CPI (Maoist) insurgents shot dead a coal trader while he was offering Arghya at a Chhath Ghat in a nondescript village of Chatra's Simariya block, about 150 kilometres north of capital Ranchi, on Saturday morning, unleashing a reign of terror on the innocent villagers engrossed in festive fervour, police said.
Police recovered three used cartridges and two CPI (Maoist) posters from the spot. Eyewitnesses claimed that bike-borne, masked rebels fired three rounds of bullet from a close distance at the coal trader and fled shouting slogans in glory of the CPI (Maoist). The incident triggered panic among devotees leading to a stampede at the Chhath Ghat, eyewitnesses told the police.
The victim, identified as one Mukesh Giri, was rushed to a local hospital in Simarya from where he was referred to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi. Giri succumbed to his injuries on his way to Ranchi in an ambulance, police said.
While the purpose behind the cold-blooded murder in broad daylight is not confirmed, police suspect that the coal trader may have been murdered over his refusal to pay levy to the insurgents. Other sources in the police department said that the CPI (Maoist) killed Giri as they suspected him to be a police informer.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Police (DGP), MV Rao rushed to Chatra immediately after the incident and held a meeting with the Chatra superintendent of police, Rishav Kumar Jha. The meeting was in progress at the time this report was filed.
Opposition parties in Jharkhand, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have recently targetted the Hemant Soren-led UPA government in the state over deteriorating law and order situation. Soon after the incident on Saturday, the BJP called for a press conference, scheduled in the evening.
As per records with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), at least 19 of 24 districts are Left Wing Extremism affected in Jharkhand. The CPI (Maoist) is the most dreaded outlawed group in the state among around 17 LWE outfits, say police