Ranchi, Jan. 10: “You just watch now how many heads we will claim,” said CRPF director-general Pranay Sahay grimly this afternoon in Ranchi as he spoke about the anti-Maoist encounter underway in Latehar till yesterday.
As the paramilitary top boss spoke to The Telegraph moments after paying a gun salute to four deceased jawans at CRPF’s state headquarters in the capital, his words reflected loss, anger and retaliation. “It’s time for big steps. We will stem antisocial elements once and for all,” he added.
The four martyrs honoured were constables Shankar Lal Choudhary, Baijnath Kisku and Champalal Malsia and head constable Sudeesh Kumar. Arrangements were made to send the bodies of all four to their respective native places right after the gun salute at 2pm.
The mood at CRPF base camp was sombre. What added insult to injury and death was Naxalites using bodies of jawans to plant bombs, arguably for the first time in the history of Maoist-police combat.
Sahay isn’t sleeping easy. He visited Latehar to get stock of the war zone that shares borders with Chhattisgarh, Palamau and Garhwa.
He also took tough posers such as ‘are jawans de-motivated’ and ‘did planning fail at any point’ without flinching.
“What lapses? Mahabharat mein mautein toh hoti hain, lapses nahin. (When a war is on, death is unavoidable). The hilly terrain was a factor but our boys fought well. If we lost numbers, they also did. Death doesn’t bog us down. But we object to the inhuman treatment meted out to the bodies of jawans,” he said.
“We are sad but not down and out. We assure you that we are going all guns blazing,” Sahay, who also handed around Rs 2 lakh as compensation for civilian casualties to state director-general of police (DGP) G.S. Rath, said.
Besides Sahay and Rath, officials present at the martyrs’ ceremony included IG (CRPF) M.V. Rao, IG (operations) S.N. Pradhan, additional director-general of police Rezi Dungdung, Ranchi senior superintendent of police Saket Kumar Singh and others.