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Red explosives haul in woods

Security forces recovered explosives from Pasraha village inside the Bhimbandh forest in the district on Monday and Tuesday. A villager was arrested for giving shelter to rebels.

CRPF personnel launched combing operations on Monday afternoon, which concluded on Tuesday. Maoists fired on the police forces, which had gone into the forest on Monday after receiving a tip-off.

Sources said a police team, led by superintendent of police (SP) (operations) Naveen Kumar, entered the forest, around 20km west of Bhimbandh wildlife sanctuary, on Monday afternoon.

When police tried approaching some unidentified men inside the forest, they fired on the team. The cops retaliated but the suspected rebels fled deeper into the woods. During search operations late in the evening, the police came across a hut from which they recovered 70 hand grenades, five improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive substances.

After completing the operations on Tuesday afternoon, Munger SP Naveen Chandra Jha said: “Yesterday (Monday), Maoists had assembled at the hut of Ritu Koda (50) at a corner of the village. We searched extensively and found 33 bags, each containing 3kg of plastic explosives, hand grenades, Naxalite literature, handbills and posters and items of daily use such as tents, gas cylinders, uniform and utensils. We arrested Koda for giving shelter to the Maoists.”

Asked to describe Pasraha, the Munger SP said: “It is not possible to tell how inaccessible the village is. One has to cross the forest and then the hill ranges to reach the other side, where Pasraha is located in the forest. Hardly 22 to 25 families reside in Pasraha, which is still primitive and devoid of modern life.”

Sandeep Singh, the company commandant of the 131st battalion of CRPF, said forces had been reinforced in the combing operations. “Since the CRPF camp was set up in Bhimbandh forest, officers were confident that Bhimbandh and neighbouring places like Gurmaha and Pasraha would be freed from rebels. How could an incident like the one on Monday evening take place then?” said Singh.

“Earlier, making Bhimbandh the epicentre, the Maoists developed corridors for operations up to Haveli Kharagpur and Dharhara (both in Munger), Kajra, Chanan (in Lakhisarai) and up to Lakshmipur and Barhet in Jamui through the forest cover and hilly terrain. But the CRPF has managed to cut short the Maoist corridors to a large extent,” Singh added.

When asked about the effectiveness of the CRPF camp at Bhimbandh, company commandant Singh said: “Pasraha is more than 20km away from our Bhimbandh camp. Since the area has forest and hilly terrain, Maoists still hide there. We hope to drive them back from the areas shortly.”

Gopal Kumar, a social worker and an expert in Naxalite affairs, said: “Recovery of such a huge haul of explosives raises a big question over the claims of the police and CRPF officers who talk of liberating Bhimbandh forest from the Reds. Setting up of the CRPF camp might check the networking of Maoists but it does not imply that the rebels were driven away. They still have strongholds in places like Pasraha, where development is yet to reach.”