A truck gutted by the rebels at Chouparan in Hazaribagh on Monday night. (Vishvendu Jaipuriar)
Chouparan (Hazaribagh), March 15: Maoist rebels set on fire three buses, six trucks and a pick-up van in a daring attack in Chouparan block, on the Bihar-Jharkhand border, late last night.
More than 75 uniformed rebels carried out on the operation on GT Road, about 70km from the district headquarters, after forcing 350 passengers off the buses. They shot at the driver of the pick-up van when he tried to escape.
Sources said the rebels, armed with AK-47s, walked 16km from Tetaria village at Barachatti, in Bihar’s Gaya district, to Chouparan. They broke into groups and monitored movement of vehicles on GT Road from near Danuwa Ghati forest in the block’s Chordaha village. They allowed a patrolling party led by assistant sub-inspector of Chouparan police station Yogendra Paswan to pass without making their presence felt.
Around midnight, the rebels appeared on the highway and first targeted a roadside eatery — Jharkhand Line Hotel. They took chairs, tables and charpoys to the middle of the road and set them on fire. Long distance buses plying on the stretch soon started stopping on seeing the blaze.
According to Jamshedpur-bound passenger Anu Gupta, the gun toting uniformed men boarded the buses and ordered the passengers to disembark.
“As we came out, they poured kerosene on the bus and set it on fire. Two other buses and six trucks met the same fate. About 15 of the women cadres also fired in the air, prompting hundreds of passengers to run for cover into the dense Danuwa forest,” she said.
Eatery owner Jagdish Yadav, who could only remain a mute spectator, said eight to 10 of the rebels were carrying mashaals and took them no time to gut the vehicles. The driver of a passing pick-up van tried to escape from the spot, only to be shot at and his vehicle set on fire. His condition is stated to be out of danger at the Hazaribagh sadar hospital.
Two of the buses belonged to same company — Atithi Yatra. While one was on its way from Jamshedpur to Siwan, the other was headed to the steel city from Muzzafarpur. The third bus was going to Ranchi from Sitamarhi.
The spot where the incident took place is barely 8km away from Chouparan police station. However, the police failed to turn up despite the fact that the mayhem continued for close to 75 minutes. While leaving the spot, the rebels left behind pamphlets, warning the public to abide by their bandh calls.
Nearly two hours after the incident, a large posse of security personnel led by superintendent of police Pankaj Kamboj reached to the spot and took stock of the situation. Barhi sub-divisional police officer Arun Kumar Sinha said the Maoists had taken advantage of the forest cover and managed to escape after committing this crime. He said “massive raids” were on to nab the rebels. However, locals said no operation was on in Danuwa forest.
It took three hours — 4am to 7am— to send the stranded passengers to their destinations. The losses incurred in the incident was estimated to be Rs 4.5 crore.