| A Special Task Force jawan in Jehanabad. (PTI)
Jehanabad, Nov. 15: Trucks stood with deflated tyres and shopkeepers downed shutters in response to a strike called by Ranbir Sena supporters as this central Bihar town ground to a halt on the second morning after Sunday night’s Maoist raid.
“Jehanabad town has a dominant presence of upper-caste Bhumihars and, therefore, any bandh call given by them is strictly enforced,” a teashop owner said.
District magistrate Rana Avadhesh said police teams had been sent in all directions in pursuit of the rebels who freed more than 300 prisoners from Jehanabad jail and took several members of the upper-caste militia, their traditional rivals, hostage.
Six persons ' two policemen, extremists and Ranbir Sena members each ' were killed in the raid to free jailed Maoists.
In a crackdown on senior officers, the Bihar government today suspended Jehanabad superintendent of police Sunil Kumar while IG (prisons) A.B. Prasad was shunted out.
Kumar’s suspension triggered protests by police personnel, who voiced their anger by preventing the movement of chief secretary G.S. Kang and director-general of police A.R. Sinha.
“The district magistrate is directly responsible for the security of the jail. Any intelligence input also comes to the district magistrate. The superintendent of police is being made a scapegoat,” a protesting head constable said.
Sinha said Operation Siddharth launched in the late 1980s to catch Naxalites would be re-launched. “We are planning strict measures to check the spread of Leftwing extremism in the state,” he added.
Earlier in the morning, Ranbir Sena supporters deflated tyres of nearly a dozen trucks at all entry points to paralyse traffic on the main Patna-Gaya highway. Hundreds of paramilitary personnel patrolled the streets while supporters of the private army of landlords staged demonstrations.
Ajay Sharma, who was among those taken hostage by the Naxalites, returned to Jehanabad this morning with serious injuries. Sharma claimed that he escaped from the clutches of the extremists.
“They beat me up. They were moving in a large group and I managed to hide behind a bush and later return to Jehanabad,” he told The Telegraph. But one of his friends said the rebels had freed him after a warning.
In a release, the CPI (Maoist) described the jailbreak operation as successful. “We warn the Ranbir Sena to surrender or else we will intensify our operation against them,” it said.