| Police personnel take a look at the 5ft crater left by Tuesday’s landmine blast in Aurangabad. Picture by Ashok Sinha |
Police are yet to make any breakthrough in Tuesday’s landmine blast, which killed eight security personnel in Nabinagar, but it appears that the killing of station house officer Ajay Kumar may have been a case of mistaken identity.
Ajay, 32, had to go to Nabinagar police station for a routine crime meeting. Before leaving for Tandawa, where he was in charge, Ajay shared sweets with his Nabinagar counterpart Arun Kumar. That was the last morsel of food he would take.
While eating the sweets, Ajay had tipped off Arun on safety steps in Maoist-dominated areas.
Ajay then left for the Tandawa police station, of which he was in charge as the station house officer (SHO), in the police patrol vehicle.
Minutes later, Ajay fell victim to the landmine blast triggered by the Maoists, around one-and-a-half km away from the Nabinagar police station. Preliminary findings suggest the explosives were packed into two LPG cylinders.
Police sources believe Ajay’s killing was a case of mistaken identity. They said Nabinagar SHO Arun, and not Ajay, was on the rebel hitlist.
Arun had assumed charge of Nabinagar police station barely 24 hours before the blasts. Already facing proceedings for the death of Madan Yadav, a sub-zonal committee member of the banned CPI (Maoist) in police custody at Barun police station, Arun had inspected the Naxalite-affected Tetaria and Shivpur areas a couple of hours before Tuesday’s crime meeting.
Arun was earlier posted as the station house officer of Barun police station. He was asked to join Nabinagar police station by the incumbent superintendent of police of Aurangabad, Upendra Kumar Sharma, on November 30. But Arun assumed charge on December 2. The blasts took place within 24 hours of his joining.
Arun, a 2009 batch sub-inspector, was supposed to move with the security forces in a police vehicle on the main Nabinagar-Tandawa road on Tuesday. “I had asked my staff to get ready for routine inspection of the areas falling under my jurisdiction. I got feedback from Ajay about Maoist activities,” Arun told The Telegraph.
Arun admitted that Ajay looked calm and had no inkling of any such incident. “He left for Tandawa police station around 4pm. Within 15 minutes, I heard the sound of a loud explosion. Before we could understand, an official received a telephone call from a chowkidar about the blowing up of the police vehicle carrying the SHO,” Arun said.
He said he immediately rushed to the spot with security forces only to find Ajay and five special auxiliary police (SAP) personnel dead. The driver of the vehicle (a home guard jawan) and an official of the Bihar Military Police, who was coincidentally travelling with them, were also killed.
The blast was so powerful that its tremor was felt in a radius of about 3km. Two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) carrying more than 25kg each were planted underground to trigger the blast. The impact of the explosion can be gauged from the fact that the vehicle was thrown up about 80 feet in the air from the ground. The bodies of the victims were torn to pieces and flung about 200 metres away in the fields.
The two huge craters about five feet deep bore testimony to the intensity of the blast. Vehicular traffic along the 7km road between Nabinagar and Tandawa was stopped on Wednesday as a precautionary measure. “We have information that landmines have been planted at several points,” said a SAP official.
Police officials wondered why the weapons had not been taken away by the rebels. “Usually, the objective of such an attack is to take away weapons from the security personnel. But this is not the case here,” said an official.
Police officials are drawing a parallel with two major blasts in the district this year, at Pisay village on October 17 and near north Koel canal on December 3. “For the first time, such powerful IEDs have been used in the region,” said Ravi Kumar, a CRPF official.
Those who died in
- Ajay Kumar, Gaya
- Hari Narayan Singh (SAP), Saran
- Madhukant Jha (SAP), Saharsa
- Sanjay Kumar
- Shivji Rai
- Ashok Kumar
- Sanjay Kumar Kushwaha
- Surendra Singh (Home guard),