| Officers point to the bodies of one of the Maoists (left) and the CRPF jawan who were killed in Friday’s encounter. Picture by Shyamsundar Barui
Bankura, Dec. 16: A probe into last night’s encounter between the CRPF and a band of 70 Maoists has revealed that the rebels were on a mission to murder CPM leader Nabin Hembram.
The shootout left one CRPF jawan and two Maoists dead.
The guerrillas had planned to drag Hembram out of his house in Bogdoba village in Barikul and set up a kangaroo court, where they would have killed him, said officials who conducted the preliminary investigation.
Hembram is among the eight CPM leaders on the rebels’ hit list.
The armed gang arrived in the village, about 240 km from Calcutta, last night and headed to Hembram’s house. But the CPM leader was not home. So the Maoists took his daughter, Jyotsna, away.
“The extremists stormed our house around 8 pm and were looking for my father. When they could not find him, they dragged me out and took me to a nearby field in front of a primary school,” Jyotsna recalled, still shuddering at the memory. “They forced me to shout Maobad zindabad (long live Maoism).”
As Hembram’s daughter was being harassed, a group of 30 jawans, led by deputy superintendent of police (administration) Prasanta Dey, was patrolling the village.
“Suddenly, they heard conversations near the one-storeyed school building,” said an officer. “They immediately took position. Initially, they could not see anything because of the dark. It took them a few minutes to spot the large group that had assembled outside the school.”
One of the jawans then opened fire. The Maoists retaliated by firing and hurling bombs. “Two Maoists were killed in the first spell of firing,” said Bankura superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar Singh.
Bloodstains found on the forest routes through which the rebels fled suggest some of them were injured, Singh added.
According to the police, a woman named Sabita Kumari from Andhra Pradesh was leading last night’s operation. “Earlier, