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Press Release – Condemn Murder of Anti Uranium activist in Jharkhand

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Ranchi: As we all today commemorate the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing JMACC (Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee) and JOSH (Jharkhandis Organisation for Struggling Humans) activist are burying one of their senior activist. Salku Chaki 32 father of three small children was brutally murdered on 4th August.

The situation in the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd UCIL mines of Jadugora, Turamdih, Narwarpahar, Banduranga is tense and the people are angry. They allege that the police of Sundernagar Police station are out to protect the UCIL management and the murderer. The First Information Report FIR of JOSH was not being accepted by the police and only after the people’s anger did the police register their FIR.

Salku Chaki is a displaced Adivasi and also an employee of UCIL. Nine years ago the UCIL management under a false case discharged him from his services. His body was found in the UCIL Turamdih colony. Traces of blood was found in the house of Bagrai Soren. A know criminal with a several murder cases Bagrai Soren is said to be part of the criminal mafia the management has been nurturing. UCIL has given him a quarter to live in.

For the past four to five years there has been a struggle by the displaced people of those villages for jobs. Displaced persons were given jobs with the contractors as contract labour. They were retrenched and not given the permanent promised jobs. The New Trade Union Initiative NTUI has only last year sent a Fact Finding Team whose report supports the plight of these retrenched displaced people. JOSH has been supporting the retrenched workers. In order to break the organization the Management resorted to dividing the Adivasi community by patronizing people like Bagrai Soren and attacking the others.

JOSH and JMACC demands an enquiry into the matter and arrest all the criminals involved including persons from the Management.

Alis Cherwa

Spokesperson

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Jharkhand – Tribals being armed to fight Tribals #WTFnews

                                             “Tribals to be trained in guerrilla warfare to fight Maoists in state”     

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Stan Swamy

The newspaper report goes on to spell out govt’s plan. Two special battalions comprising of youths from the primitive tribal groups in the state will be recruited and trained in advanced guerrilla warfare to fight the Maoists in the forests.

They will help the security forces in anti-insurgency operations.  The reason for choosing these e tribal  youths is that they  are born and brought up in forest areas and are well aware of the surroundings and have the capability to survive in odd situations.

 

Following  important questions arise: (1) who are the ‘Maoists’ in Jharkhand? (2) who are the Adivasis? (3) who are the Primitive Tribal groups in Jharkhand and what is their present socio- economic condition? (4) what does the Supreme Court say?

 

(1) who are the ‘Maoists’ in Jharkhand?

It is common knowledge that most so-called ‘maoists’ in Jharkhand are local Adivasis. Some of the top leadership may have come from outside the state but the cadres are mostly Adivasis and some Moolvasis. This can be proven by the fact that from 1st January to 30th June 2014, a span of six months, 243 persons were arrested in Jharkhand under the charge of being Maoists or helpers of Maoists. Of them, 186 (77%) are local Adivasis.

In so- called  ‘encounters’,  more than 10 persons were killed of whom 7 (70%) are Adivasis.

It is proof enough to conclude that for the government Adivasi is automatically Maoist.So repression of the Adivasi community goes in the name of ‘action against maoists’.

(2) Who are the Adivasis?   

The answer is given by no less a body than the Supreme Court of India. In a ground breaking judgment [Criminal Appeal No: 11/2011] the court observed that “the original inhabitants of India were not the Dravidians but the pre-Dravidians Munda aborigines whose descendants presently live in parts of Chotanagpur (Jharkhand), Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, etc., the Todas of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, the tribals in the Andaman Islands, the Adivasis in various parts of India (especially in the forests and hills) e.g. Gonds, Santhals, Bhils, etc. … The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country’s history.

The tribals were called `rakshas’ (demons), `asuras’, and what not. They were slaughtered in large numbers, and the survivors and their descendants were degraded, humiliated, and all kinds of atrocities inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. And now efforts are being made by some people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are living, and the forest produce on which they survive.” [thus far the exact words of Supreme Court. Emphasis added].                                                          Is it any wonder then that the Adivasis are no more prepared to go on suffering the exploitation and oppression by the ruling capitalist class which is using the govt as a convenient tool to usurp the mineral-and-forest-rich land to reap immense profit.

When the corporates, the business class, the urban middle class, the govt bureaucracy from top to bottom, the police & para-military forces, most of the print & electronic media, most political parties all have become his enemy, where else can the poor Adivasi turn to except the ‘comrades’ (jangal-bhai) who offer at least some protection from being completely exterminated.

(3) Who are the ‘Primitive Tribals’?     

The Primitive Tribal Groups are the most neglected section of the population in independent India. In Jharkhand they are the Asur, the Birhor, the Birjia, the Korwa, the Hill Pahariya, the Paharia, the Savar and the Sauriya Pahariya. The total population of the primitive tribes in Jharkhand is 1,94,8351 .

These tribal groups are nomadic and still in the food gathering stage. They roam about in the forests for their livelihood. Because of their nomadic nature, literacy, healthcare and settled agriculture have been delayed to them. If these groups are not taken care of, they may entirely be wiped out. Practically all the primitive tribal groups have shown a negative population growth.

This is due to low birth rate and high mortality, high infant mortality, susceptibility to diseases, low health status and threat from endemic diseases like sickle cell, anemia and infertility to mention a few.

The literacy rate is less than 10% and among women it is as low as 2% to 3%. [Alex Ekka A Status of Adivasis/Indigenous Peoples Land Series – 4 JHARKHAND, AAKAR BOOKS & The Other Media, 2011, pp.21-23]

First of all, the very labelling is wrong. Whether they come under general Adivasi or Primitive Adivasi, they all are Adivasis. The ST & SC Order (Amendment) Act, 1976 declares 30 tribes to be scheduled for the state of Jharkhand, including 9 primitive tribal groups. The languages spoken by some of the general as well as primitive tribes  are closely related. They also live in close geographical proximity to each other, mingle with each other in weekly bazaars etc.

