Security personnel inspect the bus that was attacked by Maoists in Dumka on April 24
Ranchi, April 30: DGP Rajeev Kumar has recommended the suspension of Dumka SP Nirmal Kumar Mishra after an inquiry held him and deputy commissioner Harsh Mangala responsible for ignoring security protocols that led to the deaths of eight persons in a Maoist ambush on April 24.
Five police personnel and three poll officials were killed after rebels opened fire on a two-vehicle convoy of a bus and van and triggered a landmine blast near Shikaripara block on the last day of voting.
The ambush, the only major blot in an otherwise peaceful election in rebel-hit Jharkhand, could not have been pulled off with such apparent ease if the security forces and the polling party stuck to the standard operating procedure.
Polling parties, escorted by security men, are supposed to walk to the nearest poll cluster, usually within 5km of booths. Instead, survivors of the attack revealed that on the orders of a sector magistrate, the team was told to board a bus and van to deposit EVMs to the strongroom in Dumka town 40km away.
Sources said the inquiry, conducted by an IG-ranked officer, cited this change of plan as a major lapse on the part of the SP and the district administration.
In a report titled, “Should have walked, say ambush survivors”, published in The Telegraph on April 25 police personnel undergoing treatment at Ranchi’s Apollo Hospitals said that by putting them up on vehicles the local administration made them easy targets of the rebels.
“The DC and SP cannot shrug off responsibility or pass the buck to others, because they deployed a sector magistrate, provided him a vehicle and police escort. Another bus was made available to carry polling staff and district police jawans deployed at the booths,” pointed out a senior police officer with knowledge of the report that has questioned the deputy commissioner’s apparent hurry to deposit all EVMs in the strongroom 40km away from Shikaripara.
The probe report also criticised the deployment of security forces, alleging that personnel were spread out too thinly in the interiors.
“In rebel-hit areas, more numbers of central paramilitary forces ought to be deployed in remote areas. But here, the CRPF was mainly deployed in town and semi-urban areas. The CRPF security cover gradually weakened as one proceeded towards remote areas,” he added.
DGP Kumar said he had visited Dumka on April 21, three days before voting, and had directed the local administration, including the SP and DC, to ensure that polling parties reached cluster points on foot and that they should be allowed to proceed further only after the route was sanitised by the CRPF.
“But it seems they totally failed to follow these instructions,” Kumar said adding it was now up to the state government to take a final call.
The DGP’s office is understood to have sent the report with recommendations to suspend the Dumka SP to home secretary N.N. Pandey, who is supposed to forward it to the chief secretary’s office for an approval from the chief minister.