INSTILLING A SENSE OF HOPE IN A FORMER MAOIST CITADEL
Located in the hilly and forested terrain sofj hum rap ahar,sarju village in Garu Tehsil of this district was, till a few years ago, known as a “Maoist citadel”. Now it is development that is talk of the area. A multi-pronged approach combining initiatives of the security forces and the Jharkhand government’s development policies has instilled hope in the locals.
Oficials claim the ultra-left Maoist militants are now returning to the mainstream and the villagers, who were their victims, want mobile connectivity, roads to their homes, education, jobs and other developmental measures.
In a recent public outreach programme organised by the district administration at the compound of the Sarju school, hundreds of villagers turned up with their demands and complaints. One of them, Mamata Devi, said: “We want jobs. There must be some training centres so that we can earn bread and butter for our family.”
Taramuni Devi, a mukhiya or village head, complained about poor roads and irrigation problems while a youth raised the issue of lack of educational institutions. “For internet connection, we have to go ive km away,” he said. Rajiv Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Latehar, assured the villagers that their demands would be fulilled and issues sorted out.
“Who among you have not got gas cylinders? Are your children going to schools? Are you getting vridha (old-age) pension,” Kumar asked the villagers, and most of them respond with “Yes”.
Chorha is the gram panchayat of Sarju village. While the total geographical area of the village is 172 hectares, Sarju has a total population of about 1,000 people. Garu is the nearest town. The CRPF’S 214 battalion has made its base camp in Sarju, and with the help of the district administration they are trying to instill hope in the villagers and asking the Maoists to return to the mainstream.
Sak et kumar singh, dig atjharkh and Jaguar, a Special Task Force (STF) to counter extremist activities injharkh and, told IANS: “The Maoists have no cadres now. The organisations are left with their leaders only. They do not have any speciic hideout. They keep roaming from one place to another.”
Prashant Anand, SP of Latehar said: “Their activities have been restricted to only some pockets. Their splinter groups are active but they don’t get villagers’ support. Villagers support us and inform us whenever they see any activity (of Maoists).” Speaking about the modus operandi of Maoists, he said that they come in a group of four and ive and ask villagers to give four-ive youths.
“They take them and initially involve them in cooking and other menial work. Later, they train them and push them ahead during an operation. Once their name appears in the police record, the Maoists instill fear in them that if they return, they will be killed. Because of that fear, they do not join the mainstream.”
R.K. Mallick, Additional D.G. (Ops), said that in the present scenario the sphere of inluence of Naxals has been severely restricted and mainly conined to few pockets in the bordering areas of adjoining states and some interior, inaccessible areas within the state.
“The last six months in Jharkhand have been exceptional on the Naxal front. There has been a 24 per cent reduction in incidents of violence, 31 per cent reduction in civilian killings, 100 per cent increase in exchange of ire and 59 per cent increase in arms recovered -- all parameters of operational eficiency.
“Till August this year, 40 successful encounters against Naxals took place, in which 24 Naxals were neutralised,” he said.