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Maoists singe showpiece Saranda
Vehicles torched in purged forests

Jamshedpur, Nov. 26: Armed Maoists stormed a mining hub in West Singhbhum in the small hours today and torched six heavy vehicles engaged in linking Saranda’s remote villages with roads, punching holes into the paramilitary’s purged forest claims and dealing a blow to the Centre’s touted development plan.

The rebels resurfaced in Saranda nearly a year and a half after the CRPF-police joint cleansing efforts christened Operation Monsoon and carried out the attack during martyrs’ week in an extreme tribute to Kishan — the hooded CPI(Maoist) mastermind killed in Bengal on November 25 last year.

DSP Arvind Kumar confirmed that the ultra-Left rebels had swooped on the iron ore reserve of Kiriburu, 160km from Jamshedpur, around 1am and set four dumpers and two excavators of a private road construction company on fire.

“The act of violence was definitely committed by a 20-strong Maoist strike squad, who, however, spared company employees,” he said, adding that the charred fleet was building a road at Usruiyan village in Kiriburu, 18km from the Chotanagra police station.

The Union government’s Rs 250-crore Saranda Action Plan was launched in January this year for rapid development of 56 villages in Asia’s largest sal forest. The office of plan architect and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh expressed concern over the attack. The Chaibasa operational area office of CRPF reportedly received a call from Delhi, seeking details of the incident.

The DSP maintained that police and paramilitary forces had begun intensive combing operations in Kiriburu, Chotanagra and Sonua forest areas of Saranda. Also, West Singhbhum police have been put on high alert following reports that top Maoist leader, Samar, has sneaked into Saranda.

“The forests were in any case under strict vigil since the CPI(Maoist) martyrs’ week began on November 24. We had expected them to observe the death anniversary of Kishan who was killed in Burishole in West Midnapore last year,” said the senior police officer.

On whether the security forces had failed to weed out Maoists from Saranda during the month-long Operation Monsoon in July-August 2011, DSP Kumar insisted that they had “contained extremism”.

“What has been eliminated is Maoist supremacy over Saranda, but rebels may be present in the dense and sprawling jungles in guise of villagers. Our continued operations have prevented the rebel outfit from reorganising or carrying out any major subversive activities like earlier,” he added.

Sources said that though the past year had not seen bloodbath, Maoists were active in Saranda. Only recently, police and paramilitary forces recovered a 20kg can bomb from Thalkobad in Manoharpur block. The bomb was planted to blow up CRPF vehicles.

CRPF DIG B.K. Sharma conceded that Maoist presence couldn’t be denied. “They have been there. We cannot man each and every inch. Moreover, today’s incident took place 11km from the nearest CRPF camp in Chotanagra,” he said.

Insiders claimed shuffle in the CRPF hierarchy had affected combing operations.