Changing face of red zone in Bihar

When Saman Kumar Daangi set up the first cyber cafe in Imamganj bazaar of this naxal-hit area nine years ago, there were no takers.

Imamganj-Sherghati: When Saman Kumar
Daangi set up the first cyber cafe in Imamganj bazaar of this
naxal-hit area nine years ago, there were no takers.

But that was then. At least three cafes within an area
of half a kilometre have come in the bazaar now, nothing short
of a revolution for the people in this backward constituency.
Scores of village youths, including girls, can be seen
waiting outside Prime Computer Centre for their turn.

"I had opened the first computer centre in the bazaar
in 2001. Then as the law and order situation improved, two
more computer centres came up in 2008. Currently three of the
five computer centres in the area have internet facilities.

And terminals hardly remain unoccupied with village youths
evincing keen interest in net-surfing," says Saman.

The cyber cafes, which have come as a boon for
residents of nearby villages like Bovandi, Malhar, Dubhal and
Karain, do a brisk business but power supply remains a
problem.

"Electricity connection has come but power plays
truant during day time. Out of 24 hours, power is for around
10 hours during night and we have to depend on generators to
run our business," says Saman.

"Despite, Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification
Project, there is no electricity in major parts of the
constituency. Electric poles are there in many villages but
wiring has not been done while at some places, transformers
have not been installed," a local Baleshwar Prasad said.

But Prasad is hopeful that the area would see a turn
around once it is connected with 153-km state highway
connecting Dumaria with the state capital. The under
construction road will bring down the distance between
Imamganj and Patna at least by 50 kms.

The Vasudha Kendras opened by the state government
which provide villagers at panchayat level facility for
internent use have added to the cyber revolution. However, out of the 17 panchayats in Imamganj, only
eight have these centres.

In the newly-constituted Sherghati assembly segment,
Muslim girls cycle their way to school, a rare sight till a
few years ago.

"My sister Sana has got the cycle from the school.
Since the bicycle has come, our parents no longer forbid us
from cycling. 10 to 15 girls in our village have got
bicycles," says Nazneen in Akouna village.

The school, which is almost seven kms away from
Akouna, has been a sudden surge in attendance particularly
after the state government provided the girls free bicycles.
"They are paddling to power," remarks a school teacher
in Sherghati.

Imamganj, the hot-bed of naxal activities and
caste/class wars fought between erstwhile MCC and Sunlight
Sena, is also witnessing for the first time a resistance to
such "forced" violence.

Maoists had swooped on a high school building in
Maigra in broad daylight during Independence Day celebrations
and asked villagers to hoist a black flag. An angry school
girl snatched the flag from the Maoists` hand and burnt it in
their presence.

As the group tried to drag the girl, students
accompanied by locals attacked the extremists forcing them to
flee.

"This was something that was unimaginable ten years
back," says a local in this constituency represented by Bihar
Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhury.

The area has not witnessed any major caste violence in
at least six years with residents more keen on addressing the
basic issue of livelihood.

A noted Urdu poet Harendra Giri "Shad", who has
studied social strifes, says, "The caste-strife has reached a
saturation point in the area and there is a realiasation in
both sections that mindless violence is not going to solve
their problems.

"Though the divide persists, the eruptions are not so
extreme," he said.

In Sherghati bazaar, the screaming wall writings for
making Sherghati a district which were visible till a few
years ago are absent and it appears the decades-long movement
has lost its edge. The recent incidents of some highly publicised murders
appear to have had some bearing on RJD`s Muslim-Yadav
combination in this constituency, though its candidate and
former Power Minister Shakeel Ahmed Khan is the most known
face in the area.

The most talked case is of Neema village, where Aftab
Khan, who had married a Yadav girl almost thirty years back,
was bludgeoned to death soon after he returned the village
with his wife a few months ago.

Neema falls in Gurua constituency, which was
represented by Khan three times.

Khan used to hold five portfolios during the heydays
of Lalu Prasad`s RJD and even now he is a prominent Muslim
leader in the state.

The SP, BSP, and JDS have also fielded Muslim
candidates while at least four Yadav candidates are also
contesting from the area.

The JD-U has fielded Vinod Yadav, who is banking on
his personal rapport in the area and Nitish Kumar`s
development plank.

All the three blocks of the constituency Aamas, Dobhi
and Sherghati are naxal affected.

In the adjacent Gurua constituency, it appears to be a
direct contest between RJD`s Bindi Yadav and BJP`s Surendra
Singh. Congress has fielded a local Anirudh Yadav. Bindi Yadav
has been the Chairman of Zila Parishad.

Karma village, described as "cultural hub" of Maoists,
is just a few kilometres away from here.

Auto rickshaws and mini buses ply even in the first
few hours of the night on the road connecting Karma and Gurua
bazaar, which was earlier considered o go areas after 4
PM. However, rampant unemployment and poverty prevails in
villages dotting the road.

"There are no jobs. The road is there but the road
should also lead to somewhere," says Ravi, an under-graduate
student.

PTI

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