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A region struggles with its radicals

A look at Indore and its surrounding areas which seem to have become a hub for radicalisation of Hindu youth. Vijay Swaroop writes.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2013 00:46 IST

It is 3 pm on Tuesday. Parvati, a woman in her early 60s is sitting with two children - Tannu (2 years) and Poonam (seven months) - playing in her lap at their Ravidas Mohalla house at Depalpur. The kids are the two children of Tejram Parmar, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Ujjain for allegedly planting one of the bombs in Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad.

The family of masons is shocked. "We are four brothers. Tejram is the youngest. All four of us along with our father, Hindu Singh, leave home at 7 in the morning for work and return by 7 in the evening. Where is the time for these activities?," asks Rajesh, Tejram's elder brother. "The arrest has come as a shock. There is no such (crime) record in local police station against our family," he added standing in front of his two-storey brick house. The mother nodded and neighbours came to his defence. Tejram, a school drop-out, was provided RSS help the very next day, which included informing the neighbours, managing air tickets and legal aid at Hyderabad.

Eight kms away on the Indore-Depalpur state highway, a group of villagers of Murkhera are playing cards on a platform adjacent to a temple. Murkhera, a village of 300 houses, survives on agriculture. Most houses are made of bricks; a majority of farmers have tractors while some have even jeeps and cars. This is the village of Kamal Radheshyam Chauhan (32) accused of planting one of the four bombs on the Samjhauta Express. He was arrested on February 12, 2012 by the NIA. Chauhan, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member for the last 10 years, was in constant touch with Sunil Joshi.

An eighth-standard graduate, Chauhan is a father of three - two daughters and a six-month old son. His neighbor claims he joined his father in agriculture at the age of 14. His family owns 25 bighas of land. "He rarely went out, and even when he left the village for a week, he would let us know," said his grandfather, Ram Singh (75).

Depalpur, 48 km north-west of Indore is a small sub-divisional town sans any major infrastructure. The sub-division is under-developed in almost all parameters - health, unemployment, education, etc - and agriculture is the sole source of livelihood. But of late, the sub-division and its nearby area has come into the limelight after the NIA arrested four persons for their involvement in different blasts across the country, making this part of Malwa region a hotbed of so-called 'Hindu Terrorism.'

Kamal Chauhan from Murkhera (8 km from Depalpur); Manohar Singh (Gurgakhed, Hatod), Tej Ram (Ravidas Mohalla, Depalpur) and Dasrath Chowdhary alias Rajendra Pehelwan alias Samandar (Dhahed Sheri mohalla, Depalpur) - all reside in and around Depalpur. Most names figuring in the connection with Right-wing extremism hail from Madhya Pradesh's Malwa region. Mhow in the west, Hathod in the north west, Sanwer (north of Indore) and Bagli (north east of Indore) lie in the 40-50 km radius of Indore, while Nagda is ahead of Ujjain. The NIA investigation has also revealed that all of them had undertaken training in 2006 in a jungle near Bagli in Dewas district. Recently the NIA team was in Bagli hunting for the spot where the training camp was held.

Sunil Joshi and his associates first shot to limelight after killing a local tribal strongman, Piar Singh Ninama, in Mhow. Joshi was an RSS zila pracharak in Mhow. In Malwa's tribal belt, Ninama was the face of Congress among the tribal population. He was murdered along with his son Dinesh in July, 2003. It was rumoured that he had stepped up the Christian missionaries activities to get more adivasis into their fold. Joshi, a member of the RSS at the time, was 'sent' as the Mhow pracharak.

In Mhow, the Sangh Parivar started spreading its wings to areas like Depalpur to expand its base and Joshi became a frequent visitor of the place. The two groups - Ninama, a converted Christian, on one side and RSS on the other side, clashed leading to the killing of Ninama.

Why Malwa?
The Malwa region is predominantly tribal. Indore, the biggest city in the region does not have much of an Adivasi presence but Dhar, Jhabua, Barwani, Khargone and Khandwa have a pre-dominant tribal population. Hindus form the second largest community. Malwa has also been the hotbed of radical Hinduism since RSS leaders like Khushabhau Thakre, Pyarelal Khandelwal, Sunderlal Patwa and Suresh Soni hailed from the region and shaped the RSS philosophy.

According to intelligence officials, the growth of so-called Hindu terror, to some extent can be attributed to the activities of SIMI as well. "The Malwa region is the base of the RSS while SIMI activists have been active in Ujjain-Dewas region for long," said an official. "Both feed on each other," he added.

Their socio-economic background, of the arrested youths, their education and lack of employment opportunities made them easy prey, feel some of the residents of Depalpur.