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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 10, February 27, 2010

Undercurrents of Kaimur

Monday 1 March 2010, by Amarendra Kishore

Blood-curdling screams, spine-chilling blood-bath and heart-rending mass killings—these are an integral part of life in the Kaimur hills of Rohtas district in Bihar. With untamed dense forests, rain-kissed lush vegetation, challenging terrain, gushing waterfalls, black and brown valley, the Kaimur hills of Bihar, once known as mini-Chambal, where governance and adminis-tration have already been strangled by the Red guerrillas, are vibrating with the booming of guns. About three dozen tribal hamlets are under the sway of Naxalism. In this remote region, where non-tribals are not allowed to move freely, women and children are getting training in the Maoists’ camps to handle sophisti-cated arms and ammunition in the name of justice and liberation. It is essential to examine the growth of Naxalism in the hills of Kaimur by visiting almost every nook and corner of this area. The Maoist outfits have a special appeal to the indigenous population who feel cheated by the bureaucrats, leaders and agents of develop-ment.

Kaimur was once upon a time known for its peace and poverty. The schemes made for the development of this area frequently went into the cobweb of corruption. In the late seventies, the dacoits or social rebels used to get shelter here and they moved about and ruled the region. The story started with Mohan Bind, whose reign was similar to the theme of the Bollywood film entitled Dakait, a big superhit by Rahul Rawel. For two decades, when the government was busy rooting out these criminals, the Maoists went from strength to strength in the Kaimur hills till such time when they could declare the entire terrain as a liberated zone. They have doubtless established an elephantine foothold among the most deprived population of the Indian subcontinent, that is, the tribals.

“Sudama is our leader, our godfather, who is very sympathetic to the plight of Kaimur’s tribals. If he tells us to die, we are ready to follow him,” says a Kharwar tribal lady of Piperdih village of the Kaimur hills. Such words show the robust strength of Naxals among the tribal people of this area. The eyes of the local tribals here, particularly women, seem to be burning with suffering and sorrow. They brazen out with searching, unsettling questions to a visitor: what wrong have we done or our ancestors? Why should our exploitation go unpunished? However, Vikas Vaibabh, the Superintendent of Police, Rohtas, strongly denies the tremendous growth of Naxals in Kaimur.

The Naxals’ genesis lies in the social resent-ment at the bottom of the society—the lower strata that is facing all sorts of problems related to daily survival. Till the end of the seventies of the last century, the development agents in the guise of teachers, contractors, Village Level Workers (VLWs), Vaidyas of government sponsored dispensaries and social workers were the sole elements who accessed the region and stayed there to serve or even exploit them. The Octavius Steel Company, Calcutta in 1907 and after independence the M.L. Dalmiya and Company Limited used to run a light railway (narrow gauge) named Dehri-Rohtas Light Railway from Dehri-on-Sone to Tiuara Piparadih (68 km/14 stations). The original contract was to build a 40 km feeder line from Rohtas to the East Indian Railways Delhi-Calcutta trunk route at Dehri-on-Sone.

Soon thereafter, the tramway company was incorporated as a light railway in order to acquire the assets of the then defunct Dwara-Therria Light Railway in Assam. The DTLR opened to traffic in 1911 and was booming by 1913-14 when it carried over 50,000 passengers and 90,000 tonnes of freight, the goods traffic mainly consisting of marble and stone. In 1927, a 2.5 km spur was added to the Rohtas Fort from Rohtas. So, the track was specially used to carry cheapest tribal labourers and, above all, limestone (cement is produced by roasting powdered limestone with powdered clay in a rotary kiln) from different queries in Kaimur to the Kalyanpur Cement Factory of Banjari and Jain Cement Factory at Dalmianagar.

The Forest Policy of 1952, a revised version of the first Forest Policy of 1894, proved to be the deathknell for this region. When this policy came into being, private contractors began to chop off the rich forest and destroy the bio-diversity. The contractors were from the so-called upper caste, that is, Brahmin and Rajput, influential people who came to the virgin land of Kaimur with guns and pistols. They irrationally guillotined the timbers in broad daylight with the close supervision of the State Forest Department staff and at sundown, they would powerfully drag the teenage tribal bellies in their camp for their lust and libido. These lively sex-kittens were striped off even in the bone-chilling wintry weather and they used to dance to the tune of the drum and harmonium. The tribals were the low-paid manpower and doubly exploited. On the other hand, some teachers of the State Welfare Department- sponsored schools adopted some tribal girls as concubines and labelled them as unwed mothers.

In the First and Second Five-Year Plans, some buildings for residential schools, animal husbandry dispensaries, houses for officials of the State Forest Department were constructed. Grain Gola and Kichadi Centre came into being in the late 1960s. No other development work was implemented there. The Vanvasi Sewa Kendra, a non-governmental organisation, appeared on the scene for sustainable economic growth of the locals with slogans to maintain the pace of Gandhian philosophy for rural development and revival of self-dignity. Govern-ment officials used to visit this plateau in the name of inspections of residential schools, minor relief works, and plantation activities and sometimes their purpose was to enjoy the scenic beauty of Kaimur. They would savour the sensual pleasure of wine and women. The subordinate staff used to provide them all these luxuries. This tradition made this world a treasure-trove for outsiders.

