Hazaribagh, May 30: The state police today denied that Maoist zonal commander Naveen Manjhi was arrested by joint forces in Hazaribagh yesterday, dismissing media reports as “false”.
According to newspaper reports, the CPI(Maoist) commander of Jinga zone was nabbed from Gidhania forest in Vishnugarh by police and CRPF during a joint operation.
However, director-general of police G.S. Rath told The Telegraph, “The stories appearing in newspapers are false.”
Hazaribagh superintendent of police (SP) Pankaj Kamboj also expressed surprise over the reports, although he agreed that a joint operation was underway in Vishnugarh. He also refuted speculations that Manjhi, 47, who is carrying a Rs 10 lakh reward on his head, was being interrogated by police in a secret location.
The SP said, “We have not received any news about the arrest of Manjhi.”
Manjhi, who is also known among the Maoist ranks as Naveenda, Bhuvan Manjhi and Banshi Manjhi, figures alongside Kundan Pahan on the state police’s list of most-wanted extremists.
A resident of Chinkiro village of Dumri block in Giridih, Manjhi is said to have joined the outfit some 17 years ago.
He became in-charge of Jinga zone, which comprises Vishnugarh (Hazaribagh), Giridih and Bokaro districts (see map), a couple of years ago.
A CRPF officer, who did not want to be named, told The Telegraph that they had nabbed a slightly built person, who was yet to be identified, from Gidhania yesterday. However, he said it was unlikely to be Manjhi.
Sources in the police had even claimed that Manjhi was arrested with his wife Chameli and two other area commanders, namely Ramji Manjhi and Sitaram Manjhi. But the SP, as well as DIG (North Chotanagpur commissionerate) Suman Gupta, refuted such claims.
A source in the CPI(Maoist) said it was not easy to arrest Manjhi, as he always had a security ring of 45 armed rebels. He added that Manjhi was transferred to Odisha last month for misusing Rs 2 crore collected through levy, adding that one Ajay Mahto was put in charge of Jinga zone.
Manjhi, who has dodged the state police a number of times, has been involved in over hundred incidents of violence.
Besides killing policemen in Bermo, Bokaro, Manjhi’s most daring act was on May 5, 2008, when he captured Hazaribagh-Giridih road near Holang for hours and opened indiscriminate fire killing a wireless operator named Oliver Tirkey of Giridih district police.