Maoists in Jamui use this tactic in dealings with contractors
After the trucks were loaded with sand and the invoices prepared, Raju Yadav hung his boots for the day. As darkness spread over the Kiyul river, he settled down for a chat with his co-workers at a nearby shelter.
“Suddenly, a group of 20 armed Maoists dressed in fatigues swooped down on us and took us hostage. They tied our hands at the back, blindfolded us and told us to follow them into the nearby jungle. Two persons who tried to flee into the river were nabbed mid-stream. We must have walked inside the jungle for about three to fours that night,” recalls Mr. Yadav, a clerical employee at a sand-mining site in the Naxal-dominated Jamui district. The ultras also set fire to two JCB machines.
Mr. Yadav was one of the seven workers abducted on March 13 by members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist). They were released at the Jamui station last Saturday after 10 days in captivity.
Recalling his nightmare, Mr. Yadav says, “We kept moving from one place to other. There was no communication with anybody. We were afraid of being killed. I never thought I would return.”
Killing was not the motive of the ultras. In fact, before being released, the labourers were each given a shirt, a pair of trousers and Rs. 100. “They even returned our mobile phones, whatever gold jewellery we wore and our money,” he said.
The Jamui abductions are an example of the pressure tactics at play in dealings between Maoists and contractors, in which poor workers often become pawns. At the quarry, the Maoists left behind a poster cautioning people against “feudal musclemen” Prahlad and Jeevan Yadav.
Sand-mining is spread over the borders of Jamui and Lakhisarai districts. The Kiyul, which flows through them, is a key hub of economic activity in these remote and backward parts.
“Over time, a large number of people have become involved in sand quarrying. So Maoists feel they should get a share, since these are their areas. The entire quantum of economic activity may be a few crore rupees and the levy is not too large a sum, but Maoists need it for survival,” Amit Kumar, Inspector-General, Operations, says.
When multiple players are involved, levy negotiations are a cumbersome exercise. “The nitty-gritty of who will share the levy and how much makes the process very complicated,”
Mr. Raju Yadav’s Manjhway village is celebrating his safe return. But fear has gripped its residents, who say the abductions were a first such Naxal-related incident in the Jamui block.