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Trap fear stops police in tracks

Ranchi, Dec. 26: Fear of walking into a rebel trap stopped the Bhandaria police in Garhwa from visiting a spot today where road construction equipment was torched by Naxalites in broad daylight.

Speaking to The Telegraph over phone, Garhwa SP Michaelraj S said 10 to 15 armed Maoists, who came on five or six motorbikes, set on fire two earthmovers that were being used to build a 5.5km-long road under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in Bhandaria, 250km from the capital.

The incident took place around 1pm. It was in Bhandaria earlier this year (on January 21) that a Maoist-triggered landmine explosion followed by indiscriminate firing killed as many as 13 police personnel. Former office in charge of Bhandaria police station Rajbali Chowdhary was among the victims.

“We are yet to go to the spot. The local contractor informed us about the torching but we need foolproof preparations before venturing into a terrain where virtually no roads exist,” said Bhandaria police station officer in-charge sub-inspector Manoj Kumar Rai, who once served on the security team of former chief minister Madhu Koda and chief minister Arjun Munda.

The spot where the incident occurred is 35km from Bhandaria police station, on the border of Barwadih block in Latehar and Ramgarh in Palamau. The nearest CRPF camp is in Mandal, Latehar.

Sources said sub-contractor Amar Pasari, who was entrusted with the task of laying the road between Chapalsi and Bijka villages, used to keep the equipment at Ramgarh police station. Every morning, the equipment was taken to the site and parked at the police station in the evening.

Pasari told The Telegraph over phone that the main contractor of the Rs 1.14- crore project was Daltonganj-based Ajay Dubey. “The Maoists never asked for levy, but they banned construction in the hilly area as it is considered a safe zone,” he said, adding that though the project was bagged three years ago, work started a month ago. Two earlier attempts to start work failed as Maoists shooed away labourers.

The area is a stronghold of subzonal commanders Vishal and Mritunjay, who lord over Koel-Sankh Zone.

Sources said while work on another stretch between Ramgarh and Hutar road in Palamau was abandoned midway following Maoist interference, a bridge over river Saphi was also pending for the last three years, exposing claims of controlling the rebel menace.