For hours, he waited anxiously, mingling in a crowd engrossed in a volleyball match, still in two minds about whether he should proceed towards the dais where senior police officials sat or not. Ramashray Prasad Singh, father of former Lohardaga SP Ajay Kumar Singh who was martyred in 2000 during an encounter with suspected Maoist forces, also sat there.
The match ended with pomp and fanfare and the players were being readied to receive their prizes when suddenly Sarvesh Ganjhu alias Sarveshji popped up with his country-made gun, walked towards the stage and laid down his weapon at Ramashray’s feet.
For a moment, time stood still. But even before the people gathered could gauge what had just occurred, Karthik S, the incumbent SP, came forward and introduced Sarvesh as a veteran Maoist area commander, who had voluntarily come to surrender and join the mainstream.
For the thousands of spectators who had assembled at Lohardagga’s famous Lalit Narayan Stadium in Jharkhand to watch the entertaining semi-final and final matches of the prestigious Ajay Memorial Cup of Lohardaga Volleyball Championship, it was a real treat to watch a Maoist leader laying down arms in the presence of several senior police and CRPF officials.
Soon loud cheers and screams greeted Sarvesh, as he former Maoists said he desperately missed the life beyond jungles and hence decided to shun the gun to lead a peaceful life for the rest of his days.
A resident of Pratappur village, Chatra district, Sarvesh had joined the underground outfit in 1997 and in four years rose to the rank of area commander. In 2008, when his uncle, Ganesh Ganjhu, a dreaded Maoist leader died in an encounter with the police, he became an underground worker, collecting intelligence and planting bombs.
For Karthik, the whole purpose of organising the month long sporting extravaganza was fulfilling as it convinced one big Maoist leader to join the mainstream.
“Our theme for the tournament was bandook choro, volleyball khelo (shun gun, play volleyball),” he said. “I am happy that Sarvesh responded to the call and has decided to lead a normal life once the legal proceedings against him are over.”
The month-long tournament saw around 72 volleyball teams drawn from extremely backward, Maoist affected and rural heartlands of Lohardaga fighting it out for the honours.
The tournament, a brainchild of Kartik, also saw several former Maoists, who had since join the mainstream, share their experiences with the people who had come for the matches.