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December 2, 1997


Under easy patronage Naxalites fill their coffers and spread more terror in Bihar

After the stunning reports from Assam, it's now Bihar's turn for shocking revelations. If the Assam government's investigations reveal that the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom were funded by the tea industry, businessmen and government departments, with tacit political indulgence all these years; intelligence sources say two banned Naxalite outfits are being similarly propped up in the killing fields of Bihar.

The Maoist Communist Centre and Party Unity -- Naxalite groups that have struck terror in south-central Bihar comprising the districts of Gaya, Hazaribagh, Jehanabad and Palamu -- are said to collect huge sums of money from local businessmen, contractors, government officials and industrial units. Reports say their annual booty could be around Rs 300 million.

The two outfits, known for their lethal firepower and grisly brutality, are said to run a parallel government in their areas of influence, where the police fear to tread even in broad daylight.

The MCC, in particular, has earned considerable notoriety for its trigger-happy squads and its tendency to deal out summary justice in its 'people's courts.' And its sentences have often meant execution or the chopping of limbs of its captives.

Known for savage attacks on their adversaries, the MCC and the PU have not even balked at slaughtering women and children in the name of the revolution. One of the MCC's most horrific carnages was the Dalachak-Baghoura massacre of May 29, 1987. The outlawed group butchered 54 Rajputs, including 26 children and ten women. And more recently, the MCC mounted a surprise attack on CPI (ML)-Liberation supporters assembled at Amkudar village in the Chatra district. They killed eight of the party's activists.

The PU and the MCC have often worked in tandem, but are also engaged in a battle for supremacy that has resulted in murderous attacks by both sides. What the two units are believed to have in common, however, is their ability to raise money by imposing what they call 'levies' on rich people.

The state police is specially worried about the increasing sophistication of the MCC-PU arsenal. Their guns outclass those used by the policemen, and the administration is still not clear about how they are procured. What they seem certain of, however, is that the two organisations have money enough to buy them.

As a result, intelligence agencies have launched a special drive to trace the bank accounts of MCC and PU leaders. Two groups of sleuths are already at work, say police sources. One team is looking into bank accounts in Chatra, Garhwa, Hazaribagh and Palamu, while the other is investigating in Aurangabad, Gaya and Jehanabad districts. The probe is expected to be completed by December 4.

Sources say the move was mooted at a zonal level meeting of senior police officials held in Bhubaneswar last month. The meeting has stressed the need to cut off the supply of money to the extremist groups. Interestingly, this has also been the strategy of the Assam government in its drive against the ULFA.

In fact, if intelligence reports are anything to go by, the MCC and PU seem to be building up a weapon stockpile similar to those of the North-Eastern insurgents and the People's War Group in Andhra Pradesh. Intelligence sources say the two outfits are procuring sophisticated weapons such as AK-47s, AK-56s, rocket launchers, grenades and land mines.

The MCC leaders say they regard the PWG as a fraternal organisation and support their struggle in Andhra Pradesh. The PU, for its part, maintains operational relations with the PWG, ULFA and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Muivah faction, which include arms-shopping and training. MCC leaders, however, have denied arms procurement and links with North-Eastern rebel groups.

Significantly, the police believe that a fairly large portion of the funds collected by the two Maoist outfits is diverted to other states, especially to Calcutta. Why this be so remains unexplained, but off and on there have been reports about the city being used as a quiet staging-post for arms-trafficking.

Who pays the extremists? The Bhubaneswar meet had stressed the need to scrutinise the role of NGOs and Christian Action Groups in south Bihar and their relationship with the Maoists.

The police has its own reasons to believe that NGOs and CAGs may be helping the extremists. Last year, they point out, the deputy commissioner of Palamu had halted a World Bank-aided project for the drought-prone areas of Garhwa and Palamu because he felt that funds were being diverted to the extremists by NGOs working on the project. But conclusive evidence of their links with extremists has yet come to light.

The police, however, confirm an extremist-contractor-politician nexus. They say that the relationship between the banned MCC and the ruling party in Bihar is an 'open secret.'

The Intelligence Bureau has observed that the extremist organisations exploit lower-level officials and contractors involved with development agencies like the District Rural Development Authority, forest, mining, irrigation, health, education and supply departments.

An intelligence report states that government officials in development and revenue wings allow contractors to freely misuse permits and agreements so that huge unaccounted profits are made. These surpluses are then siphoned off with the help of government agents to fill the coffers of the extremists.

"The situation has become such that government agents, extremists and the working class are happy," notes the report. In the process, the state incurs a heavy loss, while the extremists collect crores to sustain their cadres and movement, the report observes.

And all this is not mere propaganda to malign the 'revolutionaries.' MCC leaders have been quite forthright about how they go about their business. "We impose levy on contractors, particularly those who are building roads," said one of their leaders.

The MCC's rationale for specially fleecing road-builders is that their work helps the police into the interiors. Strangely, they don't stop the building of roads per se. As for the PU, it has decided that no contractor can file a tender in Palamu without its permission. The MCC finds this 'arrogance' hard to swallow.

The MCC claims that it stands for real development and is using the funds for the good of the people. "We organised shramdaan or people's voluntary participation in Morhar canal construction in Gaya," said the leader. And added: "Levy is the source of our sustenance and revolution needs money too."

That, at least, is being honest.

-- Naved Zahir/Patna and Biswajit Roy/Calcutta. Kind courtesy: Sunday magazine

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