To Ask or Not To Ask: A Few Thoughts On The Garhwa Landmine Blast

The police vehicle after the blast

By Ranjana Padhi

31 January, 2012

State repression is intensifying on all movements that stand opposed to corporate land grab and capitalist aggression, especially in the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. It is debatable amongst us whether the armed struggle of the Maoists is making the state more belligerent on all other resistance movements, albeit with other strategies. In Odisha, home to many mass movements against coercive land grab and mining projects of corporate giants, there have been movements with a range of ideological orientation from sarvodaya and socialist to Marxist along with a growing Maoist presence in recent years. But the relentless assault on the Adivasis, dalits, fisherfolk and OBCs by the forces of capital and state has only strengthened the opposition to state repression. In common platforms and joint actions in different places, we assume solidarity as we stand opposed to the corporate plunder in all these states. But if a landmine blast is made to happen on the same day when another established party or mass organization is holding a mass protest on some issue, and a woman and three others are abducted, then surely something is amiss. Let us briefly recap the events in Garhwa district of Jharkhand.

On January 21, Sushma Mehta, elected Zila Parishad Chairperson from the CPI(ML) and Akhtar Ansari, a state committee member of the party were abducted by CPI (Maoist) along with Mehboob the driver of the car and Sunesh Ram, the security guard. Sunesh Ram continues to be held hostage by the Maoists. They were on their way to the protest of the villagers of Bargad in Bhandaria block in Garhwa district. The villagers were sitting in a road block and demanding that the site of the proposed primary health centre be decided by villagers rather than at the behest of contractors. The CPI (Maoist) triggers a landmine blast that takes the lives of 13 policemen who were accompanying the BDO on his way to the protest site. Not surprisingly the Jharkhand police come down heavily on the CPI (ML) activists with the allegation that the roadblock and the protest were designed to lure the policemen. Several of those arrested during the protest were beaten and tortured in interrogations to establish links with the Maoists. Again, on 24 January, a vicious lathi charge takes place on a peaceful protest during a Garhwa bandh called by CPI(ML) against the state violence, where several people were beaten up. Some were hospitalized with fractured limbs. The Maoists who owned up the landmine blast, released three of the hostages on January 24.

The wife and mother of Sunesh Ram, who is still held hostage, attempted self-immolation outside the thana in Garhwa on January 28. In a TOI report ( we hear of the deep shock and trauma of their being held hostage for three days. Most recently, the police are implicating Sushma as part of the plot, and trying to get the guard’s family to do dharna at Sushma’s house demanding that she be booked for the conspiracy to perpetrate the blast and the abduction. Some of the arrested people were sent to jail but two of those arrested on January 21st, Budlal Kerketta and Mahfuz Ansari, were missing from custody. In the latest news today, they had been taken to Chhattisgarh and tortured severely, but are now with their family. While police say Ramdas Minz and Fida Husain are in jail, their families are not being allowed to meet them. So their presence in jail is not verified. The families have filed a case in court saying these two are missing and their whereabouts be revealed. According to Kavita Krishnan, a CC member of the CPI (ML), “the ‘lathicharge’ during the bandh on 24 Jan was no ordinary one, but a particularly vengeful and brutal assault. The DSP himself stamped with boots on Kalicharan Mehta, and similar brutal assaults resulted in severe injury and broken arm of 70-year-old Kishore Kumar, a broken leg for another comrade, and severe injuries for Comrade Rahina, another elected woman representative of Danda panchayat.” This repression has certainly been scaled up in reaction to the landmine blast and the death of the policemen.

Some crucial questions that come to the mind pertain to the timing of the landmine blast when the BDO accompanied by policemen is on his way to a protest organized by the CPI – ML members. Was the abduction of Sushma Mehta and three others a spontaneous act or preplanned? Or was it only to terrorize the state or CPI-ML or both? Can we simply leave it to be intra-party disputes since the territorial rights fought over by different streams of revolutionary groups are not new? Even as I attempted discussing these questions with friends and fellow travellers on email, an extremely warped and poor substitute for passionate discussions in each other’s physical presence (to which the state cannot not be privy to compared to today’s online surveillance), I began to see how the parameters of the debate have been drastically pruned by the nature of events around us. Questioning the squad actions and military assertions of the Maoists is simplistically reduced to peace mongering. Or, the next common response is to be told how much worse and more systemic state violence can be. In our continuous struggle against the state we now have to sit and hold our breath as there is someone calling the shots too. This is not the right time to ask these questions. We can only continue to send endless appeals to the state.

Surely, we cannot run the risk of condoning something simply because we are pitted against the mightier enemy, which is the state. Or that to breathe any question now is to ruin the balance of the forces arraigned against each other. For the state, the label of `maoist’ is a sufficient and often legitimate ground to torture or kill somebody; and for the Maoists, it is `police informer’. To question it is a blasphemy because they only know the truth, none else. What about other autonomous voices? There have been centuries of domination where coercion and violence were systemically used to subjugate different oppressed sections and continue to do so. Struggles of workers, women, lesbians and gays and dalits have made us all so clear that the state is a mighty force to reckon with but not the sole culprit. Till date, we struggle to broaden the canvas of issues though ideological assertion and logical persuasion. We can only seek to complicate our questions as the time demands; we have no choice there. But not to push these new parameters of the debate can be most counterproductive. Let us actually let a hundred flowers blossom.

Ranjana Padhi is an independent researcher and feminist activist. She is based in Pune and works professionally as a technical editor and langauge trainer.

