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Three Naxals arrested for Chilkhadih incident

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 1, 2007

31 Oct 2007, 2037 hrs IST,PTI

GIRIDIH (JHARKHAND): Three Naxals, allegedly involved in the Chilkhadih massacre, were arrested by police in Jharkhand’s Giridih district in intense combing operations on Wednesday.

A total of 19 people, including the son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi were killed in the pre-dawn Naxal attack during a cultural function on October 27.

Giridih Additional Superintendent of Police Arun Kumar Singh said the three persons were identified as Kishun Rajwar, Manoj Rajwar and Rahmat Ansari.

CPI (Maoist) have claimed responsibility for the massacre and that they had targeted Nunulal, the son of Babulal Marandi.

Those arrested on Wednesday were not named in the FIR that had been filed by the bodyguard of Nunulal Marandi, who had survived the massacre unhurt, Kumar said.

The bodyguard had named ten persons in the FIR filed two days ago

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urgent: what really happened in chikhadia on saturday morning?

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 29, 2007

October 28, 2007

Human dignity and the definition of terrorism

what really happened in chikhadia on saturday morning?

In the early hours of Saturday, a ground of 35-odd gunmen shot and killed 18 people attending a music festival in the village of Chikhadia, in the restive Giridh district of Jharkhand. That’s about the only fact which the mainstream Indian and International media got right. That fact, however, is by itself incapable of supporting the inferences which politicians, bureaucrats and police spokesmen are drawing in one public statement after another.

Unanswered Questions

Certain questions continue to remain unanswered, a full 48 hours after the incident. How many people were attending the celebrations? Were the bulk of those in attendance allowed to disperse without being harmed? Why was the 85-strong cultural troupe from the city of Bokaro not harmed in any manner whatsoever? Who were the government officials sitting with members of the Marandi family in the front rows? Why was there no police or paramilitary presence, given the current turmoil in Giridh? Were the gunmen in uniform at the time of the shooting, or had they changed into civilian clothes, as some eye witnesses report? Finally, who else died, besides Anup Marandi?

Fact Check

Then there are some hard facts which the media appears to have ignored altogether. Firstly, Anup Marandi’s father, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Babulal Marandi, has been heavily involved, directly and indirectly, in land grabbing and illegal logging in the resource-rich belt [stretching beyond Jharkhand to the states of Chattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal] for well over a decade, well before the creation of the State of Jharkhand. Secondly, the Marandi family has been using local mafia-run militias and corrupt policemen to wage a violent struggle against those tribal elements–not just Naxalites (Maoists)—who have been struggling for many long years to block or reverse extremely dubious land transfers, to halt rampant money lending activities and the exploitation of cheap labour, to punish those engaged in the trafficking in women and children, and to bring to attention the severe repression unleashed by criminal gangs working in conjunction with both police and paramilitary personnel.

These facts have been checked independently by any number human rights activists; so have a few others. Since Indian independence in 1947, more than 2.5 million acres of Adivasi tribal lands have been expropriated to set up mines, industries, dams and highways. Another 1.2 million acres, by very conservative estimates, have been illegally or fraudulently snatched from Jharkhand’s tribes by unscrupulous outsiders. According to a Ranchi-based human rights lawyer, “Babulal Marandi has played a significant role in allowed or forcing land department officials in facilitating the land transfers. Nothing has changed, despite years of court battles and public demonstrations.”

A few more facts are in order. Since the mid-1950s, almost 4 million Adivasis have been displaced, resulting in large-scale migration. Thousands have found employment under slave-labour conditions in small-scale factories across North, East and Central India. Hundreds of young Adivasi women were led by agents to the red light districts of Kolkatta and Mumbai. Those Adivasis who stayed behind were quickly recruited as low-end workers in the still-flourishing underground trade in coal and timber.

Most importantly, Babulal Marandi was an integral part of the process to forcibly “Hindu-ize” the Adivasis, Moolvasis and Dalits through essentially counter-productive measures governing education and healthcare. And Mr. Marandi has been actively collaborating with other politicians in the State and in New Delhi to overturn the long-standing laws relating to domicile, reservation and local self-government.

Law and Lawlessness

By all accounts, the definition of the rule of law in Jharkhand does not conform to the dictates of the Indian Constitution. “The lawlessness in this area is a verifiable fact for many decades,” a retired Jharkhand administrative official emphasized earlier today in a telephone interview. “All sides—law enforcement, mafia kingpins, land grabbers, coal miners, timber merchants, money lenders, local militias, Naxalites and tribal front organizations—follow a different set of rules than those laid out in the Constitution.”

A Communist Party of India (Maoist) spokeswoman in New Delhi places the problem in a different context. “First let’s look at those who have been blatantly disregarding the law for 40-plus years and who have never been punished,” she said late Saturday. “Then let’s try and figure out how the impoverished tribal people should or can defend themselves. The law, as people call it, has an entirely contextual meaning out there.”

It is still not clear how many of those 35-odd gunmen were members of the Maoist party, and how many were armed, non-affiliated Adivasis or Dalits. In fact, the police commissioner of Jharkhand is not even sure whether the attackers were from Jharkhand or from Bihar, a few miles away from the village of Chikhadia.

But the core question begs an answer. Does the Chikhadia incident qualify as an act of terrorism?

Quite clearly, there are two related questions which need to be addressed, particularly in view of the rather thorough house-to-house, warrant-less searches being conducted by the Jharkhand police today in the villages and small towns of Giridh district.

Firstly, why does Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claim that the Naxalites represent the single biggest threat to India’s security when he must know the historical and current socio-economic conditions in the tribal regions of Jharkhand, Bihar, Chattisgarh and West Bengal.?

