Raniganj (Bihar), Apr 28 : Thousands of people belonging to 108 villages in Gaya District on the Bihar-Jharkhand border are performing Mahayajna (prayer with fire ritual) with the objective of convincing Naxalites to shun violence.
Organised in Raniganj, a market adjoining the Jharkhand border and in the vicinity of the Jangam mountain, the nine-day Mahayajna is being seen as an event of considerable significance given that the area has been a Naxalite bastion for three decades.
Residents of these villages gather at the Ranjganj market to buy their day-to-day requirements.
Local residents believe the Naxalites to be misguided individuals who need to be motivated to return to the mainstream.
"They are our own brothers who have strayed and taken the wrong path. They are a troubled lot, we need to help them to return for good. We should get them back into the mainstream," said Motilal Saawariya, one of the organizers of the religious ceremony. .
Scores of people have been killed by the Naxalites, who often move between the two States to avoid defection and capture by the security forces.
Villagers hope the Mahayajna will motivate the Naxalites for a change of heart and convince them to take to the right path in life..
The "Shri Ram Mahayagya", which includes the Yajna ceremony in the morning and religious discourses on non-violence and on Ram leela (the enactment of Lord Rama's ideal life) in the evenings.
About 100 seers, saints and priests from different parts of India have converged here to conduct the Mahayajna till May 1.
"We want to pray to the almighty that better sense prevails among the Maoists. We want them to come back to the mainstream and stop all violent activities," said Hanuman Das, a saint.
Daily meals and camping arrangements have been made in an area spread over 10 acres.
Gaya is notorious for its poverty and lawlessness and for an ongoing conflict between the Maoists and private upper-caste militias set against the backdrop of acute social disparities.
Maoists claim they are fighting for the rights of poor peasants and landless labourers and routinely call strikes, attack government property and target local politicians.
Interestingly, the ongoing religious ceremonies have attracted many Naxalites.