So they are one people. It is a cruel injustice to not only segregate them from one another but also place them against each other to serve the political convenience of the ruling class. Seeing the present plight of the primitive tribes, the govt should be forthcoming with meaningful and effective efforts to lift them out of their dire  economic poverty  and social weaknesses. A speedy implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 whereby each family will have at least 2 hectares (5 acres) of patta land will go a long way towards a self-sustaining economy.

 (4) What does the Supreme Court say?     

In the context of delivering its verdict on Special Police Officers (SPOs) in Chattisgarh, the court observed that “the fight against Maoist/Naxalite violence cannot be conducted purely as a mere law and order problem… The primordial problem lies deep within the socioeconomic policies pursued by the State on a society that was already endemically, and horrifically, suffering from gross inequalities… This necessarily implies undertaking all those necessary socially, economically and politically remedial policies that lessen social disaffection giving rise to  such extremist violence…” [SC – WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO(s). 250 OF 2007]  On this basis, the court ordered the disbanding of the SPOs in Chattisgarh and stoppage of all funds by Central govt as honorarium.

To conclude, shall we say that Instead of abiding by what common human sense would dictate and SC’s directive, the govt’s proposal to handpick some youngsters from the primitive tribal adivasis and train them in guerrilla warfare to fight, and shall we say kill, other adivasis in the pretence of fighting Maoists will be the  unkindest cut of all. It should be resisted tooth and nail.

 

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#India – Dying kids in Jharkhand’s Jadugoda, uranium mines and a mystery

 

What’s causing the wasting diseases that are deforming so many children in the hub of India’s uranium mining industry?

Dying kids in Jharkhand’s Jadugora, uranium mines and a mystery

The Uranium Corp site in Jharkhand. The Ranchi high court noted in February after filing a petition against Uranium Corp. of India that children living near the mines are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions.

 

Rakteem Katakey |  Rajesh Kumar Singh |  Tom Lasseter

. New Delhi: On a sun-seared afternoon, Sanjay Gope crawls across a dusty courtyard of the low-slung, mud-walled house he shares with 10 members of his family. Stacks of cow dung dry in the heat and chickens rest in the shade. His grandfather, Debnandan Gope, watches glumly as the boy struggles, face streaked with sweat, one thin forearm, then another, digging into the dirt, his legs and feet carving a winding trail behind him.

About 10 years old—ages in India’s villages are often estimates—Sanjay could move normally as a toddler until seizures began to wring the life from his arms and legs. Now, when no family member can assist him, he’s left to crawl around the ground like a snake, his grandfather said. That would be dispiriting enough save for the omen it conjures.

An older sister, Sunita, experienced a similar collapse. Her limbs grew so deformed that she couldn’t feed or bathe herself before she died two years ago at 13. Across the path that runs by Sanjay’s house, Rakesh Gope, a member of Sanjay’s tribe although no direct relation, sits on a dirt floor under the rusting corrugated roof of an open-air room where his grandfather is sleeping. A slight boy with light brown eyes, he attempts to wave but his hands only flap in a spastic flurry. He’s another 10-year-old unable to walk on his own.

No one knows exactly how many children like this live here and in nearby villages—only that they are all too easy to find.

Troubling portrait

Sanjay and Rakesh live near Jadugora, a town of 19,500 people about 1,370km from New Delhi in Jharkhand. Once ringed by lush tribal forests, Jadugora is today a troubling portrait of modern India, its outskirts a postcard of pastel-painted mud houses scattered amid tidy rice fields, its center the hub of India’s uranium mining industry that is fueling an unprecedented nuclear power boom.

It’s here that state-run Uranium Corp. of India Ltd is licensed by the Indian government to gouge hundreds of thousands of tonnes of uranium ore out of the ground each year, while just over a hill, an easy walk from the village, 193 acres of ponds holding mildly radioactive waste stand largely unguarded save for no-trespassing signs.

Mystery disease

For years, these desperately poor people living in scattered villages in the shadow of these mines have been tormented by a mystery: What’s causing the wasting diseases that are deforming and killing so many of their children? Sanjay’s 70-year-old grandfather, a bare-chested, barefoot man rendered lean by hard work and a sparse diet, offers an observation shared by many here—that before the mines came, children did not crawl around in the dirt and die.

He might be dismissed as an illiterate, grieving relative of a crippled boy and a dead girl except that outsiders, including the Jharkhand high court and environmental activist groups, suggest he may be right. In February, the high court in the state capital of Ranchi filed a petition that pointed to the mines operated by Uranium Corp. since 1967.

Shocked by photographs of the area’s sick and deformed children in the Indian press, the court ordered the company and relevant government agencies to explain what measures they were taking to protect the health of those living in villages around the mines.

‘Health problems’

The health problems related to uranium mining are affecting the indigenous people disproportionately in and around the uranium mining operational area, with as many as 50,000 people at risk, the court wrote. Children living near the mines, the court added, are born with swollen heads, blood disorders and skeletal distortions. Cancer as a cause of death is more common in villages surrounding uranium operations. The high court isn’t alone in its concerns.

In 2007, an Indian physicians group published survey results showing villagers near the mines reported levels of congenital deformities and deaths from such deformities far higher than those 20 miles away. In 2008, the Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation, a local activist group, collected water samples from 10 Jadugora- area locations, including wells and streams. Seven were shown to have unsafe levels of heavy metals—including lead, a byproduct of uranium mining, and mercury.

Affidavits filed

Bloomberg News reporters in June took water samples at two sites. Results from an independent testing laboratory found mercury and lead levels within acceptable government guidelines. The lab did find a potentially problematic reading for uranium in water that could make its way into local wells. In response to the high court’s petition, Uranium Corp. and government agencies in March and April filed 337 pages of affidavits and exhibits, obtained by Bloomberg News and never before made public, amounting to a categorical denial by the company that it bears responsibility for Jadugora-area health issues.

A similar query in 2004, one company document said, was dismissed for lack of evidence before the Supreme Court. The affidavits also included a document from a provincial regulatory agency detailing Uranium Corp.-backed studies conducted from 2010 to 2012 in 16 villages involving 4,557 examinations of children and adults that produced no cases of congenital malformation.That included three villages near Jadugora where Bloomberg News reporters easily found children and adults with deformities.

