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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Maoists in Jharkhand eye new future through electoral democracy

The overall trend this election was of extremists using proxies to extend their area of influence.

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | Ranchi |
Updated: December 23, 2014 12:24:34 pm
Jharkhand Despite the rabid opposition of their parent party to electoral democracy, Jharkhand’s Maoists found themselves supporting various candidates this election. (Source: AP)

When CPI-Maoist Politburo member Narayan Sanyal was released from Hazaribagh jail on November 20 this year, his sadness was neither about a floundering movement nor his nine-year-incarceration. Recalling that he had inducted them into his party as youngsters, Sanyal said he was disappointed by what former Maoists Kameshwar Baitha and Jugalpal did.

What did they do? Baitha, a former Regional Committee member, joined the JMM and became a Lok Sabha member in 2009. Jugal Pal, a former zonal commander in his time, contested on a JMM ticket in the last assembly elections and lobbied unsuccessfully to get a ticket this election.

Despite the rabid opposition of their parent party to electoral democracy, Jharkhand’s Maoists found themselves supporting various candidates this election. In other cases, former Maoists or their relatives contested.

This newspaper found 10 candidates with alleged links, past or present, to the CPI-Maoist. They were part of a total of 22 candidates who were tied to various left-wing extremist outfits. It does not include one candidate – who will remain unnamed – photographed with an alleged area commander of the CPI-Maoist when on his way to submit nomination papers.

The JMM was the worst offender, nominating eight candidates who were alleged to have ties to various LWE organisations. Babulal Marandi’s JVM-P nominated four such candidates. The Jharkhand Party became a de facto political wing of the People’s Liberation Front of India: its Torpa, Kolebira and Simdega candidates received immense support from the LWE organisation.

The national parties were not entirely guilt-free. The BJP awarded a ticket to Narayan Bhokta, once a deputy Zonal Commander of the Tritiya Sammelan Prastuti Committee and took it back only because the TSPC itself let the party know Bhokta has outstanding warrants against him. The BJP also gave  ticket to Manoj Nagesiya, a former Maoist sub-zonal commander who has reportedly not yet left his extremist tendencies. The Congress awarded a ticket to Nirmala Devi, wife of jailed former minister Yogendra Saw, who allegedly formed two criminal gangs that called themselves LWE outfits.

In some cases, the excuse that they were being offered a chance to enter the mainstream held water: Manorama Devi’s candidature from Chatra was opposed by the CPI-Maoist as well as her husband; Independent candidates Ashok Oraon, Girija Singh and Vinod Sharma were formerly of the TSPC and CPI-Maoist respectively and had served jail times.

However, tickets to Rajkumari Devi – whose husband is the supremo of the Jharkhand Prastuti Committee, Ganesh Ganjhu – brother of TSPC supremo Brajesh Ganjhu and Mahadev Ravinath Pahan – cousin of the state’s second-most-wanted Maoist Kundan Pahan, were opportunistic attempts by political parties to piggyback on the clout provided by the people behind them.

The overall trend this election was of extremists using proxies to extend their area of influence. Most former Maoists did not even win tickets as parties realised that their active comrades wielded the real power. This is probably an extension of the fact that the Maoist movement in Jharkhand does not have the semblance of being a mass movement anymore; former Maoists do not exert any influence while active ones can always coax voters with threat of violence.

The three senior political leaders in the list of 22 – Yadav of Hussainabad, Patel of Mandu and Mahto of Dumri – have grown to be forces in their own right. They allegedly consider the Maoist support extended to them as supplementary: their campaign vehicles and personnel would be allowed to enter Maoist-controlled areas, for example. These individuals – and more like them – have grown so big, the Maoists need them as much as they need the Maoists. The former, when a party supporter is detained by security forces and needs to be released, for instance.

Despite this, the indications are that the Maoist influence is on the wane in the electoral arena. Elections in the Khunti, Simdega, Gumla and Chatra districts were overwhelmingly influenced by either the PLFI or TSPC cadres, whose organisations are not opposed to polls. They are also likely to ensure the victory of some of their candidates. The Maoists, who retain an ideological aversion to the poll process – they issued a boycott call this year, making almost no ripples – find it logistically impossible to prop up a candidate. Therefore, candidates are forced to manage deals “dasta to dasta,” or armed squad to armed squad by paying off area commanders or such low level leaders. The Maoist support for candidates is thus one guided by practicality rather than ideology.

