Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Maoists slaughter students, 3 others

Rinki Devi, wife of Prahlad Sahu, with her one-year-old daughter at Pundidiri village in Tamar on Monday. Picture by Prashant Mitra


Tamar (Ranchi), Sept. 7: In a grim reminder of the bloodletting modus operandi in red strongholds of neighbouring Bengal, five Tamar youths, including two teenaged students, were dragged out of their homes by Maoist guerrillas and shot dead half a kilometre away, on the Kharkai bridge, late last night.

Though the exact reason behind the massacre is not immediately clear, old enmity and hate campaign against police informers are not being ruled out.

The incident took place at Pundidiri village, 70km from the state capital, in the Tamar police station area. A squad of 20-25 Maoist rebels, armed with AK 47s and semi-automatic weapons, descended on the village at 9.30pm. They picked up Subodh Kumar Gautam (38), Gaur Singh Munda (35), Prahlad Sahu (28) and brothers Amit Prakash (19) and Sunil Singh Munda (17) at gunpoint and herded them to the Kharkai bridge. Around 11pm, each was shot once and left to die as heavy rain made rescue impossible.

Tension was palpable in Pundidiri and its neighbouring areas today. Shops and business establishments observed an unofficial bandh while villagers chose to stay indoors. The only people outside were CPRF and district armed police jawans.

Police have, so far, failed to establish concrete rationale behind the murders. DGP V.D. Ram told The Telegraph that two of the victims were former CPI(Maoist) members. “Subodh and Prahlad had left the outfit, but reportedly collected levy using the name of the organisation,” he said.

Unconfirmed sources, on the other hand, claimed that the slain were cadres of Jharkhand Liberation Tigers (JLT), a breakaway CPI(Maoist) faction, and were helping the police in operations against the parent outfit. Senior superintendent of police Praveen Kumar claimed that the Maoists killed the five to make their presence felt in the area.

Villagers said the rebels wore uniforms and communicated in several languages, including Hindi, Mundari and Panchpargania, a local dialect. They first raided the house of Subodh, a supplier of building material. “We heard them say that they would not let police informers live in the village,” said a villager who saw the extremists dragging the men to the bridge.

At Prahlad’s house, the rebels came looking for one Suku, but picked up the cosmetic shop owner apparently in the latter’s absence.

Amit and Sunil — the first a college student and the other a school-goer — took bullets that were probably meant for their farmer father. “The armed men came looking for Manoj, but took away his sons instead,” said a neighbour.

The raid at the house of Gaur Singh, a mason, was equally ambiguous. “They (the rebels) spoke in Mundari and said, ‘Dada dwar nigem (elder brother, open the door)’. He was asked to follow them. They had guns, my brother thought it wise not to hesitate. They said they would only ask a few questions,” said Sushma, Gaur’s elder sister.

Subodh’s father, Kailash Nath Gautam, a retired headmaster of Tata Workers’ Union High School, said his son would have survived if the extremists hadn’t noticed his slippers. “Subodh hid on the rooftop, but they found his slippers and dragged him out. My son never had any Maoist link,” the elderly said.

Prahlad’s wife Rinki Devi was in a state of shock. Their one-year-old daughter Ria on her lap, she only mumbled that her husband was “innocent” and his death was an “injustice”. The couple had let out space to Suku for a cycle shop.

Police said the bodies had been sent to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences for autopsy.

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