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#2416, 10 November 2007
Web of Violence in Jharkhand
Devyani Srivastava
Research Officer, IPCS
e-mail: devyani@ipcs.org

The state of Jharkhand has been engulfed by Naxal violence; 21 of its 22 districts, from Garwah bordering Bihar to East and West Singhbhum bordering Orissa/West Bengal have suffered from Naxal attacks. Complete lawlessness pervades in the state, as evident from the killing of two high-profile targets, (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader and MP, Sunil Mahato, in March, and former chief minister Babulal Marandi's son, Anup Marandi, along with 17 others in late October), the number of bandhs called in the state and large scale destruction of public property, particularly of the railways and forest department. Adding to the despair of the people, the Maoists have also started targeting passenger buses and trucks in protest against the arrest of its leaders. What is fuelling and sustaining the rise of Naxal movement in Jharkhand?

For one, the Naxal movement in Jharkhand is being sustained by amounts collected as levy. According to the Indian Defence Review Yearbook 2007, the Maoists govern the mineral-rich countryside, and slap levies on coal mines, petrol pumps, transporters and contractors involved in building national highways, bridges, canals, the forest trade and sale of tendu leaves. The Maoists reportedly earn Rs.320 crores every year (10 per cent of the total revenue of the state), to finance the Red Army. Most of it comes from the 86,000 hectare Saranda forest, rich in minerals like iron-ore, bauxite and timber. Recently, violence in the state has risen due to companies refusing to yield to Maoist pressure, like Hindustan Aluminum Corporation Ltd. In retaliation against the company's refusal to pay, nine of its bauxite trucks were set afire.

Further, an important contributing factor behind the recent upsurge in Naxal violence has been the launching of anti-Maoist mobilization drives by the Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (NSS) started by Sunil Mahato in 2002, and the Gramin Suraksha Samiti (GSS), launched two years ago by former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi that are supported by the state. Driven by the objective to mobilize popular support against the Maoists, members of the NSS, backed by the Jharkhand police, have been charged with misappropriation of public money and extra-judicial killings of suspected Naxals (like the lynching of nine Naxals in August 2003). In retribution, the Naxals have stepped up their attacks on members of the NSS and GSS and issued warnings to the villagers against supporting such campaigns through posters. The Marandi family was targeted for its reported links with local mafia-run militias used against the Maoists and their tribal supporters. These Maoists' strikes are likely to rise as the NSS continues to turn villagers against the Maoists.

A mounting concern in Jharkhand is the growing struggle between Maoists groups. According to police reports, five Maoists groups are operating in the state with a total strength of about 3,000 - CPI (M) (2,700), Tritiya Prastuti Committee (70), the Jharkhand Liberation Tiger (40), the Sasashtra Jansanghrash Shakti Morcha (SJSM) (60) and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (60). These groups are believed to be at loggerheads over extorting money from development works and contractors. Of these, the TPC formed in 2002 as a separate Dalit Maoist party, has its strong hold in Latehar, Chatra and Palamu districts. Accusing the CPI (M) of caste bias with its decision making largely dominated by Yadavs, the TPC constitutes other backward groups like Bhoktas, Turis, Badais, Oraons, and Ghanjus. Its growing strength was displayed by the recent killing of a local Congress leader Ram Narayan Yadav in Palamu district on 22 October. With deep-rooted caste affiliations in the state, this has raised the threat of casteism infecting the Maoist movement in Jharkhand. Further, the CPI (M) with its cadre strength and sophisticated weapons is likely to increase strikes against the TPC cadres in the days to come, adding a new dimension to violence in the state. These developments raise the question whether they have the potential of weakening the Maoist advance, and consolidate the state.

Different forms of violence, therefore, distinguish the state, with local villagers and tribals being at the receiving end. This places greater responsibility on the state to develop a multi-pronged policy to address each of these rising concerns. The state of Jharkhand holds great importance for the Maoists due to its rich forest and mineral resources, and forms the heart of the so-called Red Corridor running from Andhra Pradesh to the border of Nepal. While the Jharkhand police has had some success in their anti-Maoist operations, including the arrest of important leaders, busting a training camp, and seizures of arms and explosives, much more needs to be done to improve police capabilities, develop a strong intelligence network and strengthen institutions of civil governance, before these successes could have a positive impact on eroding the rapid consolidation of the Maoist movement in the state.

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