A war against liquor mafia

Last Updated 19 November 2018, 09:32 IST

Armed with lathis, women in villages in Rohtas district have formed Gram Raksha Dal to take on liquor mafia as well as naxalites

Hundreds of women in villages in Rohtas district are up in arms. Literally. With lathi (stick) in one hand and torch in the other hand, they could be seen looking for those who sell liquor as well those who consume it under the cover of darkness.

Once the person, in high spirits, is found, he is given a sound thrashing. The boozer is let off only on one condition: he won’t touch liquor even with a barge pole.

Rohtas has thus become arguably the first district in Bihar where women, with the help of police, have formed Women Gram Raksha Dal (WGRD) to take on liquor mafia as well as naxalites. The adjoining Kaimur hills is perceived to be a safe haven for the Maoists, whose underground guerrilla activities have been a stumbling block for development in the area.

It all began when Rita Kuer, barely in her mid-30s, lost her husband due to liquor addiction in Naad village in Rohtas district. Her peers then joined hands to launch a crusade against illegal sale of liquor in hilly villages.

Once they tasted success, the tribal women of the area, too, decided to join them and take on the hardcore naxalites owing allegiance to the banned outfit CPI (Maoist). But till then, they had neither any arms training nor any police back up.

One fine morning, Rohtas Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj, during his visit (under community policing programme) to the hilly terrains, met these women who complained to him that they were ruined by the liquor mafia and also by naxal and criminal

The mafia and Maoists, they said, were playing with the lives of male members of their family and exploiting the illiterate tribals to join the “naxal war” against the police/government.

The intrepid women told the SP to recruit them in police or its sister organisation so that when they take on the erring male members/ mafias/criminals/
naxalites of their locality, they (males) should not be under the impression that the weaker sex were common village women.

“I too personally wanted to bring tribals from hilly area to the mainstream of  society. It was then that the idea of forming WGRD in every village struck to me,” the SP told Deccan Herald.

Those women who were desirous of offering their services to the WGRD were recruited. The drive proved a turning point in the plateau region where male members of most of the families were addicted to liquor and blew up money on boozing.

Many youths had died, while those who survived had developed multiple disorders, which were not curable. “Before the WGRD was formed, there were endless miseries for us. Once we were empowered with lathis, torches, mobiles, uniform and identity cards, we raided the illegal liquor vendors, demolished shops selling
alcohol and roughed up the agents of liquor mafia,” said Chanda Devi, a member of the WGRD.

Their next target was those liquor shops, auctioned and provided by the government. “Liquor is ruining our lives. We will never allow even the
government-auctioned shops to run in our area,” said Phoolmati Devi, part of the 300-odd women recruited under the WGRD.

And are these “recruits” on pay roll of Bihar police?
“No. We give them mobiles, lathis, torches under community policing programme. But they are definitely not on our pay roll. Of course, the police backup and support is always there to motivate them and ensure their empowerment,” argued Manu Maharaj.

Once the liquor mafia was taken to task, these women then trained their guns, sorry lathis, at Maoists, who had been luring away the innocent
people, including children.

Some time back, the CPI (Maoists) had started recruiting a whole bunch of
economically poor children after convincing their parents.
The move began in the hilly terrains of the Kaimur plateau where they reportedly brainwashed the children with naxal literature and ideology and also promised their parents Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 per child per month as remuneration.

The first glimpse of new kids on the Maoists’ block was witnessed when sometime back more than 40 members of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, an outfit of CPI (Maoists), blew up a government and a private school at Kaimur. Eyewitness account said a good number of child Maoists were present during the operation which began in late night and
continued till wee hours.

“The children were armed, trained, confident and carried out their task like any other professional,” said a source, who did not wish to be identified. “They came on tractors with their seniors, took part in blowing up the buildings, sprinkled kerosene on paddy straws and set them on fire,” the source said.

“Later these child Maoists arrived at a hotel, forced the truck drivers to draw out diesel from their vehicles and filled the fuel in their own tractors.
Before proceeding ahead unchallenged, they also snatched the mobile phones of some people present there.

But when someone pointed out to them they could be traced by the police through the Unique Identification Number of the cellphone, they retracted and returned the mobiles to their respective owners,” the source added.

The SP said this incident could be before he joined the district but “we have asked these women to help us check the naxal menace too.

The recent surrender of hardcore Maoist Abhay Yadav is one example where his wife Chanda (now a member of WGRD) convinced the naxalite to give up arms and join the mainstream,” said Manu, who has plans to recruit 1,000 in the WRGD, who will not only fight liquor mafia or naxalites but also help in community benefit programmes like vaccination, immunizations and other healthcare schemes in Rohtas.

(Published 23 June 2012, 17:47 IST)

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