Police with the seized arms and ammunition in Ranchi on Friday. (Hardeep Singh)
A gang of robbers led by a pastor and including a member of a tribal religious outfit was nabbed from Angara, on the outskirts of Ranchi, on Friday.
Kingpin Vinay Tigga (32), a pastor with the Assembly of God Church at Kashipiri in Silli, had masterminded more than 10 robberies in the district in the last 10 months by posing as a Maoist.
The gang, which had women in its ranks, was modelled on Maoist squads, with the robbers preferring to don olive green fatigues like the rebels.
Eleven guns, a pistol, ammunition and camouflage outfits were recovered after the gang was busted.
Tigga’s niece Fulo Kumari (20) was a member of his gang that included the Silli president of Sarna Samiti, Champa Oraon (22).
Oraon had led the gang in setting road construction equipment ablaze at Angara on January 14 to collect levy from a contractor.
The others arrested are Soma Oraon, Lakhan Lohra, Ramesh Oraon, Kirta Oraon and Dilip Bedia, all in their 20s.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Saket Kumar Singh produced the robbers and arms before the media.
“The gang was giving us a headache. It was active in Tatsilwai, Silli, Angara and Sikidiri police station areas for 10 months. They also had forest hideouts like Maoists.”
The SSP said the breakthrough came after Ravi Bedia, a gang member who was held a few days ago, was taken in remand from judicial custody.
“Bedia was a member of the pastor’s gang. After he was nabbed with two other woman members, he was taken in police remand for interrogation. When we grilled him, everything became clear.”
Singh revealed that Tigga was in the hit list of Maoists.
“We got information about the movement of Maoists in Angara on the lookout for the pastor, who had gained notoriety among villagers. We decided to arrest him before he fell prey to the Maoists,” he said.
Tigga did not accept his involvement in any crime, saying he “only wanted to terrorise those involved in the business of liquor”. He claimed that his aides collected levy and committed robberies without his knowledge.