Ranchi, June 23: S.K. Das, the solitary survivor of the Naxalite ambush last night at Rania (Khunti), 75 km from here, lived to tell his story because he was occupying the front seat beside the driver and faced the slope of the hill. The landmine explosion catapulted him to the slope and he rolled down.
Seven other policemen were not so lucky as they were sprayed with bullets after the explosion.
Inspector-general of police, Rajiv Kumar, confirmed today that most of the policemen died because of bullet injuries. Das, nursing a head injury, was declared missing last night but managed to reach the capital this morning with a serious head injury. He is being treated at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (Rims).
The timing of the ambush has sparked off a controversy, with a section of the police blaming chief minister Arjun Munda for adopting a “soft line” while dealing with Naxalites. Last week, Munda had welcomed the offer made by the People’s War for a political dialogue. The ambush, this group of officer believes, has vindicated the stand of director-general of police R.R. Prasad, who maintained all along that Naxalites were not serious about talks. Others, however, maintained that the DGP’s statements could have provoked the ambush.
In a tense and acrimonious meeting of the Jharkhand Police Association (JPA) today to take stock of the situation, policemen held the government’s policies responsible for the rise in attacks on them. They also renewed their demand that all police stations be equipped with mine-sweepers, metal detectors, bullet-proof vehicles and jackets.
Policemen offered gun salutes to the seven slain colleagues at a special ceremony at the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) ground, Doranda, this afternoon. Five of them were cremated here while two other bodies were sent home to Dehradun and Giridih. The sombre occasion was marred by frayed tempers and the restive men blamed the top brass, the chief minister and even the officer in-charge of the Rania police station for the tragedy.
Jeevan Rana, attached to JAP and brother of a slain policeman Vikas Rana, blamed the officer-in-charge for undertaking an ill-advised and under-prepared patrol after dusk.
Prasad said the extremists are believed to have sneaked in from West Singhbhum’s Goilkera region. Every Tuesday evening, he pointed out, Rania police would escort vehicles and traders after the weekly haat (village market) and the extremists had evidently observed the policemen’s movements and knew exactly where to lay the ambush and when.
Despite claims of extensive combing by both the special task force and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in the adjoining forests, police have failed to either trace the extremists or recover the policemen’s firearms. There was no dearth of brave words though as senior police officers pledged to give a befitting reply.