Caste and the Maoists

On March 29, in one of the worst setbacks the Maoists have suffered in Jharkhand in recent months, cadres of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a splinter group of the banned CPI (Maoist), killed 10 Maoists after a gun battle that lasted over 10 hours at Lakarmanda village, 17 km from Kunda, where the Maoists had stopped en route to Gaya. The TPC took 25 Maoists hostage for four days in the Sarengdah and Kunda panchayats in Chatra district and released them after sending off photos to the press of the captured Maoists.

“We kept the hostages in a village school. We have released 12 cadres and some of their families came to take them from Chatra and Bihar. We kept 13 back. This is our area and the Maoists cannot enter it,” said a close aide of TPC founder Brajesh Ganju in Sarengdah. Another member said they had reports that the police had since arrested two of the 12 Maoists released by the TPC on Tuesday. But the police denied the claim.

“The Maoists are ugravaadi [militants]. The TPC has resolved to finish off Maoist militancy here. We have no enmity with the police or paramilitary forces, we will support them against Maoists,” said Mr. Ganju’s aide.

In a statement, the Maoists alleged that the police and their “vigilante group” TPC had cooperated in carrying out the operation. “We resolve to avenge the death of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army martyrs,” Bihar Jharkhand North Chhattisgarh Special Area Committee spokesperson Gopal said, calling a Bihar-Jharkhand bandh for April 6 and 7.

Caste clashes

The TPC was founded in 2001 in Chatra by Brajesh Ganju, a Dalit, who had left the Maoists Communist Centre (MCC), citing the dominance of Yadavs in the party leadership and discrimination against Dalits. The TPC, which has cadres from Dalit communities including Ganju, Turi and Bokta, is active in parts of Chatra, Palamu, Latehar, Ranchi and Hazaribagh districts in Jharkhand and parts of West Bengal.

“Caste is not the main factor anymore. Initially the feeling was that gains and funds were going to one caste group though everyone worked equally hard. But we have cadres from all castes, including Yadavs,” said a supporter in Chatra, a Dalit, who has helped the group with logistics since its inception and now works as a contractor building the panchayat bhavan building in the area.

While officials had denied taking TPC support in the operation against Maoists in Chatra, deep inside the forest at Lakarmanda in Kunda eyewitnesses said they watched TPC men handing bodies of the Maoists to the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) troopers who arrived in their village on Thursday morning.

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