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The agrarian society of Rohtas has always been famous for its mercilessness. Before the 1980s, the tribals of Kaimur, including those belonging to the younger generation, were made bonded labour under the clutch of Brahmin and Rajput landlords who were lapdogs of the then politicians of national fame. They had a strong foothold at the grassroot level, were hooligans and apparently boothlooters. A public curfew was declared on the Election Day and they openly announced that there was no need to come to the poling booth since ‘your vote has already been cast’. Under the full knowledge of the then MPs, the so-called upper-caste landlords, they would commit mass killings, rape the girls who had not attained puberty, and even elderly ladies were easy targets of those lecherous elements.

They did set ablaze the houses of the so-called lower-caste people, if anyone dared to reverse the trend and revolt against any landlord. The heinous forms of torture included piercing bamboo batons in the vagina of any lady, if she or her husband objected to the overtures of any landlord. The other forms of sexual torture were rape, molestation, shocking the genitals with burning batons, shoving hot peppers into the vaginas, pinching the genitals or nipples even to the point of tearing them off, kicking the genitals, piercing the nipples with hot irons, stripping objectives naked and beating them in broad daylight in the village squares and more.

Anarchy began to rule over this area, with no law and order worth the name.

The District Magistrate (DM) and Superintendent of Police (SP) were posted only after getting the consent of local level bigwigs of the Congress-I. One Pandit Girish Narain Mishra, a Congress leader during late seventies to the end of the last century, now he is no more, used to conduct durbar to perpetuate his dominance over the administration. The bureaucrats were obliged to attend those gatherings. Harihar Nath Singh, a former District Welfare Officer (rtd.) of Rohtas, recalled that the situation was so shameful that Kedar Nath Mishra, the then DM, also used to attend that durbar. The henchmen of that leader would roam from one corner to another in the district to collect money to run the lives of the politicians. White-elephant departments like the Public Works Department and Excise Department were compelled to feed the power-brokers; most of them belonged to the so-called upper castes of this district.

The mega-influence of Brahmins caused a sharp reaction in the psyche of the anti-Brahmin camp. Caste-based criminals Chhatu Chaube, C.I.D. Mishra, Babban Mishra, and many more were terrors in their time. On the other side of the coin, the Koiri, Dusadh, Kurmi and Kahar were four prominent and dominant communities who used to capture the polling booths and ensure command over the crime-graph of the entire district for their Brahmin and Rajput god-fathers. If the Brahmins of Bandoo, Manjhigawan, Nauhatta, Khairwa and Singhpur villages used to parcel their arms and ammunition to the other district to conduct gang robberies and get their share from the booty, the Rajputs of Tippa, Balbhadrapur and Bhadara villages structured a reign of terror with their rifles. In retaliation, Koiri, Dusadh, Kurmi and Kahar youngsters congregated jointly, and stockpiled sophisticated arms and ammo to wipe out the influence of the so-called upper castes.

So, Brahminism had to face an appalling situation that worsened by the day. In the meantime, some dissenting youth took to arms to fight the government-supported Brahminism. These youth took shelter in the dense forests of Kaimur. Subsequently, the war against age-long exploitation of the downtrodden in the society resulted in bloodbaths in many more places in district Rohtas. They would come down and kill the Rajput landlords specially in the foothill areas. Reports say within a period of less than three years, they killed more than 460 Rajputs in the name of revenge.

A desperate man does desperate things, so caste war turned from bad to worse and went out of control. Dacoits like Mohan Bind, affectionately known as Raja, Bhim, Ghamari Kharwar, Dadwa were an eccentric type of rebels who killed a number of innocent plainspeople. Since the plainspeople were dependant upon the forest resources, these rebels began to whimsically attack them. Eventually, these rebels became exploiters of woods, tribals and also a big hindrance to the development process of Kaimur. The rebel gangs would heave the tribal bellies from the villages for sexual covetousness. With the advent of the nineties, after the killing of Mohan Bind by Ramgahan Yadav, development work was brought to an end as the rebels began to demand a huge share from the development fund. Kaimur felt suffocated. In the year 1987, Sudarshan Prasad Singh, the then SP, analysed the psychology of these rebels and as a result within less than three months, Kaimur became free of crime. The Rohtas Police even killed the dreaded criminal Chhangur Dusadh, a close accomplice of a leader of the Lok Dal.

Kaimur, home to about 1.2 lakh tribals, does not have any police station. There is no sign of development there. After the sway of the Raja ended, justice and equality eluded the Kaimurites. The problems remained as they were 20 years back. That was a massive fraud played on them. Meanwhile, Dr Vinayan, the famous Naxal leader, travelled and visited the valley of Kaimur, held numerous public meetings, addressed the tribals with a host of promises assuring them of providing all forms of justice on the lines of Subhash Chandra Bose. The poor and innocent tribals followed them. The tribals were betrayed again. The Naxals began to capture the woods, valley and ravines. The locals kept on supporting with their dreams of a radiant future. But in vain. They were forcibly made comrades of the Red guerrillas.

Now, the entire landscape is in the grip of Naxal outfits. The local police do not have proper manpower, arms and ammunition. So, the government is lagging behind and the guerrillas are paving the way to turn Kaimur into their solid base. They even come down to Sasaram, the district headquarters of Rohtas, commit crimes after distributing threatening pamphlets in the marketplace and in the district court complex. They are now involved in bank robberies and highway crime. The root of the problem in Kaimur is complex and the situation is complicated. As I sought to speak to Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, he refused to talk to any freelance journalist. His statement left a jarring note in my ears: “Kaimur mein aisa kuchho nahi hai…sub control mein hai…e sub bat phone par nahi hota hai. (There are no such matters in Kaimur…everything is under control. Such matters are not discussed on telephone).” How far was he from the real state of affairs!

The author is a Delhi-based freelance journalist.

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