March 8: In what appears to be a major breakthrough, police have gathered evidence that the assailants of the Jamshedpur MP, Sunil Mahto, had stayed overnight in the village Baguria. The village headman and seven other villagers had played the host, claim police sources.
Almost “certain” of the involvement of these villagers, investigating officers today claimed that the information had been received from villagers themselves. All the seven villagers implicated in the murder are being interrogated separately, they said.
Earlier reports had suggested that the rebels had arrived in the garb of ordinary villagers and pretended to be spectators at the football final, where the MP was the chief guest. Reports had also maintained that they had taken rest in the middle school before closing in. Police officers, sceptical from the beginning about the involvement of Maoists, are now convinced of a wider, political conspiracy.
Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Sudhir Mahto today announced that the state government has decided to appoint an “expert” as its security advisor. Chief minister Madhu Koda, he said, had agreed to the suggestion put forward by the JMM for having an advisor on the lines of Chhattisgarh, which appointed retired Punjab DGP K.P.S. Gill as advisor.
The state, said Mahto, requires a specialist to prepare strategies and plans and also help in their execution. While no name has been finalised, Mahto indicated that the state government’s first choice might be Kiran Bedi. While Bedi does not have much experience of anti-insurgency operations, the state government, he hinted, will consider other names only if Bedi declines the invitation.
JMM, said Mahto, has apprised Koda of its dissatisfaction over the irregular meetings of the state-level security committee, which was formed in 2003. Comprising the DGP, the ADGP (special branch) and the home secretary, the committee was expected to evaluate VIP security and the threat perception to elected representatives in the state. The virtually defunct committee is now being revived after Sunday’s assassination.
Koda said the government had decided upon a two-pronged strategy to deal with Maoists. While it planned to spend Rs 210 crore, received from the centre, for development of 21 “backward” districts, the government also plans to beef up its security apparatus.
While the state is raising three special India Reserve Battalions, said Koda, he has also sought 10 additional companies of central paramilitary forces. A new and more attractive surrender policy is also on the anvil, Koda said.
Para-military forces today virtually took over the Baguria middle school for its camp. School students have not been turning up for classes since the sensational murder, admitted a dejected headmaster Ramkrishna Shah, worried over the annual exams beginning on March 19. A pall of fear hangs over the area, with haats wearing a deserted look and few buses plying on the route.