Hazaribagh, Feb. 18: A CCL employee and three others were abducted around midnight last night from Pundi colliery in Ramgarh, notorious as a stronghold of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), a breakaway faction of CPI(Maoist).
Superintendent of police (SP), Ramgarh, Ranjit Prasad said they suspected the involvement of local criminal gangs, but did not rule out the involvement of JPC rebels who often use this ploy to mount pressure for levy on companies engaged in transporting coal.
After preliminary investigations, the police said around a dozen masked men barged into a weighing house (kantaghar) of the Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) colliery in Kujju, about 22km from the district headquarters, and abducted the four at gunpoint around 12.30am.
The hostages have been identified as Ganesh Bhuiyan, a grade-III CCL employee who is in-charge of the centre, B.K. Singh, Nand Kishore Gupta and Suresh Singh, all whom work for local contractors.
Sources said upon hearing someone knocking on the gate, security guard Mahadev Manjhi opened it, thinking someone had come to weigh coal. However, a group of armed men forced their way in and beat up Manjhi mercilessly, before taking Bhuiyan and the three others hostage at gunpoint. The abductors forced the four to walk with them and beat up the driver of a dumper on their way out, before disappearing in Pundi forests on the border of Ramgarh and Hazaribagh.
Sources said it was the handiwork of JPC, which has been gaining ground in the region.
However, SP Prasad, who questioned the security guard and the driver this morning, said, ďPreliminary inquiries suggest that the involvement of a rebel outfit is unlikely.Ē
Nevertheless, he added, ďIt is also true that several splinter groups have come up and they always look to extort money. Involvement of the coal mafia cannot be ruled out completely. We are probing the case from all angles.Ē
The police launched a massive manhunt since morning. Ramgarh police, who are in touch with their Hazaribagh counterparts, are trying to locate the four at the earliest and ensure their safe release.