Using psy-war to beat the Maoists in Jharkhand

Since its formation, Jharkhand has witnessed 2,700 Maoist-related incidents in which 1,278 lives, including that of 345 security personnel, have been lost. While Rs 200 crore have been spent on modernising the police force, the results have not been very encouraging. Caught on the backfoot, the police administration has now come up with a new ploy: psy-war.

Soon after Lalgarh erupted in virtual rebellion a fortnight ago, 30,000 pamphlets with one appeal to the people, ‘shun extremism,’ were distributed over eight districts in two days. The pamphlet and propaganda war is a new strategy the police have devised and trying to execute with elan. The psy-war is aimed at exposing the Maoists for what they are not. They provide not just a list of school building, community halls and primary health centres that the extremists have blown up, and the coercive methods they apply to get their wards admitted to schools. The flyers catalogue lurid details of the use of women by the male cadres.

The content of one such pamphlet reads: “On the one hand the rebels are depriving the children of poor people by blowing up school building and on the other they have used coercion to get their wards admitted to reputed educational institutions...” There is no evidence to suggest that the pamphlets have had their desired effect, but the state police are now working overtime to print several thousand more of these propaganda sheets to achieve their objective: shame the rebels in the eyes of the very people they seek to liberate.

Although an egalitarian principle guides the Maoists in their pursuit of ‘liberation’ from perceived injustice and deprivation, their depredations are only too glaring. The killing of innocent villagers, for instance the incident at Chilkhadi in Giridih, on Oct 28, 2007, is a case in point. The alleged sexual exploitation of female cadres within the CPM-Maoist and the cold-blooded murder of young tribals who refuse to join the Naxal ranks are cases that clearly bespeak of indiscipline and criminality within the organisation.
A senior Jharkhand police officer says that the pamphlets are being distributed in the eight districts ravaged by Naxal violence: Palamau, West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Chatra, Lohardaga, Latehar, Garhwa and Giridih. “This is the first time that we have taken psy-war to such a scale in the tribal heartland,” the officer says.

“The people must know of the cruelties and double-standards of the Maoists. The information could prevent people from providing support to the rebels,” he says.

Dissent from within
Even some surrendered ‘comrades’ now ridicule the Maoist ideology. Preferring anonymity, one former Maoist says that some of the current crop of leaders are driven by lust for not just ‘wine and women’ but also ‘power and self-preservation’. According to him, scores of cadres and their leaders have drifted away from the principles of their idols. “Radicalism does not mean butchering the innocents. When innocents are killed in the name of liberation, there is something seriously flawed with the ideology,” he laments.

Whatever be the truth, the Maoists have expanded their movement considerably to run a parallel government in Jharkhand. Their writ runs over 18 of 24 districts in the state. Cadres in remote villages of the state move about in uniforms and are promoted, demoted, retrenched and dismissed as in the government sector. Their courts hand out instance justice following summary  trials. The punishments meted out are quite barbaric.
As the things stand today, the underground outfits operating in Jharkhand have virtually become synonymous with a multi-crore ransom business. If the Naxal literatures recovered by the police and intelligence agencies are anything to go by, Maoist guerrillas collect a levy to the tune of Rs 250 crore per annum in Jharkhand alone. Contractors, landlords, petrol pump owners and businessmen among others have to cough up huge sums of money annually as ‘subscription’ for the Maoist cause.

While a portion of the extortion money goes into purchasing weapons and landmines, a part of it allegedly is used for personal benefit.
Jharkhand police spokesperson S N Pradhan says: “We have information that some of the Maoist leaders have amassed huge properties over the years. CPI (Maoist) Politburo member Pramod Mishra owns a palatial building in Dhanbad.”

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