‘Conventional health problems’

 

“The villagers suffer from conventional health problems, which could be seen in any village with similar socio-economic condition,” wrote Mahendra Mahto, secretary of the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board, pointing to the 2010-2012 survey

. The survey wasn’t signed by Mahto but by Dr. U.K. Majhee—identified as Uranium Corp.’s chief medical officer at its Jadugora hospital. He declined to be interviewed when approached at his office.

Mahto said in a phone interview that he couldn’t respond now to questions about the survey because he didn’t have the study in front of him. “Unless I see the document, how can I say what I have said and what I have not?” he said. Diwakar Acharya, Uranium Corp.’s chairman, in a 25 June email to Bloomberg News, repeated the company’s position that its operations in the area do not have any adverse health effects to the surroundings.

Resolving the mystery seems all the more critical considering that some of the water from three Uranium Corp. ponds holding uranium waste known as tailings—treated, the company says, to remove contaminants—empties into the River Gara, which flows past Jadugora and several other villages and is used daily by locals to fish and bathe.

Tailings ponds

Just as worrisome are the ponds themselves. “They cover an area about the size of 146 football fields and are exposed and accessible,” said Nitish Priyadarshi, formerly an assistant professor of geology at Ranchi University and member of the Geological Society of India who researches and writes about Jharkhand mining issues.

“There’s a lack of awareness among the people in the area. They should probably be moved but it may be too late.” Acharya, the Uranium Corp. chairman, in the email response said the company has posted proper warning signs and that it can’t be blamed for trespassers. However, it is to clarify that radiation level in referred area is quite low and short duration exposure has no adverse effect on health, he wrote.

Others are convinced something is amiss. “Deformities are prevalent in the age group born after mining started there,” said M.V. Ramana, a physicist and India nuclear-energy specialist at Princeton University’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory, in Princeton, New Jersey, who has written extensively about Jadugora. “It’s not so among older people. That something is affecting them is very clear. It may be radiation, it may be some other heavy metals that contaminate the water. We don’t know for sure.”

Community meeting

That’s the issue for residents. Neither the company nor any government agency in their memory has conducted the kind of comprehensive study that could get to the bottom of what’s sickening and killing their kids. That would include counting the number of sick and dead and systematically testing for root causes—assembling genetic and medical histories, collating the results of any previous doctors’ exams and testing for environmental factors like water and soil contamination at their homes and villages.

Debnandan Gope recalled a 2009 community meeting at which villagers broached the health issue with Uranium Corp. officials in attendance. “They gave us one samosa, bread and vegetables but no answers, he said. Nothing has happened since. There’s been no help.”

Denials

“Comprehensive and long-term studies should be carried out,” said Ramana, “and at the very least there should be regular monitoring of air and water quality, testing of food and keeping accurate records of diet.”

“That this has never been done is unsurprising,” he said. The predominant reaction on the part of the nuclear establishment in India of ill-health associated with nuclear facilities has been denial or variants thereof. Officials at India’s Department of Atomic Energy and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare didn’t respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Jadugora’s mines speak to India’s scaled-up nuclear power ambitions, even as Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown has spurred international debate about the safety of atomic energy programmes. Indian officials, facing nationwide power shortages, have said they want to increase nuclear power generation capacity to 62,000 megawatts by 2032. Nuclear energy now provides 1.9% of India’s electricity generation capacity.

Fuel pellets

 

Uranium Corp., in charge of supplying fuel for that plan, employs about 5,000 people in the mining and processing of uranium, which is the core element in making fuel pellets that fire the reactors in nuclear power plants. Besides its Jadugora-area mines, Uranium Corp. operates the Turamdih mines about 12 miles away, near the city of Jamshedpur, with a metropolitan area population of more than a million people. There have been no comparable reports of illnesses there as in Jadugora and a handful of surrounding villages. The Turamdih operation began in 2003.

New uranium mines are planned in Jharkhand and three other states, according to the Uranium Corp. website. The Jadugora mines are blocked off by concrete walls and barbed wire. Their gates open for 10-wheel dump trucks, loaded with chunks of uranium ore, rumbling down the road to a central plant.

After processing the ore into a powdery compound known as yellowcake, Uranium Corp. transports it to southern India to be made into pellets for atomic power stations. Leftover tailings The leftover tailings, in the form of a sand-textured slurry, contain low-levels of long-lasting radiation at about 85% of the radioactivity from the original ore. Uranium Corp. said its tailings are treated with lime to remove heavy metals.

A 2011 government report sent to the high court showed that the company’s Jadugora processing plant generates an estimated 2,090 tonnes of mining waste daily, of which 1,000 tonnes is pumped back underground, leaving about 1,090 tonnes of treated slurry to be routed every day into its tailing ponds. Solids settle to the bottom of the ponds, lined with non-permeable material.

The remaining water is routed to a treatment plant before being released, some of it making its way into the Gara. “The health danger in all uranium mining,” says the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “is that tailings include radioactive elements like radium that decay into a gas called radon linked to lung cancers.”

Primary threat

The primary health threat to humans occurs when radon gas is inhaled or when radioactive elements from tailings leach into public water supplies. Gamma radiation thrown off by elements in tailings can also pose a health hazard to people in the vicinity including genetic mutations that can be passed on to offspring, according to the EPA. Uranium Corp. says that its treatment and disposal standards meet all international safety requirements. Reporters visiting the dump site in April saw workmen at the tailing ponds repairing one of the metal pipes that carry the mildly radioactive slurry, part of a series of winding metal tubes that stand off the ground on small stilts. A guard in a khaki uniform wandered the area carrying a three-foot wooden stick and absentmindedly waving it in the air. In the distance, two women in saris strolled up the path leading to the ponds, each carrying a cane basket. No fences block access at the entryway to the ponds area. Locals say they pass in and out of the dump site regularly and it still houses a tribal place of worship. Water from the pond site flows past a block-lettered sign with the words “PROHIBITED AREA” hand painted in red.

It passes by a field used by village children to play soccer, and on to the Gara. Villagers squat at the river’s edge to wash clothes, bathe and fish for food.

