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Ballot over Bullet: A Shining Transition in Jharkhand

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Ballot over Bullet: A Shining Transition in Jharkhand

Thursday, 15 August 2019 | Sanjay A. Lathkar

Major portion of the year 2019 has treasured into the womb of history. As we deeply analyse the unfolding of events during this period, we’ll find that the transitional churning in our hinterlands has been exceptionally constructive. The internal security has witnessed a strengthening phase while security forces have been triumphantly consolidating the domination in insurgency hit regions. Peaceful conduct of General Parliamentary Elections during this phase has also gloriously cemented our democratic virtues.

Apart from the perceptible happenings around, there has been an undeniable compelling phenomenon, which has gradually shattered the prevalent routine in Naxal affected pockets and has further integrated the national solidarity. While being engaged with the duties of State Force Coordinator for Jharkhand during Lok Sabha elections held few months before, I got the opportunity to get a sense of this from close quarters. A real proud feeling, it was something beyond ecstasy for us when last ballot was cast on 19th of May. We were able to achieve something that was never witnessed in the history of the State. Not a single bullet fired, not a single drop of bloodshed and not a single instance of chaos or panic. Naxals were comprehensively outmanoeuvred and outwitted. Any vicious attempt was decisively thwarted. It was an unparallel tribute to the years of sacrifice and martyrdom of men in Khakhi. Undertaking confidence building measures over a period of time through civic action programmes in remote interiors and reaching out to people whenever they were in distress paid rich dividends. Large scale induction of Central Armed Police Forces during elections was also too hot to handle for Naxal cadres. For the visible eyes, security forces played a defining role. Of course they did. However, there’s more to this than meets the eye. 

Being one of the hotbeds of violent Naxalism, Jharkhand has suffered its wrath on too many consistent bases. In the past, they have managed to unleash havoc almost at will, owing to strong support base they boasted among the locals. But, the unprecedented voter turnout this time around in own backyard of prominent Naxal leaders has reinstated the belief that barrel of the gun can no more call the shots. Handful of these men cannot blackmail the majority; emotionally, ideologically or threateningly. The unflinching footing they once commanded, being one of their own has begun to obliterate away. If we take into consideration the polling pattern during last couple of parliamentary elections in Jharkhand, from 42 exclusive native villages of top CPI (Maoists) in the rank of Zonal Commanders and above, each carrying a reward of more than ? 10 lakhs, we’ll see that average voting percentage in these regions has surged from 58 per cent in 2014 to 71 per cent in 2019. Analysing similar criteria for 13 villages of equally notorious and dreaded Splinter Group Naxals, the figure has jumped from 53 per cent (2014) to 65 per cent (2019).

This climb reflects strong-willed and unbending approach of the residents here. The preceding 5 years have seen shaking and then gradually shifting ground base for the Naxals. The paradigm shift has broken the long overdue shackles which were major barrier in the normal discourse.

This aspect materialising in spite of the diktat issued by Naxals to boycott elections and threatening people with dire consequences is testimony of the fearless and resolute stand of the masses. In years of coercive submission, inhabitants are now seeing through these crooks and have defiantly chosen ballot over bullet. The awakening is here and real.

So baffled have the locals been by the exasperating circumstances that village Chani in Chatra district and village Madma in Latehar district, natives of top Naxal Zonal Commanders, Santosh Yadav and Muneshwar Ganjhu respectively, have witnessed polling percentage rise from a mere 34 per cent (2014) to a staggering 73 per cent (2019).

Similarly in Palamu district, in villages Dumri and Abun, natives of Zonal Commanders Rahiman Jee and Niraj Singh Khairwar respectively, has escalated from 24 per cent to 63 per cent and from 31 per cent to 69 per cent. There are dozens of such illustrations where people being disillusioned and having suffered grossly, voting participation has skyrocketed tremendously.

Having taken poor people for a ride in the name of a fallacious ideology and vested interests, Naxals misguided them and opposed the developmental projects with hostile resistance. This status quo suited them perfectly. Exploiting the innocence, handful of these thugs made life miserable for their own people. There’s a saying, there is light at the end of every tunnel. The tunnel of Naxalism is near its end and people are now seeing light of the mainstream. 

It’s obviously certain now that when even the natives of Naxal Commanders have ditched them to join the democratic process, their days are really numbered and the atrocious movement may collapse anytime soon. Kudos to the spirit of these inhabitants, who are the chief engineers of this transition and have merged their aspirations with that of the nation.

Reflecting on the challenges faced by our august nation on Independence Day today, we've had our share of demons and we are truly on our way to conquer them.

Poll figures courtesy Office of Chief Electoral Officer, Jharkhand.

(The writer is Inspector General, Central Reserve Police Force, Jharkhand Sector)

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