CPI (Maoist) central committee member Pramod Mishra, arrested from Dhanbad colliery town of Jharkhand some years ago, has a son who is a qualified engineer.
Ugeshwarji, a sub-zonal commander of the CPI (Maoist) leading the outfit’s operations in bordering areas of Bihar and Jharkhand, has four daughters, three of who study in a private English medium school in Latehar district, 130 km from state capital Ranchi.
Maoist commander Shivlal Yadav’s sons study in a good private school in Daltonganj while Gopal Ganjhu, also a sub-zonal commander, sends his two kids to a popular school, aiming to make them good and successful human beings.
A list prepared by the Jharkhand police has the names of scores of Maoist leaders who claim to be fighting a proletarian war, leading by example. But their personal lives are steeped in corruption. They lead luxurious lives, their families live in comfortable duplexes and their children go to the best schools in the region.
Why then do they pick up and hurl the children of poor farmers and labourers into their ideological battle? Why do they force their nimble fingers to make and plant dangerous explosives, ruining their childhood in the jungles?
It’s clear that Maoists are increasingly choosing the ‘easy’ option to ensure their own security by engaging children to ferry lethal weapons and levy collections in their school bags as couriers and messengers. And nowadays, due to heightened security, the rebels are using children to make and plant explosives as well.
Tuesday provided evidence of how the rebels force children into their battle against the state, exposing them to lethal hazards. That was when they dumped the mutilated body of class 2 student Pardeshi Lohra, 12, near his house in Bandua village in Latehar. Pardeshi was being trained to handle explosives along with seven other children and died in the process.
“Charity doesn’t begin at home for the Maoists,” said Latehar SP Michael Raj, who strongly condemned the rebels for carving out bright prospects for their own children while treating those of poor farmers and labourers as guinea pigs.
Sub-inspector Vinay Kumar Singh, who leads the anti-Maoist operations in the interiors of Latehar, said, “All top Maoist leaders now have decent bungalows and duplexes in Ranchi where their families are living in comfort. “It’s only due to the fear of the gun that poor villagers yield to their demands,” he said.
Obviously, no senior Maoist leader has ever admitted to engaging children in their world of wanton killings and violence, let alone condemning it. But some former Maoists said the times had changed, compelling them to opt out.
“I had joined the underground movement for a cause. But gradually, I found the people at the helm directionless — some of them even corrupt. I disassociated myself and started working on my mission afresh. Today, I have set up a school for children of the underprivileged masses in my village and have been elected a mukhiya (village headman),” said former rebel Thimbu Oraon who lives in Gumla district.
Former Maoist leader Yugal Pal, now a social worker and political leader in Palamu district, expressed a similar view. “When I was in the outfit, there was an ideology. Today, issues have gone backstage for obvious reasons. Levy money was then used for development of the organisation. Today, there is no accountability and leaders are focused on personal gains.”
And children are part of the price the poor have to pay to maintain the lavish lifestyles of those who profess to be fighting for their cause.