Poor community

Jharkhand is a poor place, even by India’s standards. Average annual per capita income is equivalent to about $720 despite the existence of substantial coal and uranium reserves. Debnandan Gope, for example, makes 83 cents a day as a field hand—when he can get work. Illiteracy is common.

People cook on fires fueled by dried cow dung. Women walk the roadsides balancing gleaming metal water jugs on their heads as they go to and from public wells. Village men still plow the land with cattle. Some gather in houses on legs not much more substantial than baseball bats, a result of the meager rice-paste diets common here.

Life expectancy is among the lowest in all of India—58 years compared with 63.5 for the nation as a whole, according to a 2011 United Nations report. Many scrounge and scavenge to get by—even around uranium dumps.

Trespassing signs, assuming they can even be read, don’t mean much. Six toes On the sandy banks of the Gara, Chotu Ho pulled plants from its dark, slow moving waters and paused to pluck tiny shrimp and snails off the foliage.

A resident of a nearby village, he wore a white sleeveless vest and a lungi. Both of his feet had six toes. “ I know there’s uranium in the water and I may fall ill,” said Ho, holding up his catch for inspection under a bright sun. “You can’t eat this, but we have to. We’re used to it now.” Debnandan Gope, who once manned the slurry pits as a Uranium Corp. contract worker, still goes into the tailing ponds area, as does his wife, to collect firewood. He recalled his work back then.

The sludge came by pipe and it was his job to push the stuff into a pit, about 12 feet wide (3.7 meters) by 12 feet long, with a spade. The next day, he would dig a new pit to fill. Sometimes, when he fell behind, Gope just shoveled it in with his hands. Slurry pits The waste was black and smelled burnt, like fireworks. At the end of the day his arms would be caked with a substance that, when dry, glittered.

The extent of safety measures, Gope said, was that a supervisor advised him to wash his hands before eating. He left when his contract expired and now tends small farm plots for his family and others. While he knows that using wood from a site used to store radioactive waste isn’t a good idea, Gope said, Without the firewood how would we cook? As a precaution, Bloomberg News reporters visiting the site and other areas carried a dosimeter, a hand-held device used to measure radiation in the air.

It produced a reading in Bango village, about two miles from the tailings ponds and where Sanjay Gope lives, that converts to 7 millisieverts a year. Normal background radiation is about 3.1 millisieverts a year, according to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Safe levels

Still, the Bango reading is below levels for which there is evidence of human health effects, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. The impact of long-term exposure to lower doses of radiation isn’t well understood. Uranium Corp. included in its court filings a 2002 study by one of its consultants that showed village area radiation levels at 2.81 millisieverts annually.

The company said in its emailed statement to Bloomberg that measuring radiation is a specific skill acquired through qualification and domain knowledge of the subject and that a measurement taken with unknown assumptions is not acceptable. The mines, and fears about possible health effects, have sparked only limited protests in the villages.

The environmental impact of extractive industries like uranium and coal, twinned with economic straits of locals, have become a rallying cry for Maoist guerrillas in the country’s Red Corridor, a stretch of mining states that include Jharkhand. Maoist attacks targeting police and public officials haven’t stopped the mining.

Sick children

It’s the sick and dying children that have drawn the most concern.

During 2007, the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, an affiliate of Nobel-winning, Massachusetts-based International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, canvassed 2,118 households in five villages within 1.5 miles of the mines. The surveys found mothers there reporting congenital deformities more than 80% higher than the rates of mothers in villages just 20 miles from the mines. The rate of child deaths reported from such abnormalities was more than five times as high. Uranium Corp. has dismissed the findings as the biased work of antinuclear groups.

Still, affidavits filed with the high court by the government and the company produced a 1998 survey with participation from Uranium Corp. that found unusual congenital limb anomalies among area residents—though the report said they weren’t radiation-related.

Water samples

The 2008 water samples collected by the Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation were analyzed by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based environmental research and advocacy group that maintains its own laboratory.

A notable finding was in a sample from a village tap meant to supply safe drinking water that contained mercury levels 200% above allowable Indian government limits at the time, according to laboratory results. Lead found in a well used for drinking water was more than 600% higher than government limits. Uranium Corp.’s chairman said in his email that he wasn’t aware of those tests. Mercury isn’t a byproduct of uranium mining and the Centre didn’t investigate the reason for its presence.

The US Geological Survey says mercury is a ubiquitous element found in small quantities in all rocks, sediments, water, and soils and in higher concentrations in certain local mineral occurrences. Ingesting lead can cause muscle weakness and brain damage in children, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Mercury’s harmful effects to human fetuses may include brain damage, mental retardation, lack of coordination and seizures.

Uranium levels

The water samples gathered at two sites last month by Bloomberg News—at a stream taking runoff from the tailing pond area and a hand-pumped well in Bango village—came back with significantly lower results than the Centre for Science’s lab found. Mercury and lead levels were below levels the government deems a threat to human health.

The results did show uranium levels from the stream at amounts exceeding World Health Organization (WHO) drinking water guidelines by 33%. Locals don’t typically drink from the stream though the water may feed into local wells from which people do drink, according to Souparno Banerjee, the centre’s outreach director. The Bloomberg samples were taken to New Delhi in sealed plastic bottles and analyzed by the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research. The institute is among those approved by the government’s Delhi Pollution Control Committee for carrying out such tests.

The high court petition and the studies by the Indian doctors group aren’t the first time Uranium Corp. has been in the news over radiation pollution. A company statement acknowledged pipelines carrying uranium waste from the Jadugora mines burst in December 2006, spilling radioactive slurry into surrounding fields. The company said the accident was attended in the shortest possible time.

‘‘Radioactive waste’

When flash floods hit in June 2008, sending waste cascading into fields, the Hindustan Times quoted a Uranium Corp. spokesman as saying, the radioactive waste flowing through the village is harmless, as incessant rains have diluted the intensity of radioactivity.

