Friday, November 13, 2009

Sonebhadra encounter: Petty thief made a fortune as top Naxal, say cops

Bhupendra Pandey Posted online: Friday , Nov 13, 2009 at 0402 hrs

Kolkata : The sub-zonal Naxal commander Kamlesh Chaudhary, who was killed in an encounter with Sonebhadra police on Monday, had been a petty criminal of Chiutia area of Rohtas district in Bihar before he joined the People’s War Group in 1994. He drifted into the PWG from the world of crime, and not because of any ideological motivation, says the police.

Chaudhary (48) carried rewards of Rs 1 lakh from the Uttar Pradesh Police and Rs 50,000 from Bihar Police. As a sub-zonal commander, he was in charge of an area spread on the tri-junction of three states that included Bhabua and Rohtas in Bihar, Gadhwa in Jharkhand, and Sonebhadra and Ghazipur in UP. He was also responsible for raising funds for the organisation. His killing was the most important success of UP Police in its anti-Naxal operations in the last one decade.

The Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and the Songanga Vindhyachal Committee, which is affiliated with PWG, have alleged the Rohtas police had caught Chaudhary on November 8 along with four others. The Bihar police later handed over Kamlesh to the UP Police and they killed him in a stage-managed encounter, the two organisations have alleged.

However, Sonebhadra SP Preetinder Singh said the community policing drive, which they had initiated in tribal areas in the last two months, helped them reach Chaudhary. The tribals not only provided information about Chaudhary’s hideout in a deep jungle, but also helped the police reach there, he said.

Rohtas SP Vikas Vaibhav said Chaudhary had been an area commander of PWG active in Nauhatta, Chiutia and Rohtas areas of Bihar for three years before he shifted his base to bordering areas of UP. “By then, his name had figured in over a dozen killings, including those of policemen in Bihar,” said Vaibhav. “He later became the sub-zonal commander of the organisation and was engaged in extortion from contractors and businessmen in Bihar, Jharkhand and UP,” he added.

The Sonebhadra SP said Chaudhary used to report to the PWG zonal commander Munna Vishwakarma who is based at Kaimoor in Bihar, and coordinated his activities with other sub-zonal commanders, Ram Sajivan and Lalvrat, for executing operations in the three states. He said the Naxals mostly used UP areas as a hideout after committing crime in neighbouring states.

Virendra Kumar, a native of Chiutia township, said, “Kamlesh’s father Tapeshwari and mother were labourers and could barely earn to feed their children. He had studied only up to Class VIII. In the last one decade, the family has become one of the richest in the area. They have shifted from a thatched hutment to a two-storey building and have a tractor and two motorcycles besides over 25 bighas of farming land.”

He said Chaudhary visited his house frequently, but nobody dared inform the police. Chaudhary’s only daughter was married four years ago and he attended the wedding. His parents, elder brother, wife and elder son all live together in his native village Panduka. “They cultivate the land, and his elder son Ram Kumar became a teacher in local primary school two years ago,” Virendra said.

Chiutia police station SO N K Mishra said, “Kamlesh was arrested first in 1993 in a theft case. He was a petty criminal. Later, he disappeared from the area. His name in the police records as a Naxal first entered when he shot dead a police constable at Bhabhua crossing in Nauhatta area of Rohtas district in 1999.”

A major operation which Chaudhary executed was the blowing up of a police jeep in Nauhatta area on September 9, 2003, by using landmines, killing 12 policemen. He had issued threats to the then Chiutia SO Vijay Kumar Tudu. The SO was transferred to another police station and was on his way to join there when he died in the Naxal attack on the jeep, Mishra added.

Siyaram, station officer of Chopan in Sonebhadra, said, “Kamlesh’s youngest son Jairam is pursuing a diploma at the ITI in Dudhhi area in the district for last two years. The family has prospered from Chaudhary’s extortionist activities.”

His targets were the contractors in road construction and mining who do not mind paying to keep the work going. “These victims never lodged a complaint with the police for obvious reasons, but we know this from our surveillance,” the SO said.

PUCL activists Rajiv Yadav, who questioned the police claim that Chaudhary was killed in an encounter, and also Songanga Vindhyachal Committee (SVC) have alleged the Rohtas police had caught Chaudhary on November 8 along with four others and handed him over to the UP Police which killed him.

Yadav alleged that four others, including Motilal Kharwar of Rohtas and Kameshwar Yadav of Gadhwa in Jharkhand, were in illegal custody of the police and could also be killed in fake encounter.

SVC secretary Jamuna said their organisation was affiliated with the PWG and Chaudhary was a member of the outfit.

An inspector involved in the operation said that Naxals had a following, and also paid informers, among Cheron, Baiga, Dhungar and Gaur tribals in the villages bordering Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The police had started cultivating the confidence of these tribals as part of its community policing drive. This helped the police get information about Chaudhary’s hideout. A team of the special operations group and the PAC, guided by the tribals, reached the place in a remote part of the Kanach forest in Chopan area where the alleged encounter took place, an inspector said.

The Sonebhadra SP said the welfare scheme in Naxal-affected tribal areas, promoted by the Ministry of Home Affairs, has made a major impact on the locals. Besides holding frequent health camps and sanitation drives, the police teams were identifying Class VIII pass-outs among the tribals and sending them to learn motor driving in police lines so that they could get jobs, Singh added.

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