telegraph in Ranchi.
Top government sources tried to give a spin on the strike’s success. “The bandh was highly publicised by the media. The deployment of security personnel was of an equally high scale. This gave the impression that something big was happening. This is the reason for its success. This despite the protagonists not taking to the streets like on earlier occasions,” they claimed.
In Jamshedpur, the bandh had little impact in urban pockets, but in rural areas it evoked a response. Over a dozen supporters set fire to a potato-laden truck in Powrah under Ghatsila police station. The truck was coming from West Bengal. The driver and helper were beaten up.
The strike was total in Ghatsila and Musaboni belt of the district. Though movement of trains was not disrupted, vehicular traffic on National Highway 33 was partially affected.
Two JDP supporters were arrested from Kadma. Sumitra Murmu, wife of JDP leader Salkhan Murmu, has reportedly gone underground.
Dhanbad has been converted into a virtual cantonment with heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces for the tests. Static forces headed by magistrates have been deployed in at least six centres. The bandh was peaceful, but movement of commercial vehicles was affected.
Hundreds of candidates arriving in Dhanbad from Daltonganj had a tough time as no vehicles were available to ferry them near the centres. The district administration has opened control rooms near railway stations and the bus stand. Deputy commissioner Nitin Kulkarni said the administration has made arrangements to help the candidates reach the centres.
“One group says it will prevent us from entering the centres while another says it will counter such moves. We are at a loss,” said Purushottam Kumar, who has come from Daltonganj.
In Daltonganj, examinees are pouring in from Garwah, Chatra and Gumla districts. All hotels, lodges and dharamshalas are full, as are bus stands and railway platforms.
Santhal Parganas was tense but peaceful. Workers of the Jharkhand Mukti Manch and the Jharkhand Vikas Dal were seen enforcing the bandh in Dumka. Buses stayed off the roads.
Reports from Godda and Deoghar said supporters of the strike focused on public transport to stop “outsiders” in their tracks. The JMM said it would not prevent local candidates from taking the test.
In Hazaribagh, the test will be held at 10 centres that have been put under the charge of three deputy police superintendents.
Nearly 16,000 examinees would appear at the 32 centres in Jamshedpur. Seven centres have been kept as “reserve”. Deputy commissioner Nidhi Khare and police superintendent Arun Oraon reviewed the arrangements. Ten additional executive magistrates would be deployed to oversee security measures.
In Chaibasa, shops and private offices remained shut and vehicles did not ply. “This is a tribal belt. People have voluntarily shut down their establishments,” said historian A.K. Sen.