The sick children aren’t hard to find. In a mud house painted green, about 100 steps from Sanjay Gope’s front door, a four-year-old with telltale weakness in his limbs can’t keep his head from flopping to his shoulders. And then there are the deformities. Next door to Rakesh Gope’s house, 14-year-old Parbati Gope, who has a misshapen chest and back, stands in a narrow alley as her mother Kuni describes their experience with local health care.

The doctor said ‘I don’t know what this is, I can’t do anything, take her to the hospital’. Her mother lifted the back of her green tunic to show what looked like a baseball- sized growth underneath her skin.

Forehead indentation

A few minutes’ walk down the road and, behind a courtyard door fashioned by metal cut from mustard-oil tins, Kaliburi Gope, about 20 years old, had similar bulges and an indentation on her forehead. No one can say exactly how many of these cases exist.

Local doctors have examined many of these stricken children in local clinics and the results are a mish-mash of conflicting diagnoses, even for siblings with the same symptoms. Some doctors have blamed polio, though the disease appears to have been eradicated, with India’s last case reported in 2011.

Others point to cerebral palsy, which is a kind of catch-all diagnosis for a debilitating injury to the brain that could have numerous underlying causes including mercury or lead poisoning.

Witch doctor

Sanjay Gope’s case shows how desperate parents are for answers. They called a witch doctor to their home.

The man sprinkled red powder on the ground and slit the throats of two of the family’s chickens, letting the blood splash in the dirt before taking the carcasses for himself. He blamed evil spirits. Sanjay was then taken to the clinic of Dr. Barin Sarkar, a child specialist in Jamshedpur. Dr. Sarkar’s small office is in the ground floor of a house that at night goes dark except for the light of the waiting room.

There, mothers from the countryside hug their children and wait their turn, hoping to be seen before the office closes at 9:30pm. Dr. Sarkar said in an interview he diagnosed Sanjay as having muscular dystrophy.

The disease is genetic, inherited through relatives, though no one in Sanjay’s family can recall anyone else suffering from it.

Partially paralyzed

A village homeopathic doctor, Sudhir Nandi, said in an interview that Sanjay’s sister, Sunita, was partially paralyzed by something polio-like. He couldn’t say what exactly killed her.

Another local doctor, Hem Chandra Gope, said he examined a 13-year-old girl with similar symptoms and concluded she was taken down by polio. Dr. Gope said he’d seen a few dozen cases like hers in the area, and then changed the number to maybe about 15.

A medical certificate for Rakesh Gope, prepared at one of the medical camps held regularly to evaluate locals en masse, classified his illness as cerebral palsy. A similar certificate for Kaliburi Gope said she had dorsolumbar kyphoscoliosis, a deformity of the spine. In Potka, about 12 miles from Jadugora and the administrative seat of a block of more than 200 villages that include Sanjay’s, Dr. Rani Kumari Beck splits her time seeing patients between two government health clinics.

When reporters caught up with her during a Sunday shift in May, she said she was well aware of Jadugora’s health woes. Our observation—and it is just an observation—is as you move away from the mines the incidence of these diseases decreases, she said.

Rural clinics

Dr. Beck’s view is that the rural health facility isn’t equipped to diagnose much less treat such cases. The physical condition of the clinic seemed to confirm that. A few patients lay on thin mattresses in dark rooms. Abandoned freezers sat rusting outside in front of a dilapidated former doctors’ office occupied by a caretaker, its shutters crooked and chunks of concrete missing from its exterior wall. Dr. Beck refers children with serious health issues to hospitals in bigger towns.

Many families, poor and illiterate, can’t afford that and are left to try to figure things out on their own, visiting a jumble of village holy men and local doctors. Those who do have cash travel to doctors in Jamshedpur, the nearest actual city, where they collect diagnosis notes written in English, a language most of them can’t read.

They take the sheets of doctors’ stationery back home, stuff the paperwork into plastic bags or folders—and are nowhere closer to getting an answer than when they began.

Bags of paperwork

Amitabh Kaushal sits in a modest air-conditioned office behind a large wooden desk, scrolling through his iPad. As deputy commissioner for East Singhbhum District, he is the area’s ranking bureaucrat. He said he’s heard that studies have been done in Jadugora—he’s just never seen them. “This is what I’m told, but I’ve yet to look at those reports,” said Kaushal.

He asked for the details of families Bloomberg reporters had interviewed and noted down their names. “In light of this thing, the information you have just provided, I think fresh studies again are called for—as to correlate whatever data was there earlier and whatever is there today,” Kaushal said.

“Such diseases in different families without a common linking factor do require a detailed, serious investigation.” Kaushal said that he would have more information in seven days but emails and phone calls to him in the weeks following were unreturned.

Company Doctor 

 A visit to Dr. A.K. Pal, another chief medical officer at Uranium Corp.’s Jadugora hospital, produced a similar reaction of puzzlement. After hearing a description of Sanjay’s and others’ physical conditions, Dr. Pal, who has worked in the area since 1989, said, “I have been to a lot of villages and I will go to more villages for medical camps. I have not seen this.” He was speaking in a small surgery recovery room during his rounds, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose, a mobile phone holstered to his waist. “Not a single case?” “No,” he said. Sanjay Gope’s family lives just four miles away.

And down the road from them, Leda Karmokar, a field labourer lying in a dark, sweltering room without electricity, rises to show visitors to the jumble of rocks in the field that marks the grave of his 11-year-old-daughter, Lali, who died about two years ago. He stands at the grave site beneath an implacable sun on a scorching, windless day, a nearby palm tree pinned against the sky like a still life. Women across the road wash clothes in a pond.

Cows graze and twitch at flies in the unrelenting heat. “Lali never had a chance,” said Karmokar, a man whose weathered visage and missing teeth make plain his poverty. “She couldn’t walk. She couldn’t use her hands. She just crawled around.” Bloomberg
Read more at: http://www.livemint.com/Politics/XIPI9uChfRaHeKpFu2GhiK/Dying-kids-in-Jhakhands-Jadugora-uranium-mines-and-a-myste.html?utm_source=copy

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Jharkhand – Rape of Dalit Girl sanctioned by Caste Headman #Vaw #WTFnews

Headman ‘sanctions’ retaliatory rape of Dalit girl, a village watches

Written by Deepu Sebastian Edmond | New Delhi | July 11, 2014 11:09 am
Nobody dared intervene, say villagers.Nobody dared intervene, say villagers.

