The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Turf war erupts on Stephen’s convoy

Dumka, June 18: Armed CPI-ML activists attacked leader of the Opposition and JMM legislator Stephen Marandi’s convoy at Shyampur this morning and abducted five policemen. Marandi had a narrow escape.

The abducted securitymen, including a havildar and four jawans of the state armed police, were released later in the day. But the attack has brought to the fore the bitter power struggle between the JMM and the CPI-ML over land in the villages of Santhal Parganas.

The CPI-ML has been trying to stamp its writ on agricultural land to consolidate its base in the traditional JMM bastion.

Narrating the incident, Marandi told The Telegraph that he was on his way to Nala in neighbouring Jamtara district to attend a party function when he came across a procession near Shyampur village.

Villagers armed with bows, arrows and sticks blocked his way and attacked his motorcade. “They looked very aggressive and were mostly outsiders. They tried to stop my car but my driver accelerated and drove on. They waylaid the security vehicle tailing my car and abducted the jawans at gunpoint. The CPI-ML is trying to convert the otherwise peaceful Santhal Parganas into a hotbed of extremism on the lines of Chhatra and Balumath,’’ Marandi said.

Sources said the CPI-ML activists have captured the pradhani zot (cultivated land of the village head) of Shyampur village. A JMM activist, Hopna Tuddu, was also beaten up by the CPI-ML workers yesterday at Shyampur, where Marandi was scheduled to address a public meeting today.

Police arrested a local leader CPI-ML leader, Owkil Hansda, in adjoining Shikarpur village, for allegedly instigating the local tribals.

According to the police, the villagers had initially planned to raid the Massaliya police outpost, but they changed their plan after Marandi’s arrival.

They swooped down on the JMM legislator’s convoy and abducted five securitymen who were escorting him from Dumka. The mob also smashed the windscreen of Marandi’s official car.

Deputy commissioner, Dumka, Avinash Kumar said the sub-divisional officer and a deputy superintendent of police went to Amgachi Pahar forest, a CPI-ML stronghold near the village, to negotiate with the abductors.

JMM chief Sibu Soren said CPI-ML leaders have regretted “what they described as a serious lapse” and as a gesture of goodwill released all the abducted policemen.

Soren, now in New Delhi, said the incident reflected the lawlessness that engulfed the state over the past two-and-a-half years. “Stephen Marandi is the most honourable of all the JMM leaders and it was unfortunate that such a simple man was attacked,” he said.

CPI-ML state secretariat member Bhubaneshwar Kewat condemned the attack and denied his party’s involvement in the incident.

Kewat said that both parties enjoyed a cordial relationship and such attacks were “unthinkable”. He alleged that vested interests and criminals were behind the attack on the JMM leader.

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