Sunday, October 28, 2007

Giridh:Reprisal for anti-Naxal stand

NEW DELHI: Mainline politicians are rarely the target of Naxalites in trouble-torn Jharkhand, where Maoists run a parallel show in 18 of its 24 districts -- and, the reason is not far to seek. Most politicians have now accepted Naxalites to be an inseparable part of the system at grassroots.

So much so that poll-time boycott calls of the extremists are often "bought off", whatever their party affiliation.

Jharkhand is reeling under abject poverty, which, along with its hilly and forested topography, offers the Naxalites a conducive environs to spread their wings, and the number of affected districts has grown from eight in 2000 to 18 now.

The family of former chief minister and Koderma MP Babulal Marandi, whose 21-year-old son was killed, along with 18 others, in the anarchic Giridih district, has been on constant target because he is the only leading politician to have openly spoken out against the Maoists.

Marandi admitted as much on Saturday evening: "It is true that my family and I have been on their target because I have opposed the violent ways of the Naxalites."

"Had the other politicians been honest enough in fighting the reign of terror with some degree of unity, I would not have lost my son, who had nothing to do with the Naxalites," the state's first CM told TOI from Giridih.

When contesting the Lok Sabha election in 2004, and later a by-poll for the same seat in 2006, Marandi made anti-Naxalism his major campaign plank.

He had escaped an ambush by the Maoists in 2003 in which three persons, including two policemen, were killed. The Maoists continued their campaign in Giridih, Marandi's home district, and killed 16 people in Bhelwa Ghati in September 2005.

A senior police officer, who has served in Naxalite-affected districts of the state, agreed with Marandi. "He is the only politician talking against them, and very openly at that.

Most politicians have a pact with the extremists during elections. That is why boycott calls are not enforced in areas for which the Maoists have been compensated," the police officer said.

"A former MP CM, during his campaign for polls, started speaking against the Naxalites. The local candidate panicked so much that he later asked the politician not to utter a word against Maoists or else he would lose the race," the police officer recounted.

During the cultural programme on Friday, the Maoists had actually come looking for Marandi's brother Nunulal, whose conduct, according to them, had not been good.

They announced this from the stage in presence of a large crowd. In March too, the Maoists killed JMM MP Sunil Mahto because he was "anti-people", and not due to his political activities or for taking an ideologically opposed stand. CM Madhu Koda said his government would look for a solution in a new surrender policy and by speeding up development work in the affected regions.

JMM chief Shibu Soren pinned his hopes on the large-scale intake from the rural areas in the proposed police recruitment plan. Clearly, they are not talking Marandi's language.

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