Secondly, do the tribal people of that region have the right to defend themselves in the total absence of any rule of law?

The right to defend equals the right to attack

A prominent Congress-linked student leader in Ranchi concedes that “armed combatants on both sides of the divide are fighting each other in a vicious struggle for land and resources and, as long as they don’t kill innocent civilians, the issue of terrorism does not come into play at all.”

But a senior CPI (Maoist) ideologue, who preferred to remain anonymous, went one step further in a conversation yesterday. “What has happened to these tribal people for the last few decades, and what is happening to them today, is terrorism of the highest order,” he reiterated. “Is the forcible expropriation of your land not terrorism? Is the selling of your women not terrorism? Is the destruction of your households by money lenders not terrorism? Is the torturing of the marginalized, in police stations and in prisons, not terrorism? Is the perpetuation of hunger and disease not terrorism? Do the people have the right to defend themselves or not, in the absence of any workable remedy?”

The CPI (Maoist) has not officially admitted to orchestrating the Chikhadia incident. But many of its cadres are demanding, in private discussion sessions with human rights groups, with left-wing workers and with student activists, that the debate over Chikhadia, and other similar instances in the past, be shaped by the definition of terrorism as such a definition can be derived and formulated from within the criminal and corruption matrix of the tribal zone. “Otherwise, we are talking ideology in a vacuum, without the proper perspective, out of the context of reality, based on what has become, for practical purposes, a mere piece of paper—the Indian Constitution.”

Back to Chikhadia

Our inclination at this juncture is to keep asking who exactly is in possession of all the relevant facts.

Because two reliable eye witness accounts completely discount the claim made in the media that “Naxalites fired indiscriminately into a crowd of villagers.” Because police sources are unwilling to confirm who exactly died, besides Anup Marandi. Because a certain state official disclosed that members of the Marandi family usually move around with their own armed security teams, and rarely require police protection. Because one key member of the Bokaro troupe says that the firing was indeed highly targeted, “to the front rows only.” Because any number of those attending knew that the fight between militant tribal leaders on one hand and the Marandi family the other was being fought outside the confines of the Indian Constitution for more than 4 years. Because those who know the region also know that those guiding the Jharkhand mafias exert a powerful influence in the corridors of power in Ranchi and New Delhi.

At the risk of over-emphasis, no judgements can be made and no sustainable inferences can be drawn unless all the facts are on the table. We ask, why are the State and Central governments afraid to issue a single policy document which includes all the facts. This tactic of making selective and basically misleading statements to the media must be recognized for what it is: undiluted spin.

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Giridh:Reprisal for anti-Naxal stand

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 29, 2007

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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Maoists kill Marandi son & 18

Posted by Indian Vanguard on October 28, 2007

Rebels kill Marandi son & 18

Giridih, Oct. 27: Maoists gunned down 19 people, including the son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi, at Chilkhari village, about 55km from here, in small hours today.

“Armed Naxalites opened fire when a cultural programme was on between 12.30am and 1am and killed 19 people, including Anup Marandi (21), the son of Marandi,” deputy inspector-general of police R.K. Mullick said in the capital.

Marandi’s brother Nunulal, who was present at the function organised after a football tournament as the chief guest, was the prime target of the rebels. He, however, escaped unhurt. All the 85 artistes of the opera group from Bokaro performing at the function miraculously survived the attack.

Jharkhand Vikas Morcha has called a statewide bandh on Sunday to protest against the killing of 18 innocent villagers and Marandi’s son by the Naxalites.

According to reports, 17 persons succumbed to bullet injuries on the spot. Thirteen injured persons were rushed to Giridih hospital, where two more villagers died. Suresh Handa, the newly elected vice-president of the students’ union in Giridih College, was among the victims of rebels’ indiscriminate firing.

Five of the injured persons were shifted to Patliputra Medical College and Hospital in Dhanbad around 11.30am today. The rebels, according to eyewitnesses, came to the venue of the cultural programme in two groups — one sporting CRPF uniform and the other in plain clothes. The second mingled with the crowd that had gathered at the soiree before the attack, said additional superintendent of police of Giridih Arun Kumar Singh.

Some of the rebels, said eyewitnesses, went up to the stage around 12.40pm and thundered they had come to kill Nunulal. Immediately they opened fire at the guests sitting in the first row assuming their target was sitting there. But Nunulal was in the second row, and he managed to flee.

The Giridih ASP admitted to lapses by the police. Virendra Singh, the officer in charge of Deori police station, under which Chilkhari falls, was deputed along with police personnel for the football match and the cultural programme but he returned in the evening after prize distribution.

“It is a clear case of negligence on the police officer’s part,” Singh said, adding the assailants could have sneaked back to Bihar as the village is near the Bihar border.

Babulal Marandi said: “My family is a target of Naxalites. My son and brother should not have ventured out at night.”

He alleged that there was a spurt in Maoist violence in Jharkhand and the Chilkhari incident was “another episode of a series of Maoist attacks.”

JMM chief Shibu Soren denounced the act of the Maoists vociferously. Condemning the attack, chief minister Madhu Koda said: “It is a sad incident. The attack was in retaliation of the police action against the rebels.”

Koda visited Chilkhari later in the day and said a joint combing operation by Bihar and Jharkhand police had begun. Two companies of central paramilitary force have been pressed into service, he added.

After a meeting with chief secretary P.P. Sharma and DGP V.D. Ram in the evening, Koda announced the kin of the deceased would get Rs 1 lakh and a job as compensation. The government also decided to meet the medical expenses of the injured.

The attack at Chilkhari village was reminiscent of the killing of former JMM MP Sunil Mahto on March 4 during a football match. Suman Mahto, the widow of the slain MP, has sought more security after today’s massacre.

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