Peshrar: Once a Maoist hub now an ideal tourist destination
Abhay, 26, resident of Jharkhand’s Bauxite hub, Lohardaga, around 70 km from capital Ranchi, had never explored Peshrar, a scenic forest cover abound with streams, waterfalls and cascades located barely 20 km to the north of the township fearing the Left insurgency.
Maoist rebels dominant in the area for nearly three decades had let lose a reign of terror bullying traders, harassing commoners and abducting children for their combat teams virtually declaring it their liberated zone. People’s fear of venturing into the Red liberated zone touched rock bottom when the insurgents in a surgical strike killed superintendent of police, Ajay Kumar Singh in 2000 while he was returning from Peshrar after an area dominance operation.
Abhay says he grew up hearing a lot about the impeccable splendour and serenity about Peshrar but was never allowed by his parents to even think of foraying into the jungle, let alone travelling there. “Mere mention of Peshrar would spell doom among local people,” said the young businessman. Similar voices echoed from people across sections in Lohardaga, also a lac hub, as they came up with gory telltales about the Red insurgents’ highhandedness and their diktats prohibiting outsiders from entering into the area under their control.
Cut to 2017 May, Peshrar has opened up for the rest of world with a steady flow of local and outside tourists travelling primarily to see the majestic Lavapani Cascade. The Maoist leaders and foot soldiers, who once called shots and their writ reigned supreme, have either been arrested or they laid down arms under pressure to escape imminent deaths. As per official figures, in the last 20 months, an equal number of insurgents were arrested, 18 hardcore rebels surrendered and joined the mainstream under tremendous pressure from security forces, while 21 child soldiers were rescued from the rebels’ captivity.
S Kathik, the 2010 batch IPS officer and currently Lohardaga superintendent of police, is the man who has transformed the once Maoist hub—one of the worst affected blocks in the country—to an ideal tourism destination.
He and his men spent months of sleepless nights and troublesome days building a strong intelligence network in the hard-to-reach areas after winning over confidence of local people, and then chased and launched pin pointed strikes causing maximum damage to the ultra group. The missionary zeal eventually turned around the prospects of the liberated zone.
Mission accomplished, Karthik then went beyond his duty of taming the insurgents, by exploring the vantage tourism points and putting them on the national map of ideal tourist destinations.
In order to lure tourists and build locals’ confidence, he started with inviting senior government and judicial officers to the Lavapani cascade, which the locals now have christened Mahismati, the kingdom in the blockbuster movie, Bahulbali. He then engaged photographers and made documentaries on the picturesque forest area. The Monsoon Peshrar Facebook page he has created is getting popular.
In the adventurous mission, the SP is getting apt support from local deputy commissioner, Binod Kumar who has launched a slew of development schemes for local people. While construction of a 30-km smooth, metal road from Lohardaga to Lavapani is underway at a very fast pace, his administration has built new block office buildings, schools and police pickets. Locals got the first taste of electricity in their homes early this month.
On Tuesday, Karthik took Union minister Sudarshan Bhagat and state Congress president, Sukhdeo Bhagat, also local MLA, along with several other administrative officials on their maiden visit to the Lavapani cascade. Sukhdeo confessed that since the voters in Peshrar were BJP supporters, he never bothered to travel even during polls. Both Bhagats praised Karthik for the turnaround of the place.
“Maoists were the biggest curse to the place,” said Karthik, adding, “The surrendered top leader, Nakul Yadav in May, helped us clear the area of insurgency. We madly chased him day in and day out with at least four close encounters where only luck saved him. Fed up, he laid down arms. Others commanding the squads and platoons gave up gradually.”
Karthik claims one has to come to feel the real beauty of Peshrar.