SUMMARY

Nakabandi went up to the mukhiya and demanded that he be allowed to rape the girl.
M_Id_448979_eye

It is  a rape that no one denies. The parents and neighbours of the 14-year-old Dalit girl raped in this hamlet on July 7 evening say their caste headman sanctioned the act and that everyone watched as she was dragged away. Accused and fellow Dalit Nakabandi Pasi’s wife agrees, justifying it as a revenge rape as the girl’s brother had allegedly tried to molest her.

The father of the girl and a neighbour add that Nakabandi met the caste headman Ghosal, also his father-in-law, and demanded that he be allowed to perpetrate “retaliatory rape”. While agreeing to the rape, Nakabandi’s wife denies her father had any knowledge of it.

“The girl’s brother came into my house at 12 in the  night on July 6 and tried to rape me. He forcefully tried to disrobe me and had a knife with him,” she said, adding that Nakabandi was sleeping outside at the time. “The brother ran away when I started screaming. I told my husband what he had done. The next day, when the girl was walking towards the village after collecting water, my husband caught hold of her, took her into the forest and raped her,” she said.

Ghosal’s wife Asha Devi also claims her husband was not in the hamlet on July 7 and had gone to attend a wedding in adjoining Phusro town. Nakabandi, Ghosal and the girl’s brother have since been arrested and sent to judicial custody.

While there is some disagreement over Ghosal’s presence at the time of the rape, most of the girl’s neighbours back her family’s version. They say Ghosal was sitting under a tamarind tree that stands between where the girl’s house is and where Nakabandi lives when Nakabandi approached him. “It was evening, so a lot of people were gathered around the tree.

Nakabandi went up to the mukhiya and demanded that he be allowed to rape the girl. The mukhiya gave him permission,” said Sulochana Devi, as the mukhiya’s supporters tried to shout her down.

“The whole village saw the girl being dragged to the spot, about half a kilometre from Nakabandi’s house. Nobody — including me — dared intervene as the mukhiya is a dangerous man,” said Sulochana. The girl’s mother reportedly wailed and pleaded with those under the tree as the girl was taken away. Afflicted with tuberculosis, she was unable to talk, but her husband did.

The rape victim’s father, who scavenges coal for a living, says he was in the coal field when, at about 4.30 pm, he heard what was happening. “My wife told me she was at home with my daughter when Nakabandi and his wife got there,” he said. “The wife caught hold of my daughter’s hair, dragged her, handed her to her husband and told him to seek revenge as my son had taken her honour.”

The rape victim is the fourth of his five children. An hour after she was taken away, at around 5 pm, her parents found her in the woods. They walked an-hour-and-a-half to reach the Gomia police station.

Shiwani Singh, the attending doctor at the Tenughat Sub-Division Hospital where the girl is admitted, said: “She was bleeding and in pain. We discharged her after first aid. She had to be readmitted on Wednesday night after the bleeding began again. She has been struggling to walk.”

The girl could be discharged on Saturday. Dalit Pasis make up the entire population of this hamlet of 100 houses in Bokaro district’s Gomila block. Most of them do odd jobs, including travelling with monkeys that perform tricks.

Meanwhile, in the presence of The Indian Express, a young man claiming to represent local Congress MLA Madhav Lal Singh visited Nakabandi’s family with a gift of assorted vegetables.

Read more here – http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/headman-sanctions-rape-of-dalit-girl-a-village-watches/99/

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‘Operation against Maoists will be intensified in Jharkhand’ #WTFnews

Press Trust of India | Dhanbad | July 6, 2014 3:47 pm

SUMMARY

Chief Secretary Sajal Chakraborty held Maoists responsible for obstructing execution of welfare schemes in rural areas.

Jharkhand government has decided to intensify operation against the Maoists and ruled out any dialogue with the left-wing guerrillas in the wake of the elimination of a CRPF officer by the rebels on July 4.

“The Maoists don’t have any ideology and it appears they are a gang of looters. Now there will be no talks with the Maoists. Action against them will be intensified,” Chief Secretary Sajal Chakraborty said at a press conference here on Saturday.

Stating that the sacrifice of CRPF Assistant Commandant Hira Kumar Jha would not go waste, Chakraborty said that the security forces would fight the Maoists to finish the menace.

“He (Jha) has proved his ability as an officer, sacrificing his life fighting the enemies. The Maoist incidents will not be tolerated at any cost. We’ll not tolerate any political interference in the ongoing drive against them in Jharkhand,” he said.

Committing to root out Maoism in the state, he held the Maoists responsible for the malnutrition of children and for the poor health of people in remote villages by obstructing execution of welfare schemes in rural areas.

Director General of Police Rajeev Kumar said the drive against the Maoists would be stepped up.

“Police will fight till the menace is completely rooted out,” he said.

Read more here- http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/operation-against-maoists-will-be-intensified-in-jharkhand/

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Noamundi Tribals Resolve to fight illegal Mining

Manki Munda meeting held
Manki Munda meeting held

Manki Munda meeting held

KOLHAN June 12, 2014 , 

Noamundi: A Manki-Munda meeting was held on Tuesday at Noamundi Dak Bangla. In the meeting the Mankis and Mundas raised the issue of illegal mining in various part of Noamundi block.

They also discussed dissimilarities in the deposit of money through the collection of money receipt. They stressed the need for taking a strong stand on the issues related to the CNT Act and the SPT Act.

The president of manki -MundaBamiyaBobonga said violation of Wilkinson Rule and other laws will not be tolerated and that if violation takes place, the tribal people will protest vehemently.

The meeting was presided over by Manki Bamiya Bobonga. On this occasion, Surendra Chatamba, Jai Ram Barjo, Bikram Chatamba, Human Rights member Balbi Karua and many others were present.

 Read mor ehere- http://www.avenuemail.in/region/manki-munda-meeting-held-2/47811/

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Illegal mining on in Noamundi, Jharkhand

Illegal mining on in Noamundi

KOLHAN May 25, 2014 , by  

Noamundi: Illegal mining is on rampantly in several parts of Noamundi police station area these days.

