Guruji?s murky past catches up with him

Published on Nov 29, 2006 04:40 AM IST

The journey from being a tribal leader to a man who loved playing kingmaker has been a long one for Soren, writes Ashok Mishra.

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None | ByAshok Mishra, Ranchi

The journey from being a tribal leader to a man who loved playing kingmaker has been a long one for 60-year-old Sibu Soren — so long that he probably would never find his way back.

The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo, who has been convicted of conspiring to murder his secretary Shashi Nath Jha, fought hard to create a separate Jharkhand state. But that is not how Jharkhand knows its ‘Guruji’ today — he is better known for the controversies he courted.

His dark past

Soren made news in 1993 when he was accused of taking money to support the PV Narsimha Rao government. After the bribery case was busted, four JMM MPs, including Soren, were sent to jail. Though Soren was later acquitted, a case of disproportionate assets is still pending against him.

Soon after the bribery scandal, his secretary Shashi Nath Jha was murdered. It turned out that Soren had got him killed because he had threatened to expose the JMM chief's role in the bribery case. And then, his past began to catch up with him. Just before the February 2005 polls, he was charged with killing 10 persons at Chirudih village in Jamtara in 1975. Soren allegedly led a tribal mob to attack the Muslim-dominated village, in what is now Jharkhand, as part of his campaign against "outsiders". In 2004, a fast track court in Jharkhand issued an arrest warrant against him in the case.

Political diary

Soren had to quit the UPA government at the Centre after the warrant in the Chirudih case but made a comeback this year.  He has had flings with other parties too. After the Congress lost the 1990 assembly elections in Bihar, Soren backed the Janata Dal government led by Lalu Prasad Yadav. But he withdrew support after his party split in 1995. Soren then flirted with the BJP. But when it went back on its promise of making him chief minister in the new Jharkhand state, he severed ties with the saffron party.

The leader

Soren started off as a fierce campaigner of tribal rights. He took a vow to get the Santhal Paragana and Chotanagpur regions freed of moneylenders and landlords. This campaign earned him the respect of tribals, who saw him as their messiah. He was so popular with the locals that Nirmal Mahato, the founder member of the JMM, got him to join the party.

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