Jamui/Patna/ Hazaribagh, July 4: A CRPF commandant from Jharkhand was killed in an encounter with Maoists on Bihar border on Friday morning, barely a week after Union home minister Rajnath Singh asked security forces to scale up anit-rebel operations.
Harikant Jha, who was originally from Saharsa in Bihar but had built a house in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district where his in-laws live, was the second-in-command in CRPF’s 7th battalion posted in Giridih district. The 43-year-old was leading a team to Lakhari forest in Khaira police station area of Jamui district when armed Maoists ambushed them. A bullet hit Jha on the head. He died on the spot.
Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has asked chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh and principal secretary of home Amir Subhani to bring Jha’s body to Patna for his funeral with full honours.
Sources said the attack coincided with the banned extremist outfit’s “martyrs’ weeks” from June 25 to July 7.
Jha and his team, comprising 35-40 personnel from the CRPF’s 7th, 22nd and 3rd battalions, rushed to Lakhari, known for its dense forest cover and hilly terrain, after being tipped off about the presence of some hardcore Maoists in the area. But as the personnel didn’t know the topography, they fell into the Maoist trap. Continuous rain since morning added to the challenge.
The guerrillas started firing as soon as the personnel entered the forests around 5am. Though the CRPF men retaliated and kept the Maoists engaged in firing for over two hours, additional reinforcements didn’t come on time. The Maoists escaped, taking advantage of the forest cover and heavy downpour.
CRPF DIG Chiranjeev Prasad said his jawans informed him that some Maoists also suffered injuries, but managed to flee. “Senior CRPF officers have rushed to Jamui. A combing operation has also been launched,” he said.
Later, seven suspected Maoists, including Reena Koda, wife of self-proclaimed zonal commander of CPI(Maoist) Siddhu Koda, were picked up during the combing operation.
IG (operations), Bihar, S.M. Khopade said before leaving for the spot that Bihar and Jharkhand had started joint operations on the border. “Today’s raid was part of that operation,” he said.
CRPF jawans claimed that help arrived late. “No helicopter was sent. Moreover, no help came from either the district police or central forces on time,” a jawan complained.
Pradip Kumar, the company commandant of CRPF’s 131st battalion stationed in Jamui, said reinforcements from Nawada and adjoining districts were sent around 11.30am.
Acting Jamui SP Ram Nath Tiwary said a helicopter was scheduled to join the operation but could not fly from Ranchi due to bad weather.
Jha is survived by his wife Vinu Jha, daughter Kirti (11) and Saurabh (08), who live in Delhi. The commandant was was transferred from Delhi to Jharkhand in 2012.