The guns are quieter in Jharkhand this election.
This troubled astern state has hardly had elections without bloodshed. Maoists and their splinter groups killed persons in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and 12 in the assembly elections that year. The two phases of Mandate 2014 have been peaceful barring a landmine blast in Bokaro that injured four CRPF personnel.
Other Maoist-hit states have been far more violent. Chattisgarh and Bihar have so far reported 12 and two deaths respectively.
So what has happened in Jharkhand that witnessed 383 Maoist-related incidents compared to 353 in Chattisgarh?
Senior police officials and activists here feel the rebel groups are refraining from big-bang attacks for a share of the lucrative iron ore mining trade.
“Various rebel groups have been tacitly supporting a number of candidates to gain control over the mineral-rich constituencies and this could one of the reasons behind fewer violent incidents this election,” a senior superintendent of police heading a sensitive district told HT.
According to prominent anti-mining activist Xavier Dias, many candidates in the red terror zones of Chatra, Palamu, and Khunti have reached an understanding with Maiosts and their offshoots. “All the major groups including the CPI (Maoist), People Liberation Front of India (PFLI), Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) have supported one candidate or the other,” he said.
He did not take names but locals know who are backing whom. Besides, rebels have voiced their choices.
CPI (Maoist) regional committee member Nakul Yadav announced support for Neelam Devi, Jharkhand Vikash Morcha candidate from Chatra. The outfit’s rival TPC is widely believed to be supporting the BJP in the same seat. In Khunti, the PFLI is actively helping Jharkhand Party candidate Anosh Ekka.
Many believe the iron ore trade is too lucrative for Maoists to stay away from. In West Singbhum’s Saranda region alone, 19 projects mining projects are in different phases of approval. “Once a powerful force, the Maoists have not only been divided into various splinter groups but have also come under severe attack from the state. They are on the back foot, and so they want to control the area politically,” Dias said.
This probably explains why Maoists have checked their habit of boycotting polls.
State DGP Rajeev Kumar did not rule out any Maoist-candidate understanding but insisted the rebels have lost steam because of heavy deployment of security forces and intense combing operations. “We were better prepared this time with 90,000 security personnel deployed in the two phases. Also, we began search operations on a massive scale from November last year,” he said.
With elections in four less sensitive constituencies – Dumka, Dhanbad, Godda and Rajmahal – due on April 24, the people of Jharkhand hope the guns remain quieter.
Two phases of polls in some Maoist-hit seats were almost incident-free. Heavy deployment of forces and Maoists’ understanding with candidates for control of mineral-rich areas are said to be the reasons.
Lives lost across Maoist zones this election
Jharkhand: None (4 injured)
Bihar: 2 (7 injured)