Chaibasa (West Singhbhum), Dec. 22: The thick forests of Saranda prevented chief minister Babulal Marandi from landing at a makeshift helipad near the spot where a police convoy was ambushed on Thursday.
Denied a chance to boost the morale of police, which had lost 13 men in the attack, the chief minister flew to Ranchi from where he proceeded to Ahmedabad to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister.
Around 7 this morning, Marandi left Kiriburu for Digha in a chopper but failed to land at the makeshift helipad. “The pilot could not locate the helipad,” police sources said. “Perhaps the dense forests restricted the chopper’s movement. After making three or four rounds over Digha, it returned,” they said.
The district administration had got busy with arrangements from yesterday afternoon, soon after Marandi said he would like to visit the attack site. Senior police officers and a big contingent of district police were despatched to the spot.
According to district officials, Marandi was desperate to visit the site soon after he reached Chaibasa last afternoon. He insisted on his officials making arrangements so he could reach the spot immediately after paying tribute to the slain policemen.
“Although Marandi was advised not to proceed for ‘security reasons’, the chief minister insisted,” a senior police officer said. “Hence adequate police force left for Digha from Chaibasa to provide security.”
Around 4 pm yesterday, Marandi left Chaibasa for Kiriburu. When he arrived, the escort party had not yet reached.
Marandi was advised against visiting the spot without security personnel. So he stayed overnight at Kiriburu.
Deputy inspector-general Bhavesh Thakur, superintendent of police Manoj Kumar Mishra and other senior officers are camping at a guest house on the outskirts of Kiriburu to oversee the launch of a fresh offensive against the Naxalites.
The combing operation started this morning after Marandi’s departure. It would include a search for the policemen who are missing.
Two companies of the CRPF and a battalion of the Jharkhand Armed Police, comprising Gorkha jawans, have reached Kiriburu. “Senior officials should lead from the front. Naxal-related activities must be tackled in this district at any cost,” Singhbhum’s BJP MP Laxman Gilua said.
Police sources in Kiriburu said the bodyguard of Kiriburu deputy superintendent of police B. Toppo and a driver of a private vehicle returned from the forests this morning. “They said they have escaped from the MCC’s clutches,” a source said.