When Maoists called the shots 10 years ago, few dared to step out of their homes during the day in Jehanabad. Today, 9 pm is too early to shut shop.
Jehanabad was once the hub of Maoist resurgence in India. In November 2005, the rebels carried out one of their most audacious attacks, holding the entire town hostage to free top leader Ajay Kanu from jail and killing 12 people.
For several years before and after this jailbreak, Jehanabad lived in constant fear of attacks by Left-wing extremists (LWE), generally representing the backward castes, and their clashes with the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landowners.
The fear psychosis that LWE generated seems to be a thing of the past now. People no longer go to bed at 6 pm; they enjoy their nights out and shops solicit customers beyond 9.30 pm. The diminishing clout of the Maoists is apparent from the attitude of the teenagers, who either have not heard about the red rebels or do not care to know.
“Credit for this change goes to the NDA government that chief minister Nitish Kumar led,” Bhola Prasad Sharma, 91, said while sipping tea at a roadside eatery. “The Maoist issue is only alive in newspapers as certain lawmakers do not want it to die.”
Locals said increased police patrolling and the government’s integrated action plan to implement development programmes through the panchayats helped end the hopelessness that the Maoists exploited to attract youth.
“These areas are the most peaceful now because of the role the Nitish Kumar government, then with NDA, has played,” businessman-writer Sashikant Kumar said.
According to the district’s former superintendent of police Manu Maharaj, Jehanabad was crucial for Maoists as a corridor and shelter. “They have been on the run after this shelter was busted.”
Jehanabad goes to polls in the second phase on October 16.