DESPITE LIVING in the 21st century, they never saw even a pucca road before. For tribal youths of Naxal-infested Sonebhadra, it was their first tryst with the modern world.
Moreover, the Sonebhadra police were playing friend, philosopher and guide to the youths who were on ‘Lucknow darshan’ on Saturday.
It was no casual trip. There was a larger objective behind the exercise – weaning tribal tyros away from the influence of Naxalites and their propaganda.
“I never saw a city before,” said Ram Jag of Purianara village in Sonebhadra.
Thus far, his world had been confined to the hilly tracks of his native place infested by gun-toting Naxalites from across Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar.
For Jitan Singh, too, the visit was an eye-opener. He was dumbfounded to see the glitter of life outside his Dhani Raina village. All that he had been exposed to so far was ‘indoctrination’ by Naxals. They had told him that the world outside the tribal belt was bad.
So, it was a pleasant surprise when policemen befriended him and others to dispel many a myth about the world. Mobilisation of around 200 youths against Naxals appeared to have yielded positive results.
If only the civil administration had been just as innovative in trying to bring the tribals into the mainstream.
“Our counterparts (the civil administration) neither understand the sensitivity of the Naxalite problem, nor are they committed,” said Sonebhadra superintendent of police Raghuvir Lal. He said other departments made piecemeal efforts and thus development of the Naxalite affected region was highly “imbalanced”.
More than the police, the tribals needed basic facilities, added 35th PAC Battalion commandant VK Singh.
Director general of police Bua Singh nodded in agreement, as he said developmental measures should be speeded up in the region.
Most police officers feel the Naxalite problem cannot be tackled without providing villagers with amenities. The Sonebhadra police have succeeded in weaning away around 200 youth from Naxalites by assuring them of a better and safer future.
Bua Singh told the group that Naxalites had given them nothing and only imperiled their lives. The DGP said Naxal leaders lived lavishly, they compelled innocent tribal youths to live a hard life in the forests.
He said the “best way to eliminate the Naxalite menace” was to win over tribal youths who were their local conduits.