During the last few years, villages of Manika Block in Latehar District have been terrorised by Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a police-sponsored outfit allegedly aimed at countering Maoist influence. Under this pretext, armed JJMP gangs are roaming in the area and harassing innocent villagers – extorting money, interfering with elections, supporting corrupt contractors, beating up dissenters, and even attempting to siphon off funds from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Among other recent incidents is the harassment of members of Gram Swaraj Mazdoor Sangh (GSMS), a local organisation of NREGA workers set up with the help of NREGA Sahayata Kendra Manika. During the last few months, GSMS and the Sahayata Kendra have worked together to revive NREGA in the area and ensure that people get work. The GSMS and Sahayata Kendra also convened a public hearing on the Public Distribution System (PDS) on 19 February 2016, which led to the dismissal of several PDS dealers. Due to these activities, some members of GSMS have become a target of JJMP harassment. One of them was badly beaten up just a few days ago, on 26 April.
In an earlier incident, JJMP goons demanded NREGA money from a worksite supervisor. When he explained that he had no money to give, they told him to close the worksite or he would be killed. There have been similar threats during the recent Yojana Banao Abhiyan.
We strongly condemn these criminal acts and demand strict action against those responsible for them. We also demand the immediate disbanding of JJMP – it is nothing more than a police-sponsored criminal gang.
(Note: Names of the victims have been omitted to protect their safety.)
Anil Anshuman (All India People’s Forum)
Balram (Advisor to Supreme Court Commissioners in right to food case)
Bela Bhatia (independent researcher)
Dheeraj Kumar (Right to Food Campaign)
Jean Drèze (economist)
Kavita Srivastava (People’s Union for Civil Liberties)
Moushumi Basu (People’s Union for Democratic Rights)
Stan Swamy (writer and researcher)