Taking a strong exception to the threats issued by Maoists to some of his party's top functionaries, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Sibu Soren has exhorted party cadres to "be prepared for taking the ultras head-on at the grassroots". The call has surprised one and all in the corridors of power in Jharkhand.
Soren, presently lodged in the prisoners' ward of RIMS, has sent the message through some of his trusted lieutenants.
"Guruji has given a call for a direct confrontation with the Naxalites. He has at the same time cautioned party leaders and cadres against deviating from issues, which form the core of JMM's agenda," JMM central committee secretary Suprio Bhattacharya told the HT.
"Guruji was shocked to know that Naxalites had killed Jamshedpur MP Sunil Mahto. He had, in fact, never apprehended that Naxalites would target his party cadre. But now that the Maoists have targeted Sudhir Mahto, the Deputy Chief Minister and party MLA, Soren has asked us to be ready for a showdown with outlawed outfits," Bhattacharya said.
He added that the party was also buoyed by the call for Sendra (war) given by the Nagrik Suraksha Samiti members in Baguria to avenge Sunil Mahto's killing.
Sudhir Mahto said he was yet to receive Soren's message. "I will comment only after I discuss the issue with Soren," he added.
Soren's call has, nevertheless, alarmed the state police in particular, which fears it could lead to bloodbath between die-hard JMM cadres and the ultras. "Chances of JMM cadres, armed with traditional bows and arrows, suffering heavy reverses in the hands of heavily-armed ultras can't be ruled out in such a scenario. In fact, more innocents too could be killed in the process," said a senior IPS official.
Jharkhand Yuva Morcha Chief Binod Pandey too admitted the fact. "We can not challenge them (Naxalites) physically. But our strategy will be to ensure people isolate them, particularly, in rural areas. The cadres will now have to work harder for expanding the party base at the grassroots," he said.
Police officials felt Soren's call has come at a time when the Naxalites attitude towards him has changed. "The ultras had earlier refrained from issuing statements against Soren. But now, they have started targeting him as well," they pointed out.