‘I Am Not a Maoist,’ Says Tribal Man Listed as ‘Wanted’ in Jharkhand’s Bokaro

Why did a tribal man write a letter to state Chief Minister Hemant Soren recently?

4 min read
‘I Am Not a Maoist,’ Says Tribal Man Listed as ‘Wanted’ in Jharkhand’s Bokaro

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“I am not a Maoist, Sir. My name is Virsa Manjhi s/o Rameshwar Manjhi. The real Maoist’s name is Birsa Manjhi s/o Buddhu Manjhi.”
Virsa Manjhi

Virsa Manjhi, from Bermo subdivision in Jharkhand's Bokaro district, recently wrote a letter to state Chief Minister Hemant Soren after he was informed by a local police station that he is "wanted" in a Maoist case and is carrying a reward of Rs 1 lakh.

Virsa denies any Maoist links.

In his mid-forties, Virsa lives in a shack in Lalgarh village with seven other members, including his three daughters and a 20-year-old son.

Virsa lives in a shack in Lalgarh village.

(Photo: Sourced by The Quint)

He lives in a small corner of his one acre land. The rest is ploughed to feed his family. For the most part of the year, he and his son work in a brick kiln, earning a meagre sum of Rs 150-200 a day.


What Led to the Misidentification?

“Sometime in December 2021, I was called by the bada babu (police station in-charge) of Jageshwar police station. He asked me a few questions,” Virsa tells The Quint.

The police asked Virsa his father's name. "Then, he took me to Tenughat to meet with another senior police officer. There I was offered water and some snacks, and the other policeman asked me the same questions about me and my father. I gave him the same answers," he says.

"He then told me that they will not arrest me, instead I could surrender myself. He said I would get Rs 1 lakh as reward – and that they would help me get out of jail in a month,” he adds.

But Virsa says he was at a loss of words.

“I didn’t know how to react,” he recounts. “I just told them that I am a poor man, and this is a very serious case, and I don’t want to be trapped in it.”


Jailed in a Witchcraft Case, Now a Maoist as Per Police Records

Virsa is familiar with the courtroom ever since he was charged under the Prevention of Witch Practices Act after an alleged scuffle with his relatives in 2006.

“There was a case of jaadu-tona (witchcraft) and I went to jail for it. I was in and out of jail in the witchcraft case a few times. Recently, I was arrested again in 2019. Although I got out on bail, I had to make my children drop out of school because whatever I earned was too little to feed the family,” he says.

Lakshmikant Prasad, Virsa's lawyer in the witchcraft case, says that the other five people charged in the case were acquitted except Virsa because he missed his court hearings.

Virsa now fears for his life and his family if he is arrested.

The December 2021 summon was over a militant case registered in 2008. The police have one Birsa Manjhi absconding in the case. However, they don't have much information on who this person is or what he looks like, according to Dinesh Murmu, an activist with Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a tribal welfare organisation.


Talking to The Quint, Satish Chandra Jha, Sub Divisional Officer, Bermo, says, “From our side, we have some doubts about the name of his father. We are trying to verify the details. As you know, this is a difficult place, and people don’t cooperate with the police that much.”

Murmu, who is providing legal help to Virsa, claims there are many like him who are framed and then "subjected to unnecessary troubles."

However, Jha clarifies, “If we can confirm he is the person involved in the incidents he is charged with, we will arrest him. If he’s not the man we’re looking for, there will be no action against him.”


‘My Client is Innocent’

Lawyer Prasad says there is no mention of Virsa's father or other parentage details in the 2008 militant case.

“It’s very likely that the accused in the case could be someone else with the same name. This is not a standalone case. There are many like Virsa Manjhi who have been charged under Maoist cases dating back as far as 2008 and before. The main issue is that Virsa is from an economically backward community, so he is unable to track all the developments in the case. It’s a common practice to complete all formalities at the table in the police station and those accused remain totally unaware of these processes.”
Lakshmikant Prasad

According to reports, Jharkhand police has arrested 410 alleged Maoists in 2021. While 19 surrendered, six were killed in the exchange of fire.

“I am handling a few militant cases like Virsa's where there is no concrete evidence, no verification but my clients are being harassed, or asked to surrender. Virsa has no criminal history and I am sure he will be acquitted in all cases," he further adds.

“I only want to live in peace. I will do everything in my power to provide for my family with my hard work. I just don’t want to be named a Maoist,” Manjhi laments. Virsa hopes his letter to Chief Minister Soren will help.

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Topics:   Jharkhand Tribals   Maoist   Insurgency 

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