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Twice-born trio recall killing fields of Latehar

- Back from dead with doubled confidence, say CRPF jawans recovering at a Ranchi hospital

Official figures: Five jawans killed, 15 injured, 4 missing

Unconfirmed: 22 jawans killed, 16 injured, many missing

Encounter: Gun battle from Monday morning to 4am on Tuesday in and around Amuatikar forest, 40km from district headquarters

Body trap: Rebels tied bombs on a jawan’s body that blew up at 3pm on Tuesday, killing a villager and critically injuring two others who were helping CRPF in rescue operations. “Maoists turned the body of a brave jawan into an IED to destroy others. It is their most inhuman act,” Palamau DIG Praveen Kumar said

Ranchi, Jan. 8: Naresh Kumar (30) of Jammu, R. Tilakraj (27) of Tamil Nadu and Bishwanath Singh Bhadoria (22) of Madhya Pradesh, all jawans of 112 CRPF battalion, who sustained injuries in the rebel encounter yesterday, are being treated at Apollo hospital in Ranchi. The Telegraph met them this evening for a first-hand account of the bloody encounter

Naresh Kumar: This is like a rebirth. I took a Maoist bullet in my left elbow yesterday. As paramilitary jawans, our battalions are composite mini Indias, so an internal battle like this is deeply disturbing. We had just stepped on forest terrain helped by GPS data when I had to dodge rebel bullets from all three sides at Amuatikar forest yesterday. One lot of bullets came from behind trees, another behind a hillock and the third from a makeshift post made of stones. Even as bullets were whizzing past me, I could make out the difference between Insas and light machine guns. Being a trained jawan, we notice these details even in the face of death. Then, before he had fired a single round in retaliation, we saw two of our men fall down dead. Somehow, we took position and started firing back. Though it is difficult to assess their strength accurately, the way the bullets were coming suggested that they must be around 400.

R. Tilakraj: I took a bullet on the calf of my right leg and I am lucky to be alive. We were already tired when we reached the forest. We started from Barwadih by train at 5am and reached Hehegara from where we walked over 10km to reach the place of operations at 10am (not 2pm as earlier reported). Then, we were welcomed with bullets. The firing was so heavy that taking position to retaliate proved difficult. This has been a learning experience for all of us.

Bishwanath Singh Bhadoria: I am 22 years old and have already survived my first rebel attack which has doubled my confidence. I am recovering from my bullet injury on my right elbow. I must have shot at least four rebels — they were dressed in black. Each time my bullet hit one of the rebels, they hurled curses at me. I also called them bad names. At one time, I found one aiming at me from a distance of hardly 10m. The moment I noticed this, I opened fire to save my life. That’s when I took a bullet.

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