Saturday, July 18, 2009

Of barriers new and old

Across our country there is a lot of talk of barriers. Barriers of caste, religious barriers, economic barriers, cultural barriers, gender barriers, language barriers and the most recently high profile sexual barriers. Modern day Jharkhand’s vote bank consists majorly of the adivasis (the tribal population) and the Mahtos. The Mahtos are a caste which branch out into several different factions of their own. Disputes are aplenty and infighting is a must. Remids me of the corsicans in an Asterix story. It was the combination of this vote bank that led to the formation of Jharkhand. In the rural, untamed, wild jungles of Jharkhand barriers are of a different kind.
I encountered a barrier today. One of the physical kind. The kind that goes up to let your car pass and when down asks you to stay put. A harmless looking bamboo tied to a string is what disrupts the otherwise peaceful and extraordinarily scenic drive from Dhanbad to Giridih.

This barrier stands at Taratand, where a police convoy guides you till Mohanpur. Between Taratand and Mohanpur is a stretch of forest, extradorinarily great to breathe around in the morning, that is home to the Naxals. The area is notorious for robberies, hijacks, kidnappings and highway dacoitery. In the last few weeks, there have been several accounts of a marriage party having been looted, a minibus being blown up and most amusing is that of the Home Guard Office not too far from where I live being ransacked and its arsenal emptied.

The convoy has been made stronger. Earlier it consisted of a few policemen hitching rides with the waiting vehicles. An armoured car has been arranged. One guides the vehicles across both ways and another is constantly patrolling the area. The stretch itself is only about 10 kms. No cause for concern there.I’ve seen this since I was a kid. It’s routine. You always try and reach Taratand before dusk. If not you have to wait for the first convoy. At 9. We missed the 9 o’clock that day. Instead we sat there till 11 eating litti and chokha. More about that, when we talk of cuisine.