The Sun was on the last leg of its journey, as our car approached the dusty terrain of naxal-dominated Goli panchayat in Khera block of Jamui. As I reached Sokho, it was already dark. We noticed a ray of light flickering near the foothills at some distance.
I asked the driver to move towards the light. It was a Church. Adjacent to it was a social organization, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, located in an isolated village Sokho, 30 km from the district headquarters.
Here I met Sister Leena, and three of her colleagues – Sister Cornelia, Sister Shashi and Sister Lata. Four women, all alone in the naxalite heartland!
“Well, that is the way it is. We are trying to spread the light of education in five panchayats – Goli, Harni, Aranwa, Harkhar and Gaidhi. Education is very important as it helps people assess what is good for them. They can then benefit from the government schemes,” says Sister Leena.
For the sisters, there is no fear in the naxalite heartland, which even the police fear to tread. Though, the nuns recounted some unpleasant experiences, they say political parties are reluctant to enter rigorous campaigning in the region.
No wonder, with even politicians and the district administration keeping away, even rudimentary infrastructure worth the name is unavailable to people in these parts. People are largely ignorant and aspire to almost nothing.
“Last time, we were asked to vote for the lantern. We went, but we were told to go back,” claimed Tilki Devi and Janakwa Devi of village Bojhajat. Suresh Ram says many villagers don’t have their names on the electoral roll. Others don’t know who the candidates are.
“We are trying to educate them that they should definitely exercise their franchise,” says Sister Leena.
Away from Goli and other naxalite and poverty-soaked regions in the district, it is a bit different. But people have a question: Why did Jamui become a district only in 1991. The district is largely backward with 42.34 per cent literacy and adverse sex ratio of 917 women for 1000 men.
The population density in Jamui is just 451 and is ranked 36th among 40 districts of the state. “It is strange that despite being politically conscious and having produced powerful leaders like Krishna Singh, Chandrashekhar Singh, Tripurari Singh and more recently, Union Minister Jai Prakash Narain Yadav, its fortunes have not changed,” says RK Singh, farmer, adding that lack of irrigation facility was a major issue here.
Though former Union Minister Digvijay Singh is contesting from Banka, he is still a factor here. His influence has come in the way of JD-U candidate Bhudeo Choudhary. The JD-U candidate is, however, banking on Nitish’s development agenda for the support of dominant Rajputs here to sail through.
The changing political equation and delimitation has raised hopes for Congress’ Ashok Choudhary and RJD’s Shyam Razak, but the presence of Gajadhar Razak of the Left paties and Arjun Ravidas of the BSP is being viewed as significant.
“Development is definitely an issue here this time. Till a couple of months ago, it would have been a smooth ride for the JD-U. It is no more so,” says Maheshwar Mishra of Lachchuatand. Like him, nobody wants to predict the outcome here.