Kaimur: Maoists down, not out
BJ Mirror Correspondent
From the land of sages, seers and meditation to the cradle of politics and rajas to the plunder zone of dreaded dacoits to the Maoist fiefdom the Kaimur Plateau have traversed a long and weird way to reach a twilight juncture now. The options are limited and diametrically opposed. Will the region return to its old self? Will the faraway songs of peacocks and cuckoos add mesmerising ambience to melodious murali (flute) tunes of cowherds? Or will the Maoist guns spit fire again?
The options have popped up in the wake police operations to rid the region of dreaded Maoists. The extremist gangsters have either ‘swallowed’ the rehabilitation baits or fallen to the police guns. Some might have fled to Chhattisgarh hideouts. “Peaceful Jadunathpur panchayat election, held recently, signifies the end of Maoist terror”, a senior Rohtas police officer said. He, however, candidly admitted that police cannot afford to rest on the oars.
“The Maoists may be down but cannot be considered to be out”, he confided. And after a brief pause he qualified his statement. “The extremists might be bidding time and may try to spring back at an opportune moment. Eternal vigilance is the need of hour”. The police officialis not off the mark in his assessment. In a damage control exercise the Maoists have already appointed a tribal to head its zone command.
Yes, the Kaimur Plateau cannot afford to remain in the vacuum for long. The administration has to rush in with a sumptuous dose of development cakes. Sincere and honest efforts to reach the fruits to the beneficiaries brook no delay. Hungry souls know no qualms of conscience. The ‘battles for Kaimur Plateau’ in the twin districts of Rohtas and Kaimur in Bihar never had any ideological content. It had been a ‘war’ to control the gold mine that the Plateau region on the Bihar-UP border has been for more than 50 years. In fact, blood has been flowing faster than water in the legendry Karmanasha River, said to have originated from the saliva of King Trisanku. Legend has it that the king was being sent bodily to the swarga (heavens) by sage Vishwamitra but was pushed down. Finally, he hung upside-down at the ridge.
Poverty, thy name is Kaimur
Collins Cobuild dictionary says ‘poverty is the state of being extremely poor’, the Chambers is a bit liberal to put it as ‘the state of being poor’. Fowlers make ‘the dominant sense of poor’ and Thesaurusidenifies as ‘scarcity’. All these meanings will pale into insignificance if one visits the sprawling Kaimur Plateau region and sees its sons and daughters.
The Kaimur has a ‘unique’ (or dubious) personality. Nature has been bountiful in bestowing flora and fauna. Dense jungles were once the abode of even Royal Bengal tigers. Mines and miners were in abundance. The Kaimur wealth fed fat every outsider, right from erswhilezamindars to forest contractors to dacoit ganglords to Maoists and, of course, corrupt government officials but kept its sons and daughters poorer and poorer.
Perhaps there is no appropriate word to fully describe their plight. disease, want and debt have been their costant companions. The aboriginals are born in debt and die in debt. Decades back an Avard survey had found that, not to talk of landless, every tribal having land from one to ten acres was in debt from Rs. 254 to Rs. 492 and bigger land-holders (21 to 39 acre groups) owed Rs. 1227 to money-leders, all outsiders. The government-run development schemes have not brought any perceptable changes in the economic scenario in the last six decades. Roads, electricity, healthcare and other civil amenities are still few and far between.
The Kaimur Plateau has been mother of dozens of rivers, rivulettes and dahas (local name for perennial groundwater reservoir) but chero, kharwar, dhangar and other tribals still fetch drinking water mostly from ‘chuans’ (water cavities) in summer months. The rivers flow down the steep hills to irrigate land in plains and end up in the Sone and Ganga rivers. (BJMC)
Mohan Bind was the first gang-lord to hold ‘undisputed’ sway in the Plateau in sixties. He was so popular and dreaded that people had started calling him ‘raja’ (king). Even police officials had played his tunes and courted him for safe and peaceful stay in the undivided Rohtas district. Mohan’s killing led to a proliferation of armed gangs. The area came to be called ‘Chambal of Bihar’, mainly because of bloody gang fights. On an average two-three persons were killed every day in gang fights. Finally, three gangs, led by Ramashish Koeri, alias Dada, Ghamari Kharwar and Rambachan Yadav, alias Pahalwanji, remained active in the hills, that yielded ‘gold’ in the shape of Kendu leaves and other forest products. Former two gangs were eliminated in police actions in mid-eighties. The third gang-lord Pahalwanji surrendered before police.