Various hideouts are used by the culprits for storing illegally mined iron ore. Various rackets are involved in unlawful mining under the nose of the district administration.

The police administration has allegedly turned ablind eye to the iron ore smuggling rackets.

Illegal mining is done at midnight with the help of excavators and are shifted during the night by transporters’ dumper trucks to safe places.

Local villagers alleged that the illegal iron ore miners are hands in gloves with certain local administration officials.

 

Read more here- http://www.avenuemail.in/region/illegal-mining-noamundi/45473/

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Two minor girls Gang raped teenagers in Jharkhand and Rajasthan #WTFnews

Class 6 student gang-raped by minors in Jharkhand

HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times  Jamshedpur/Jaipur, April 22, 2014

 rapepublic1

Two minor girls were allegedly sexually assaulted by teenagers – also minors – in two separate but shockingly similar incidents in Jharkhand and Rajasthan on Monday.

 While a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a teenager in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district, a class six student was allegedly gang-raped by four minor boys, all students of the same institute, at a government school in Lohardaga.

The accused of both the incidents are absconding.

Read: Teacher held for raping teenage student

The involvement of minors in heinous crimes like rape has led to an increasing clamour across the country for their trial as adults, specially after the December 16 gang rape and murder of a paramedic student in a moving bus in Delhi.

 One of the convicts in the case, a minor, was treated by a juvenile court and sentenced to three years in a correctional facility while the adults were sentenced to death.

In two other gang rape cases in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills locality, three adults were awarded death sentence while the two minors involved in the incident are being tried as juveniles.

Police in the United States earlier this year decided to try a 17-year-old, involved in a deadly shooting incident at a school in Philadelphia, as an adult in view of the gravity of the crime.

Read: Sexually harassed 15-year-old sets herself afire

Rajasthan rape
Police in Rajasthan’s Sikri said the victim was alone in her home when the 16-year-old accused, a resident of same village, entered the house and forced himself on her.

Medical tests conducted on the victim prima facie confirmed sexual assault, police said.

Sikri police station in-charge Vijay Singh Meena said the incident occurred at around 8 pm when the victim’s parents were visiting some relatives nearby.

The village where the rape took place is around 180km from capital Jaipur.

The accused entered the house on the pretext of offering sweets to the victim and pounced on her.

He gagged with a piece cloth so that she could not shout, said the police.

“A case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Posco) and other relevant sections of the IPC has been filed. The accused escaped from the village and search for him is on,” Meena added.

Read: 3 girls, including 2 minors, raped in Ludhiana

Jharkhand gang rape
Lohardaga superintendent of police Mritunjay Kumar confirmed the incident.

“A search operation has been launched to detain the accused in the incident.”

The accused are known to the victim and she had voluntarily accompanied the boys for a stroll when they forced her into a room of the school and allegedly sexually assaulted her.

The incident came to light after the victim lodged a complaint against four teenagers at the Lohardaga town police station on Tuesday afternoon. The accused are aged between 13 and 15 years.

Lohardaga is around 80 km from capital Ranchi.

Lohardaga police said that the girl complained of severe pain in lower abdomen on Tuesday morning. On being prodded by her parents, she narrated her ordeal to them who later accompanied her to the police station and lodged the FIR.

According to the complaint lodged by the victim, one of the accused is her classmate who had introduced her to the other three a few months back.

“I had gone out with them several times so I trusted them. On Monday evening we were strolling when they forcefully took me inside a room of the school and raped me,” the victim said in the complaint.

According to police, the girl used to help one of the teachers of the school — who resided within the campus – in her household work. She lives in a nearby locality with her parents.

During course of investigation, police learnt that the boys managed to open a room of the school by breaking one of the window panes.

 

Read more here — http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/shelitaflame/four-minor-boys-gang-rape-class-six-student-in-jharkhand/article1-1210983.aspx

 

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A parallel conversation: Martyrs, rebels, and peasants

ANUMEHA YADAV

A performance during the shahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region, Jharkhand, to honour Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh.

Anumeha YadavA performance during the shahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region, Jharkhand, to honour Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh.

Anumeha Yadav

Anumeha Yadav

Anumeha Yadav

The amicable relationship some villagers have with the Maoists, panchayat institutions, as well as large NGOs operating in the vicinity of the villages seems an unusual co-existence in Jharkhand.

It was a weekday when I got a call from Manohar* (name changed), an invite to attend ashahaadat diwas in Chotanagpur region the next day. Two months back, Manohar had helped us get in touch with the CPI(Maoist) for an interview. As he said, shahadat diwas was a day to commemorate martyrdom. I was unsure if it was the rebels’ leaders’ lives the ceremony was meant to recount, but had little opportunity to ask till I was on the road with him the next day.

A few hours out of Ranchi as we reached the forest, the road gave way to a dirt track winding through rocky outcrops. Mahua trees were in bloom, its yellow seeds scattered on the ground. Sal was sprouting fresh green leaves.

Vote ke jariye sarkaar ke rang badalta hai, shoshan-shaashan bandh nahin hota hai – Bhakpa (Maowadi)” (“Voting will change shades of governance, not repression”), the banned CPI(Maoist)’s message for boycotting elections scrawled in large brown letters on the wall of a hut painted white. The hut’s inhabitants went about their routine.

The path soon gave way to a large clearing. Here, at the base of a hill, the villagers – men dressed in white shirts and dhoti, women in sarees, musicians with drums, dancers with plastic flowers in their hair – were under one tent, and in front of them were two six feet-high statues under a bright blue and yellow canopy.

It was only then that it became clear the farmers from several villages around the hills had gathered to celebrate the lives of two of their ancestors, whom they described as the first from Jharkhand to fight the British. They recounted that Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh had been executed, defeated by the British in April 1812 – nearly 45 years before what I had learned in textbooks to remember as the first year of Indians’ rebellion against the British, the Mutiny of 1857. “Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh of Navagarh and Panari Pargana amar rahein,” began Govardhan Singh of the village path pradarshak samiti that has been organizing the function every April.

