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Villager mistaken for rebel, shot dead

Bokaro, Nov. 26: A young man, who made his living by catching birds, was killed in a crossfire between Maoists and security forces in Degagadha forests of Nawadih block, 45km from the steel city, early this morning.

Dasrath Malhar’s death — an arguable case of mistaken identity on part of police and CRPF — triggered a four-hour state highway blockade, prompting Bokaro deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar to order a magisterial inquiry and announce ex gratia for his bereaved widow and four children.

Family sources said the 35-year-old man, who lived in Bhalmara village of the block, was unaware of long-range patrolling by Bokaro and Giridih police, along with CRPF and COBRA jawans, in Degagadha. Like routine, he spread his net on treetops last evening and returned around 4.45am today to fetch the prize, only to be shot dead.

SP Kuldeep Dwivedi said they had information on Maoist presence in the forest and had cordoned off the area last evening after few rounds were fired from the rebel side. “Since 2am today, the forces were engaged in an encounter. The villager breached the cordon. His second cardinal mistake was that he tried to run when he saw the men in uniform, who asked him to stop before they fired,” he added.

Neighbour Parmeshwar Prasad Mahto reasoned that Dasrath being hard of hearing had not realised what was going on inside the forest.

Protesting against the incident, MLA Jagannath Mahto and his supporters blocked the highway connecting Dumri with Phusro Road for more than four hours from 9am. He demanded job for Dasrath’s widow Golia Devi and financial aid for her children, aged between one and 10 years.

Thirty-two-year-old Golia stressed that her husband had accidentally come in the firing range and now her family was left without a bread-earner. “He (Dasrath) was only a bird-catcher. Who do I blame for this accident? I have not even received his body yet. How will I feed my four children?” she sobbed.

The blockade was lifted after Bermo DSP Santosh Pathak agreed to the wish list.

Deputy commissioner Kumar too ordered a probe by Bermo land records deputy collector, besides a post-mortem of the body. An ex gratia payment of Rs 35,000 was announced for the family, besides a home being promised under the Indira Awas Yojana.