Slowly and steadily naxalite groups of different hues gathered in the Kaimur hills and filled the void. Grouping and regrouping for supremacy saw killing of many devoted leaders. Finally Maoists emerged as the king. They and they alone ruled the Kaimur Plateau, bereft of any criminal gangs. The region was declared ‘liberated zone’. Even government officers and other employees courted extremist leaders. Even contractors and big traders had to pay PC to them. In a nutshell, all development schemes were planned and executed at the wish of Maoists.
In the turn of events Maoist rule got weakened. Or fed-up tribals threw off the extremist yoke. And the Kaimur Plateau once again created history. Nitish Kumar visited the Rohtas Qila (fort) and became the first Chief Minister in five decades or so to visit the historic building, which had been ‘liberated’ from the Maoist fiefdom. The history here lies in tears. In the past Bihar’s first Chief Minister Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha had a history and had gone to the Kaimur Plateau to inaugurate Adhaura block. If Nitish Kumar hopped in a helicopter to reach the fort, Dr. Sinha had flown to UP and made a detour to Kaimur for the ceremony.
Incidentally, the two episodes speak volumes about the fate and status of the Kaimur Plateau region, a store house of Natural wealth. If Dr. Sinha had gifted Bhabhua- Adhaura road, Nitish Kumar has promised a road to link Akbarpur (Rohtas)to Adhaura. It will be an east to west corridor and open the Plateau to visitors and tourists. Is it not pathetic that chief minister or even high government official dared to visit the area and virtually left the innocent tribals to fend for themselves?
The Kaimur story is a panorama of broken promises; almost cheating. Some two or three decades the then Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram had promised to open Army training station with firing range. This step would have freed the region from dreaded gangs of criminals and allowed whiff of fresh air and development. A CRPF wing was promised to be stationed in the area. This too remained a pipe dream.
Lack of communication and absence of policing have bane of the Plateau region. Police forces are rarely seen there. Development and progress have remained at the mercy of outlaws of all hue, be they armed marauders or corrupt government officials. Nitish Kumar has mercifully rekindled the rays of hope for the poorest of poor tribals and non-tribals inhabiting the hilly tracks. It is expected that the wheels of development and poverty-alienation schemes will once again start moving. Security of people should be the first concern. Young and energetic Rohtas SP Manu Maharaaj, who has done yeoman’s service in wiping out last vestige of the Maoists, has promised to create an efficient police network in the Plateau with most modern appliances. A heavy dose of development activities and foolproof policing brook no delay.
Sadly, the ‘report card’ of the Rohtas administration makes no specific reference to any package or schemes for the Kaimur Plateau region. It merely refers to integrated action programme (IAP), launched in district in 2010, for the extremist-infested zones and goes on to reel off statistics about fund allotments but maintains a meaningful silence on their physical achievement. That is the tragedy of Kaimur Plateau development!
Free from the Maoist stranglehold, both Saranda forests in Jharkhand and Kaimur Plateau in Bihar today stand at the threshold of making a new beginning. A bright dawn awaits them. A big question, however, looms large: Will they succeed in their new voyage? There should be nothing to cast doubts. The Union government has already launched and closely monitoring rebuilding schemes in Saranda region. Will the Bihar government show the same seriousness and urgency to make good for the lost years? Will the development agencies move into the dreaded Kaimur Plateau region or remote control schemes from safe perches in the plains?