DGP Rajeev Kumar (top) interacts with villagers in Naukania and driver of the MGNREGS vehicle Yadav, who was not kidnapped, at Pirtand in Giridih on Monday. (Tausheen Rubbani)
Hazaribagh/Ranchi, Jan. 27: One CRPF jawan was killed and 14 security personnel were injured in landmine blasts this afternoon when a 200-member joint team of Jharkhand Jaguar and CRPF went to a forest on Giridih-Dhanbad border to rescue four rebel hostages, including a Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow.
The search team walked right into the trap of landmines of CPI(Maoist) at Dhaulkatta forest, 65km from Giridih headquarters, indicating intelligence failure. But the incident has brought to light the well-planned ruse of rebels of baiting security personnel with hostages, who they released this evening after the blasts.
On Saturday evening, rebels kidnapped at gunpoint the PM’s fellow V. Sai Vamsi Vardhan and three MGNREGS workers on Saturday evening from Pirtand block of Giridih, 25km from district headquarters, but left their driver Rajendra Yadav behind.
Police and CRPF started combing the area yesterday when a scared Yadav reported the kidnap, but a massive team was constituted only this morning when DGP Rajeev Kumar reached the area when chief minister Hemant Soren and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh mounted pressure for safe release of hostages.
In the afternoon, rebels and security forces opened fire, but the latter suffered real harm when landmines started exploding. Badal Mandal of CRPF battalion 22 died on the spot. Fourteen security personnel were injured, 11 critically.
Damage done, Maoists released four hostages this evening, 48 hours after their kidnap, near Rajabandh, close to Topchanchi of Dhanbad.
Though rebels seem to have outsmarted security forces in this two-day cat-and-mouse game, Jharkhand police are claiming credit for swift rescue — at least 10 injured jawans were airlifted to Ranchi’s Apollo hospital by three armoured helicopters Mi17 (Air Force) and Dhruv choppers of BSF Dhruv and state police — as well as the release of hostages.
DGP Rajeev Kumar, who is camping with additional director general of police (law and order) K.S. Meena and inspector general (operations) M.L. Meena on Giridih-Dhanbad borders, said: “Our swift operations resulted the release of four hostages as Maoists buckled under pressure.”
“In our operations that followed the January 25 kidnap, 11 companies, four of special assault group Jharkhand Jaguar and seven of CRPF, were involved,” he said.
Chief secretary R.S. Sharma also congratulated the entire state police.
But, off the record, policemen say otherwise.
“It seems local CPI(Maoist) zonal commander Ajay Mahto masterminded the plan. Maoists did their homework well. Rebels blew up a panchayat bhavan in Giridih last week. That, as well as the kidnap-bait shows rebels have managed to win support of villagers again,” a police officer said.
Techie Vardhan (23) of Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, who left a highly paid software job to become a PM’s fellow, and three others — Maksud Ansari, Shambhu Pandey and Chandra Dev — were conducting a pension campaign and Kaam Maango Abhiyan at Naukania, Tuiyo panchayat, Pirtand, when they were kidnapped.
The number of rebels who kidnapped the quartet is not known, but they raised slogans of Maowadi zindabad, asked their hostages where Giridih deputy commissioner Diprava Lakra was and left their driver Yadav, before steering the others inside the forest.
“Maoists perhaps wanted to kidnap bureaucrats but got hold of the MGNREGS quartet,” Giridih SP Kranti Kumar said. Police escorted the four to Giridih district headquarters late in the evening.
DGP Kumar said Khukhra outpost, under which Naukania village falls, would be upgraded into a full-fledged police station from tomorrow.