CPI(ML) Statement – Condemning Conspiracy to Implicate the Party in Jharkhand Blast, Demanding Intervention to Secure Release of Leaders Abducted by Maoists

CPI(ML) Condemns Conspiracy to Implicate the Party in Jharkhand Blast,

Demands Release of Arrested CPI(ML) Activists and

Intervention to Secure Release of CPI(ML) Leaders Abducted by Maoists

New Delhi, January 22, 2012

The CPI(ML) strongly condemns the conspiracy being woven by the Jharkhand police in Garhwa district to falsely implicate the party in a landmine blast, as a pretext to unleash repression on the party’s growing assertion among rural and adivasi poor.

The facts are as follows:

On 21 January 2012, an agitation by local villagers demanding the shifting of the proposed site of a health centre was being led by elected mukhiya and CPI(ML) activist Ramdas Minz, at Barga village in Bhandaria block in Garhwa district. The police arrested Comrade Ramdas Minz during the agitation, but the protest continued, blockading the road with the demand that the Bhandaria BDO meet them and address their grievance.

Comrade Sushma Mahto, elected Zila Parishad Chairperson and well-known local leader of the CPI(ML) was coming from Garhwa by car to the protest site, along with CPI(ML)’s Jharkhand State Committee member Comrade Akhtar Ansari, and another Zila Parishad member, an adivasi woman named Hirwanti Devi.

A land mine blast by Maoists in the same area claimed the lives of several policemen, though the BDO’s car, apparently on the way to meet the agitating villagers, passed safely. When Comrade Sushma’s vehicle approached the area, the Maoists stopped the car and snatched the gun from Comrade Sushma’s bodyguard. Comrade Sushma, her bodyguard Sunesh Ram, CPI(ML) State Committee member Comrade Akhtar Ansari, Hirwanti Devi and the driver of the car, Ahmed, had their hands tied behind their backs, and were abducted by the Maoists.

Alarmingly, instead of making efforts to rescue the abducted CPI(ML) leaders and others, the Jharkhand police are falsely implicating the CPI(ML) in the landmine blast, alleging that the roadblock and protest were being held by the party as a ploy to ‘lure’ the policemen into the Maoist blast. Several of our activists, including Comrade Ramdas Minz, elected mukhiya from the CPI(ML), are being tortured in police custody. The DGP of Jharkhand is refusing to acknowledge that Sushma Mahto and other CPI(ML) leaders have been abducted!

In Garhwa, the police and local administration have for some time now, launched an all-out drive to falsely implicate the CPI(ML) leaders and discredit the party, to crush the growing assertion of the party in the area. Not long ago, the police raided the home of one leader of the party, and later claimed to have found fake currency there (without bothering to produce any evidence by way of seizure documents, etc). The police then, in a deliberate attempt to tarnish the party’s credibility, alleged links of CPI(ML) leaders with ‘ISI’. Similarly this time, the police are making an outrageous and mischievous attempt to link a peaceful, democratic protest being led by the party with a landmine blast by Maoists.

It is highly unfortunate that the Maoists’ actions have provided fodder for the police to intensify their repression on people’s movements and democratic struggles. Moreover the Maoists’ actions of abducting/assassinating elected people’s representatives, CPI(ML) leaders and other social activists – as in the case of assassinations of CPI(ML) MLA Comrade Mahendra Singh, as well as social activist Niyamat Ansari – is extremely reprehensible. Such actions of targeting and eliminating those activists who resolutely stand up for the rights of the rural poor, do immense harm to the cause of people’s movements.

We condemn in the strongest terms the attempts to frame and falsely implicate the CPI(ML). We demand the immediate release of arrested CPI(ML) activists in Garhwa, and urgently seek the intervention of the Jharkhand State Government and the Central Government to secure the speedy and safe release of all those, including CPI(ML) leaders and elected representatives, abducted by the Maoists.

Prabhat Kumar,

For CPI(ML) Central Committee

Police implicates CPI(ML) in Maoist attack in Garhwa

Lives of our comrades – including an elected woman zila parishad leader Sushma Mahto, and State Com. member Akhtar Ansari – abducted by Maoists are in danger. And police is torturing other leaders including elected mukhiya Ramdas Minz in custody.

Police in Garhwa has falsely tried to implicate CPI(ML) in yesterday’s Maoist attack in the area. A Maoist landmine blast killed 13 policemen. Not far away from the spot, the CPI(ML) led by Zila Parishad Chairperson Sushma Mahto was holding a roadblock and protest on some local issues. The Maoists abducted Comrade Sushma, her bodyguard, State Committee member Comrade Akhtar Ansari and a driver. The police have falsely alleged that the roadblock and protest were being held to ‘lure’ the policemen into the Maoist blast. Several comrades including Comrade Ramdas Minz, elected mukhiya from the CPI(ML), have been arrested and are being tortured.

The police and local administration have for some time now, launched an all-out drive to falsely implicate the CPI(ML) leaders and discredit the party, to crush the growing assertion of the party in Garhwa. Planting false evidence, prominent leaders, especially from the minority community, have been accused of ‘ISI‘ links. In the latest instance, instead of making any attempts to rescue the abducted CPI(ML) leaders whose lives are in danger, the police is instead falsely implicating CPI(ML) in the land mine blast and is torturing the party’s activists.

The Maoists in Garhwa and Jharkhand are known for their attacks on democratic activists and leaders – prominent instances include the killing of Comrade Mahendra Singh and social activist Niyamat Ansari. In this instance too, they have not only abducted CPI(ML) leaders including an elected woman panchayat leader, their actions have also provided fodder for the police ploy to intensify repression on democratic movements in the region.

Do write  and email to Jharkhand CM at  to demand urgent intervention.



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