In Maoist-infested East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand two childhood friends are baying for each other’s blood after parting their ways 16 years ago over “ideological differences”, providing all the ingredients for a Bollywood potboiler.
CPI (Maoists) commander Kanu Munda and anti-Maoist Nagrik Suraksha Samity’s (NSS) vice-president Shailendra Baskey grew up together and went to the same school and college.
The two from neighbouring villages were inseparable, until Maoists made an inroad into their villages, creating a rift in their friendship in 2000.
Attracted by the left-wing extremists, Munda soon took up arms to bring about a “political change” through the barrel of the gun while Baskey joined the vigilante group to “safeguard” the villagers from the “red terror” that was threatening their “peaceful coexistence and sovereignty.” In the past 16 years, both Maoists and the NSS have fought pitched battles, killing several people on either side. But Baskey and Munda have somehow managed to survive so far. Both are however aware death is lurking behind them.
Munda, an influential member of powerful Bengal-Jharkhand-Odisha Border Regional Committee (BJOBRC) of the CPI (Maoist), carries a reward of ₹ 25 lakh on his head. Police of the three states, besides central forces, are after him.
The security forces are often aided in their hunt by the NSS, which provides information about Maoist movement and hideouts. This made Baskey, a sworn enemy of the Left ultras. He survived a near fatal attack by Munda and his team in 2007, when they pumped five bullets into his body. He has been now provided a police guard.
The animosity, however, failed to completely erase the fond memories of their friendship. “We were bosom friends who used to spend most of their time attending school, studying, playing and travelling together,” Baskey recalled.
They studied together at Muchrisole Middle School and Asta Kawali High School from where the duo passed out matriculation. They then went to the Ghatsila College for intermediate. Baskey recollected initially when the Maoists came to their villages they supported them. But soon the groups’ ugly side came out.
“Young girls were being taken away to serve as sex objects. They started looting food grains and harassing gullible villagers. Whoever protested was mercilessly thrashed. Eventually, with the help of the then police superintendent of the district, Arun Oraon, we formed the NSS to retaliate,” Baskey said.
“They (Maoists) though failed to convince me, lured and trapped Munda. He got drifted towards the ugly world of violence,” he added. Kanu could not be contacted for his comment. But one of his close aides said he is a fighter and would prefer dying than surrendering either to the NSS or security forces.