Friday, April 24, 2009

Death before Chhau dance

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Purulia, April 24: Dance of death, just before the dancers hit the floor.

Bibhuti Singh Sardar, 38, one of the two CPM leaders killed by suspected Maoists late last night, was about to deliver a Chhau dance performance when he fell to the rebels’ bullets.

The local committee secretary of Darda village was sipping tea at fair in nearby Supurdihi village of Purulia’s Balarampur with party colleague Baikuntha Mahato, 45, hoping to send the crowd into raptures.

Suddenly, around 11, six men emerged from the milling crowd in the dimly lit area. They walked straight to the duo and fired in the air from a pistol to scare away the revellers.

Sensing the two were about to be shot CPM supporter Raj Kishore Mahato almost threw himself in front as a human shield, but in vain.

He was shot in the waist. As he slumped to the ground, Bibhuti and Baikuntha were shot from close range.

Hit in the chest, Bibhuti died on the spot. So did Baikuntha, shot thrice in the abdomen, chest and neck.

As the attackers fled, some of the CPM men at the fair tried to give them a chase but ran into a hail of bullets.

Bhagwan Sahish was hit on the leg, Birbal Singh Sardar on his hand.

Last night’s murders came barely a day after suspected Maoists beat to death an ailing CPM supporter and broke the limbs of seven others in West Midnapore’s Lalgarh, where the rebels are suspected to be guiding a tribal resistance to police. Balarampur is about 80km from Lalgarh.

Dhirendra Mahato, a resident of Supurdihi, said Maoists had threatened to kill Bibhuti unless he quit the CPM. “Like many other leaders, he did not pay heed to the warning,” he said.

A local police officer said Bibhuti and Baikuntha were on a Maoist hit list of 18.

He also claimed that there were at least a dozen other guerrillas in the crowd and they were not just armed with pistols. “The assassins had AK-47 rifles, 9mm pistols and pipe guns. They might have fled to the nearby Ayodhya jungles,” the officer said.

Purulia superintendent of police Rajesh Yadav said the murders at Supurdihi, about 260km from Calcutta, “appeared to be the handiwork of Maoists”.

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