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Naxalites In Chotanagpur

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

This article was written by N.K. Singh on 27 February,1971 and was published on the book NAXALBARI AND AFTER -A Frontier Anthology (Vol. 1)

Naxalites are not a new phenomenon for Chotanagpur. Their presence could be traced to the militant adivasi movement of 1968. It is said that they were the real force behind it and it was they who had formed a popular mass organisation viz. Birsa Seva Dal, to infiltrate into the tribals. A good number of supporters and sympathisers of the Naxalites were in the leading bodies of the B.S.D., which gave the call of election boycott during the mid-term poll of 1969. Massive armed demonstrations were organised by the B.S.D., whose leaders, under Naxalite influence, had adopted the method of underground functioning. The Naxalites too characterised the B.S.D. as a progressive national organisation—without considering the class character of its leadership.

Later on, the Naxalites had to confess that their strategy in dealing with the adivasi movement was wrong. Hie first Bihar State Conference of the CPI(ML) reported: “It was wrong for the district leadership of Ranchi and also the State leadership to set up Birsa Seva Dal as a nationality mass organisation and expect it to initiate and lead anti-feudal and anti-State struggle. Behind this erroneous line was the wrong concept that the problem of emancipation of adivasi people from non-adivasi exploiters and the problem of emancipation of the adivasi peasantry from landlords and moneylenders were separate problems.”

After the adivasi struggle, two successive years have passed during which many a new development took place. The CPI- (ML) was formed, and it switched over from crop-cutting movements to the annihilation movement. Naxalites working in Chotanagpur have the same modus operandi as elsewhere in the country. Here, they are particularly active in Ranchi and Singhbhum districts. Areas bordering Orissa and West Bengal are a natural breeding ground for Naxalite violence. Besides adivasi peasants, they are said to have a good hold among the working class of the steel city of Jamshedpur.

At the time of writing, the Naxalites have killed at least 26 of their class-enemies in the region. The list includes zamindars, moneylenders, rural kulaks, police informers, businessmen and those who serve as the law-and-order arm of the Government. Besides this, raids in peculiar Naxalite fashion have been conducted on many educational institutions, Government offices and properties etc. in various towns of the region. Instances of attack on police pickets and individual policemen have also been reported.

The hills of Chotanagpur drew the attention of the whole nation in May, 1970, when 54 men were arrested by the Bihar police after an extensive operation in the jungles of Jaduguda. The massive operation in which about 500 policemen participated with the help of helicopters to comb the entire forest resulted in a rewarding catch after six full days: 54 persons, almost all of them Bengalis between 16 and 26 years of age, along with large quantities of arms and ammunition. But the entire thing became more sensational and caught the headlines of the dailies particularly due to the presence of a 26-year-old British blonde, Miss Mary Tyler. The incident created quite a sensation at the time.

The arrested members are said to strongly believe in the “man, money and gun” (MMG) principle. They however claim to be true followers of Mao. Admitting the total failure of their mission, Mr Subroto Roy, the leader of the group, said that it was mainly because of the lack of adequate knowledge of topography of the area and physical inability of his team to negotiate the rugged terrain of forests and hills. The fact is they failed because of their wrong notion of “revolution without three Ps” (party, politics and people).

Jamshedpur, a very important industrial town, is called the “little Calcutta” of Bihar in view of the growing Naxalite activities in the town. It has become the most disturbed town in the State. Not a day passes without the news of some Naxalite ‘action’ in some part of the town. Bomb explosions, murders, raids on educational institutions and government concerns have become a regular feature.

The credit—or blame—for all this goes to the Naxalite organisation among the working class of the town; Jamshedpur is being claimed as the only town (barring Calcutta) where the Naxalites have some base among the working class. The militant mood of the workers was revealed in a strike in 1970, which developed from an economic into a political struggle. Here it will not be out of place to point out that Mr S. N. Singh, a veteran Naxalite leader of Bihar, has worked for a long time in Jamshedpur trade unions. The CPM-controlled trade unions have lost much owing to the exit of Mr Singh from the party.

The recent growth of Naxalite activities in Jamshedpur is attributed to the ‘import’ of many hard-core Naxalites from Bengal, particularly from the Midnapore area. Till now, Naxalites have murdered at least eight men in “little Calcutta” besides injuring many. Educational institutions, Government offices and properties, police pickets etc. have been attacked many times.

The first ever murder to be committed by the Naxalites in -Jamshedpur town was that of a member of the Tata Town Security Department—an alleged police informer—on September 20, 1970. Previously bombs were hurled in one of the rooms of TISCO Dog Squad, owing to which one guard was -seriously injured. In October, a TELCO worker, said to be a CPI-supporter, and in November, a TISCO security guard were -stabbed to death. Next month, a TELCO employee met the -same fate and a TISCO security guard sustained bomb injuries when the Naxalites attacked a local higher secondary school. Later, he succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. After a few days a wealthy businessman too was done to death. Besides this, many persons, including police officials, have been injured following attacks by alleged Naxalites.

The first attack on educational institutions in Jamshedpur took place on August 1, 1970. Thereafter various secondary and higher secondary schools in the town were raided more than eleven times. It becomes clear from the arrests made by the police in this connection that the school-boys themselves are implicated in such ‘actions’. And the students never protest against these ‘actions’, they rather sometimes favour them indirectly. The students of a TISCO-managed higher secondary school—said to be the main centre of Naxalite activities in the town—went on strike in protest against the arrest of one of their colleagues in connection with a raid on the school.

