Hundreds of 'mukhiyas' (village heads) in rural Bihar have sought
bodyguards for their security, citing threats to their lives from
Maoists, gangsters, criminals and rivals.
Since the panchayat elections were held in Bihar over two years
ago, 33 elected heads of panchayats have been killed in the state.
Most of them were murdered over disputes with Maoist guerrillas
and gangsters or rivalry related to development work in their
"More than 400 village headmen, including 300 in Maoist-hit
districts and 100 in flood-prone north Bihar districts, have
demanded bodyguards for security as they are facing threats from
Maoists, gangsters, rivals and others," a senior officer at the
police headquarters here told IANS. He did not want to be named.
"We are not safe. We are always at risk. We are insecure because
of threats from Maoists and others," Vinay Kumar Singh, the
mukhiya of a panchayat in Aurangabad, told IANS.
His demand was supported by Manish Pathak, Anil Yadav and Guddu
Singh, heads of their respective panchayats in Aurangabad.
"We always live in fear. There is a serious threat to our lives,"
In Aurangabad alone, three village heads have been killed in the
last six months.
"A group of mukhiyas approached the district administration
recently and demanded bodyguards, citing threat to their lives,"
Abhay Kumar Singh, the district magistrate, said.
Sudesh Kumar Singh, mukhiya of the Karma panchayat in Aurangabad,
was shot dead early this month by some unidentified people.
This was the third murder of a muhkiya in Aurangabad. In March,
Chhotu Kushwaha, mukhiya of the Sonhattu panchayat under the
Haspura block was shot dead. Before that, Arif Khan, mukhiya of
the Obra panchayat, was killed.
The spate of killings of village headmen started immediately after
the 2010 panchayat elections.
"Maoists demand a levy and threaten us with dire consequences if
we don't pay them. We are functioning in rural areas where
Maoists' terror matters to everyone," Vinay Kumar Singh said.
Mukhiyas in Gaya, Aurangabad, Jamui, Munger, Sitamarhi, Rohtas,
Nawada, Sheohar and Arwal districts are afraid of threats by
Maoists and others.
In these districts, dozens of mukhiyas are also running their
businesses and contracts that make them vulnerable to Maoist
Mukhiyas in Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Ara, Saran and
Siwan have also demanded bodyguards.
In Bihar, there are 8,442 village body heads, 8,422 sarpanchs,
115,542 panchayat members, 11,534 panchayat samiti members and
1,162 zila parishad members.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)