Rural women at a tea stall in Nawadih where Maoists have put up posters (right) on Tuesday. Pictures by Pankaj Singh
Simple white posters, red bold print. That’s all it may take to keep people away from voting booths in Maoist strongholds of Giridih Lok Sabha seat.
“Chunav ka bahishkar karo (Boycott polls),” “Operation Greenhunt bandh karo (Stop Operation Greenhunt),” “Congress-BJP-JVM party ka bahishkar karo (Shun the Congress, BJP and JVM parties),” “Nirdosh Maovadiyon ko jail se riha karo (Free innocent Maoists from jail)”, read some terse messages. The signatory: Jharkhand Regional Military Commission Bhakpa (Maowadi). Bhakpa stands for Bharatiya Communist Party.
Giridih Lok Sabha seat, with 17 candidates and April 17 as the poll date, has given a tough poser to the EC and administrations of three districts — Giridih, Dhanbad and Bokaro — that it spans.
Bermo, Gomia and parts of Dumri, Assembly segments under Bokaro, are among the worst-hit rebel pockets in India. The Telegraph team, which went to blocks Nawadih (Dumri), Gomia, Bermo, saw the conspiracy of silence first hand on Tuesday. It is thick enough to cut with a hatchet.
Incidentally, the Congress, BJP and JVM might ponder why Maoists seem to allow more leeway to the JMM. But this time, as the Congress and JMM are allies fielding Dumri MLA Jagannath Mahto as Giridih’s MP hopeful, no one is opening a can of worms.
If white-and-red posters hold sway over Nawadih, Gomia, and Dumri, campaign vehicles are hardly seen.
“You will see the posters in Nawadih, Gomia, Dumri, right till Pirtand in Giridih proper. It makes some 57 panchayats and over 50,000 villagers,” a seemingly educated man in Nawadih tells The Telegraph team, but immediately asks: “aap kaun (who are you)?” The reply makes him clam up.
Ten kilometres ahead of Nawadih, some 55km from Bokaro steel city, a small tea stall has a dozen men of varying ages killing time in the dry heat, chatting in Khortha.
The only question they show interest in answering is the area’s poverty that forces youths to migrate to cities. The words “patrakaar” (journalist) and “reporter” are bad for the team man’s business. Most customers leave. The few who hang around say: “Don’t talk about elections. Maoists have given a poll boycott.”
“It is late afternoon. It’s advisable for you to leave. You never know where you will meet a Maoist in the garb of a common man,” said an elderly man, Parmeshwar Mahto.
At Dumri, JMM supporter Arun Kumar Mahto debunked the notion that his party had nothing to fear. “We do silent canvassing. No one openly speaks in favour of any candidate,” he said.
The threat to BJP nominee Ravindra Pandey seems more. “He is filthy rich, spending thousands to buy votes, but his men can’t openly move about. JMM will win,” Arun said.
BJP supporter in Bermo R.K. Tewary agreed somewhat: “The Modi wave is sweeping the country. Why enter a Naxalite zone?’
Commandant of CRPF 26th battalion Sanjay Singh admitted to the presence of boycott posters and some landmines. “But I reiterate the security of the zone has been beefed up. People should freely vote. Polls will be peaceful,” he said.
Bokaro SP Jitendra Singh scoffed at posters. “Maoists keep doing this (issuing poster warnings) in all polls,” he said.
Still, some 60 poll officials, EVMs and security personnel in tow, are being air-dropped by military choppers. “We are doing all we can,” said Bokaro DC Uma Shankar Singh.
Giridih votes on April 17