Sanjay Majhi, 50, doesn’t have a concrete house for the family comprising his wife and their two daughters and a son. It hardly matters that the tribal man is a mason for the last 25 years. All that he owns is a mud hut with a clay roof (Khaprail), a small patch of agricultural land, two cows and a pair of oxen besides some farming implements. Last year, a dwelling unit was allotted to the family under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, which is yet to be completed.
Of late, the local police informed him that he is an “absconding Naxalite” — who allegedly blew up a railway track in the Mahuatand area in October 2014. The police reportedly told him that there was a warrant of “Kurki-Jabti” (property attachment) against him as he has been charged under section 17 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1908.
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time as he was leaving no stone unturned making arrangements for the marriage of his eldest daughter, Sunita Kumari, scheduled to be held in March.
Prior to this, Majhi — a resident of village Lalgarh in Gomia block of Bokaro district — had never received any legal notice over his alleged Maoist links, he has claimed. Ironically, Majhi is an undertrial in a coal theft case of 2013. Currently out on bail, he has to appear in the Tenughat court almost every month, according to him.
Reportedly, all the district police chiefs of Jharkhand have been instructed and given targets to seize moveable and immovable properties of the absconding Naxal commanders. AV Homkar, a spokesperson of the Jharkhand Police and IG Operation, had said on December 9, 2021, “A special cell has been set up at the headquarters level to monitor the whole process. An officer of the Deputy Inspector General rank is monitoring it.”
Consequently, the witch-hunt allegations against the police have started mounting as the latter struggle to meet their assigned targets.
Since the eruption of the Maoist insurgency in Jharkhand, the central paramilitary forces and the state police have frequently been accused of stage-managed surrenders and encounters. In September 2016, National Human Rights Commission chairperson, Justice HL Dattu, had made a sensational disclosure in this regard.
A probe conducted by the commission had found that 514 innocent tribal youths were made to surrender as “Naxalites” between 2012 and 2014 under the state’s controversial policy that promised government jobs and cash rewards.
The commission had sent a report to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the state government, affirming that some senior officers from the Central Reserve Police Force and Jharkhand police organised the “fake surrenders” for monetary and other service-related benefits.
The fake surrender scam dates back to 2011. A PIL in this regard was filed in the Jharkhand High Court by Shashi Bhushan Pathak, who worked with Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR), following the Commission's findings. The petition sought action against the accused officers and justice for the men wrongly branded as “surrendered Maoists”. While the petitioner passed away in 2017, a member of the JCDR’s executive body told Outlook that he was unaware of the current status of the petition.
On January 1, 2022, the Outlook had reported the story of Birsa Majhi, 43, another tribal man who too has been facing a trial in Jharkhand’s Tenughat court in a 30-year-old case related to the Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act. Last month, Majhi was also summoned to the local police station and informed that he is a “wanted Naxal with a bounty of Rs 1 lakh”, who remains a “perceived absconder” since 2008.
Both Sanjay Majhi and Birsa Majhi were summoned by Kanahiya Ram, SHO Jageshwar Vihar police station, on two separate occasions in December 2021. Attempts to contact Superintendent of Police (SP) Chandan Kumar Jha over the phone and through text messages didn’t elicit any response till the time this report was published.
Seeking protection from the impending arrest and confiscation of his property, meanwhile, Sanjay Majhi has written a letter to Chandan Kumar Jha, the SP. “On December 27, SHO Jageshwar Vihar police station summoned me to the police station and informed me that there was a warrant of property attachment against me. He said there is a case registered against me for blowing up a railway track in 2014. It was for the first time that I came to know about it,” the letter dated January 19, 2020, stated.
Further, the letter bearing his thumb impression explained, “I live in my village and work as a mason in the surrounding areas. Neither I am linked to any Maoist organisation nor related to the incident in which the railway track was blown up. Nor I have been an absconder in my life. I have never received any kind of notice in this regard.”
“I am sure that my name has been attached with this case due to some mistake,” read the letter, requesting the SP to direct the SHO so that the impending police action against him could be stopped.
Speaking to Outlook, his son Sunil Kumar, 21, said, “The police told my father that there is a case of ‘17 CL’ against him. The cops asked him to surrender and submit a list of household things like utensils, shovel, pickaxe, spade and other implements.”
While pleading for his father’s innocence, Kumar continued, “We are living in constant fear. At no time did my father share any connection with the Maoists. He is being framed.” He works as a private surveyor whereas his sisters are college students and his mother is a homemaker.
“A warrant of property attachment is issued against an accused whose whereabouts are unknown. But in the case of Sanjay Majhi and Birsa Majhi, they live with their families among their people. They are well known to everyone. Both of them appear in the local court regularly,” said, Dinesh Murmu, a Gomia based activist with Adivasi Mulawasi Adhikar Manch, adding, his organisation will file a writ petition in Jharkhand High Court against the false implication of illiterate tribals in Maoist cases.
Siraj Dutta, a Ranchi-based social policy analyst associated with the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, said, “There are several cases of wrongful accusation, police illegalities and harassment of Adivasis. The state government must take cognizance of the continuing human rights violations and such police excesses without any further delay.” Demanding a judicial probe, Dutta said, “Police and the security forces must act within the legal and the Constitutional boundaries and stop targetting Adivasis and working-class people in the name of anti-Naxal operations.