Besides raiding clubs and bars, which are the main meeting centres of the bourgeoisie, the Naxalites have attacked Government offices, such as the office of the Labour Commissioner. The local Gandhi Peace Foundation Building was raided two times. On August 13, 1970, on the eve of Independence Day, Naxalites tried (unsuccessfully) to blow up the 12-feet bronze statue of Jamshedjee Tata, erected in a local park. In January 1971, four buses belonging to the State Transport Corporation were burnt by the urban guerillas—all within a week’s time. In the same month the Naxalites made their biggest sweep; a Pushpak Aircraft belonging to the Jamshedpur Flying Club- was bombed and burnt to ashes. (A rehearsal for blowing up of Jumbo jets?)

Jamshedpur is the only town in Bihar where Naxalites are launching attacks on police officers. Besides three or four bomb-exploding attacks on patrol parties, there have been some unsuccessful attempts to kill individual police officers.

As a result, 200 alleged Naxalites have been arrested in Jamshedpur town alone. But they are not silent even inside jails. Four walls do not make a prison. In November 1970, a peculiar situation arose when more than four hundred prisoners stayed on the roof of Jamshedpur sub-jail for nearly 13 days following a clash between the warders and the prisoners. They stayed there despite every attempt (even bursting of tear gas-shells) on the part of the authorities to- bring them down. They came down only after their demands- were fulfilled. But the important part of the story is yet to- be told—this struggle was fought under a red banner, which, flew over the top of Jamshedpur sub-jail!

In view of growing Naxalite activities, the new SVD- Government headed by Mr Karpoori Thakur has decided to- strengthen the police administration in the steel city. A. special budget of Rs. 5 lakhs has been sanctioned for this- purpose under which three new police stations are to be set up besides strengthening the existing four with mobile wireless-sets. At present, three-fourths of the police machinery are engaged in tackling the Naxalites and only one-fourth is left to look after routine jobs. As the SP of Jamshedpur admitted recently, the Naxalites have posed a big problem for the police force.

The police are not satisfied with the 205 arrests it has made and a special combing operation jointly undertaken by the local and Central Reserve Police has been launched. Over four hundred houses in different parts of the town were 'searched’. The outlets of the town have been sealed and all the train's passing through Tatanagar railway station are being thoroughly watched. As a consequence, few more young men have been arrested and a police inspector engaged in the combing operation was shot at.

The Jana Sangh also has come forward to fight the Naxalite ‘menace’ in the steel city. Two or three processions have- been brought out by the party which concluded with burning the effigy of Mao Tse-tung. In reaction, two of its workers were stabbed by suspected Naxalites.

In the rural areas of Singhbhum, the Naxalites are particularly active in the region bordering Gopiballavpur of West Bengal. At least ten persons, mostly zamindars and moneylenders, have been killed by them. The Naxalite violence has resulted in the posting of two companies of Bihar Military Police all through the areas bordering West Bengal.

Chaibasa, the district headquarters of Singhbhum, has never witnessed any violence on the part of the Naxalites. However, the police found some Naxalite elements in this silent town when they raided the hostel of a local college and seized “Mao literature, posters, Mao thoughts and teachings.”

More or less, the same is the case with Ghatshila, where a higher secondary school was raided in the peculiar Naxalite fashion in August, 1970. No untoward incident has been reported.

In the rural areas of Singhbhum, besides killing' ten, the Naxalites attacked the house of a police sub-inspector in Khars- wan, 20 miles from Chaibasa, in September 1970. Bombs were also hurled at the house of a mine manager, in the same locality.

After Singhbhum, Ranchi is the second biggest centre of Naxalite activities in Chotanagpur. There are four main areas where, they are active: Kolebira in Simdega subdivision, bordering Orissa; Mandar, Burmu and Khelari on the Palamu- Hazaribagh. border; Silli on the Ranchi-Purulia Road and Ranchi town itself. In rural areas, the Naxalites have ‘annihilated’ eight class enemies.

So far as Ranchi town is concerned, besides extensive wall painting, the Naxalites have confined themselves to throwing, bombs and crackers. The first ever attack to be made by the Naxalites in Ranchi town was on September 1, 1970, when a few crackers were hurled at the local Jana Sangh office. The Jana Sangh represents the Ranchi seat in the Bihar Assembly. Thereafter the local branch of the British Council Library and a bar were raided in typical Naxalite fashion.

In Dhanbad district, the Naxalite elements seem to be active among the student community mainly. In the Bihar Institute of Technology (Sindri) many movements—said to be inspired by Naxalite students—have been organised. The students of Jharia took out a procession to protest against the police firing in Calcutta University in September 1970. The processionists, who were in an angry mood, clashed with the police.

In November, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was demolished in Dhanbad town. Next month, a much bigger action was conducted. Six armed young men raided the microwave relay station situated on a 500-feet high hillock on the outskirts ■of Dhanbad town and tried to damage the equipment. However, the plan was foiled by the police, which arrived on the spot and arrested one man. In January, the Registry office -of Dhanbad was set afire. In the same month the office of -the Life Insurance Corporation was raided at Sindri.

The Naxalites have been communicating ‘death sentences’ loo. One such sentence was communicated to the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) posted at Dhanbad. He was -charged by the “people’s court” with “anti-people activities.” Following it the police took all precautions to protect his life.

Naxalites have been active in rural areas around Sindri. Besides threatening several rural kulaks, one village temple and the houses of two zamindars were burnt.

The other two districts of Chotanagpur—Santhal Parganas and Hazaribagh—are not yet on the Naxalite map. In both 1he districts a few suspected Naxalites have been arrested. However, one incident has been noted in Santhal Parganas. In August 1970, bombs were thrown on the house of the -officer in-charge of Madhupur thana.

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