Who were the two? What had they done? Was their any direct link between the Maoists’ presence in the area and this public ceremony? And how did this affect the politics, voting of these interior villages? I wondered as I watched ceremony those gathered had organized to honour their first freedom fighters.

The story I never knew

This is how the organizers described the story of Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh’s lives.

Bakhtar Say and Mundal Singh, two landowners, fought against the British in Chottanagpur region 1812 onwards. When the British government ordered Govind Nath Shahdeo, the king of Chotanagpur, to pay Rs.12,000 as tax to the East India Company, Bakthar Say refused on behalf of the peasants of the Navagarh Raidih area. This provoked a fight in which Bakhtar Say killed Hira Ram, the Ratu courtier sent to collect this tax.

The magistrate of Ramgarh then sent an army from Hazaribagh under Lieutenant H. Odonel, while reaching out to the kings of Jashpur and Sarguja (in present-day Chhattisgarh) to surround Say from all sides. At this time, Mundal Singh reached Navagarh to help Bakhtar Say. The battle lasted two days. Say’s army made up of farmers of the area held off the British, something the kings and rulers of Navagarh, Panari and Gumla had failed to do.

But a month later, E. Rafreez of Ramgarh Battalion planned a second charge against both, leading a large army. This battle lasted three days. Say and Singh were forced to seek shelter with Jashpur ruler Ranjeet Singh. The latter betrayed their confidence and they were arrested and taken to Calcutta where they were executed on 4 April, 1812.

A Google search for the two’s names to read or corroborate for oneself yields nothing.

A carnival

The sun climbed higher but the people kept coming in hundreds. By late afternoon, the numbers had increased to thousands. Those who took turns to speak paid homage, and compared Say and Singh’s revolt to the struggle of tribal villagers who spent several years in jail in Latehar and Chaibasa prisons charged by forest officials for collecting firewood from forests. Others compared the struggle of Say and Singh against the British in the 19th century to the displacement of lakhs of Jharkhand’s tribals in the last hundred years, reflecting the feeling many describe as Jharkhand’s “repeated colonisation” – first by the Biritish, then the ruling governments, and now by large mining firms.

“Political leaders visit and try as they may to talk sweet, they will have to answer about our displacement,” Munna Kisan, the village shahadat diwas committee convenor, a frail old man wearing a white shirt over dhoti and canvas shoes, spoke animatedly.

Manohar, who has spent some time in jail on charges of being a Maoist, asked questions that have been absent from the political and TV debates preceding elections: Why do a majority of women in the country still have khoon ki kami (anaemia)? If even a single school or wells had been built in the village every year since Independence, would things not be different? Why were gram sabha resolutions on use of land and trees flouted despite Constitutional provisions? Were leaders living in Delhi capable of ever understanding the lives and priorities of Jharkhand’s villagers?

As the villagers watched, several young men dressed in shirts and trousers came and watched from afar. The organizing committee members identified the men as from the local squad of the CPI(Maoist). The carnival grew bigger. The karam dances grew more vibrant. The festivities would go on all night. Nagpuri artists were expected to perform at night. The villagers said they had collected over Rs.1 lakh to organize the meeting. The “party” (Maoists) had contributed additional funds. To celebrate two martyrs the villagers associated with the Indian freedom movement, I wondered…

A peculiar relationship

“The maoists are samaaj sewi (social workers), except they carry guns,” offered the panchayat’s young woman mukhiya when I asked her about the presence of armed squads in the hills surrounding the village as we shared a big lunch of dal, rice, tomato chutney, and washed it down with sattu (gram flour and water). When I asked if the rebels had tried to constitute committees within the village as is common in pockets of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, she said the krantikari kisaan samiti had existed since several years but had made no active effort to carry out public works in the village.

The perfectly amicable relationship the villagers seemed to have with the Maoists, panchayat institutions, as well as large NGOs operating in the vicinity of the villages seemed an unusual co-existence, peculiar to Jharkhand. Would the alliances of those with similar aims though different strategies here survive and evolve to question future rulers and governments?

 

Read more here — http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-free-for-all/article5904577.ece#.

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Dalits prevented from voting in Jharkhand #WTFnews

ANUMEHA YADAV

 

CPI(ML) members have alleged that Dalit villagers were stopped from voting in Jamua in Giridih district in first phase of polling for Koderma constituency in Jharkhand on April 10 by upper-caste landlords and have demanded a re-poll. They alleged that the villagers, including women, were physically assaulted when they arrived at the polling booth. Election Commission officials said they had not received reports that confirmed CPI(ML)’s allegations from their staff.

“We received reports that seals were broken and tampered with in two booths in Bagodar and four in Dhanwar and we will hold re-poll there but we did not receive inputs reporting any incident from Jamua,” said Chief Electoral Officer PK Jajoria.

“When we reached the polling station, several men attacked us with lathis. One of them assaulted me on the chest and stopped me from casting my vote, ten persons from the village got injured, five were bleeding,” said Uma Devi a Dalit farmer from Gardi village in Giridih’s Jamua block. CPI(ML) Politburo member Manoj Bhakta said the party had registered an FIR against Suraj Narayan Dev who led the men whom he alleged injured 10 villagers.

Giridih Superintendent of Police Kranti Kumar refuted the party’s allegation. “According to my staff, the party’s workers and Suraj Narayan Dev have a rivalry and a scuffle broke out between the two groups. We did not receive any such reports of villagers not being allowed to cast their vote,” he said.

“There are six assembly seats in the Koderma consituency and six booths were captured. The administration is anti-Dalit and are siding with feudal powers in this area,” alleged CPI(ML)’s Koderma candidate Raj Kumar Yadav. “We were encouraging the villagers to vote as they think right but Suraj Narayan’s goons did not let them,” said Sunil Singh a CPI(ML) worker in Jamua. When the villagers asserted that they would vote for the candidates of their choice, the landlords became angry. For years they had suppressed them and dictated whom they should vote for, he added.

Read more here — http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dalits-prevented-from-voting-in-giridih-cpi-ml/article5911776.ece

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