Why then, does only Jharkhand see such a high level of interaction between politics and left wing extremism? The answer lies in Jharkhand’s history of tribal insurrections and its location, which gives rise to caste as well as tribal conflicts. What this region saw in the Kol Insurrection (1831-’32), Santhal Hul (1855-’56) and Birsa Munda’s activism (1894-1900) was a resistance against perceived injustices. The politics of the region – the statehood movement as well as Maoism – have taken off from this culture. Therefore, the people of Jharkhand have always been politically empowered, even if deprived of other rights. This bottom-up progression of politics is a reason why Jharkhand’s politicians had humble backgrounds; this also means that they come from and stay in touch with villages where the Maoists too, live. This is also the reason why the JMM has had such a close relationship with the Maoist movement.

Splinter groups have formed when this sense of injustice is extended to caste and tribe-based discrimination. When the CPI-Maoist, or the MCC in the past, came to be dominated by a particular caste in a region, the leader of an opposing caste usually walked out. The police also watched out for such cracks and assisted in accelerating the split.

The various LWE groups of Jharkhand are likely to be more interested in the panchayat elections – scheduled for 2015 – though: their involvement has visibly increased when compared to the Lok Sabha elections of this year, after all. The tactic during rural local body elections is to ensure a candidate wins unopposed; TSPC manages almost the entire Lawalong block of Chatra that way. The stakes will also be high in the next election – more powers have been granted to the panchayats, which means they will be in a position to dole out favours. This could eventually lead to more panchayat representatives falling to LWE bullets.

List of candidates with alleged left-wing extremist links

1. Manorama Devi – Chatra – JMM – wife of Gautam Pawan alias “Arun”, CPI-Maoist sub-zonal commander
2. Mohan Ganjhu – Latehar – JMM – relative of Ravindra Ganjhu, CPI-Maoist sub-zonal commander
3. Rajkumari Devi – Simariya – JMM – wife of Guddu Ganjhu, JPC supremo
4. Saloni Tuti – Tamar – JMM – wife of Marshal Tuti, jailed CPI-Maoist Zonal Commander
5. Paulus Surin – Torpa – JMM – former PLFI Zonal Commander
6. Jai Prakash Bhai Patel – Mandu – JMM – CPI-Maoist support
7. Jagarnath Mahto – JMM – Dumri – CPI-Maoist support; Maoists allegedly call him Tiger
8. Sabi Devi – JMM – Barhi – wife of murdered Tileshwar Sahu who allegedly supported Shanti Sena, which fights PLFI
9. Prakash Ram – JVM – Latehar – TSPC Support
10. Mahadev Ravinath Pahan – JVM – Tamar – senior Maoist Kundan Pahan’s cousin
11. Satyanand Bhokta – JVM – Chatra – TSPC support
12. Ganesh Ganjhu – Simariya – JVM – brother of TSPC supremo Brajesh Ganjhu
13. Suman Bhengra – Jharkhand Party – Torpa – PLFI support
14. Menon Ekka – Jharkhand Party – Simdega – PLFI support
15. Anosh Ekka – Kolebira – Jharkhand Party – PLFI support, allegedly funds the organisation too
16. Manoj Nagesia – Kolebira – BJP – former CPI-Maoist sub-zonal
17. Girija Singh – Daltonganj – Navjawan Sangharsh Morcha – former TSPC senior leader
18. Nirmala Devi – INC – Barkagaon – wife of Yogendra Saw, allegedly formed two gangs claiming to be LWE
19. Sanjay Kumar Yadav – Hussainabad – RJD – once allegedly close to CPI-Maoist
20. Vinod Sharma – Daltonganj – IND – former CPI-Maoist Zonal commander
21. Ashok Oraon – IND – Bishunpur – allegedly CPI-Maoist supporter
22. One candidate, unnamed, within Dumka district received Maoist support
23. TICKET TAKEN BACK: Narayan Bhokta – BJP – Latehar – former deputy sub zonal of TSPC

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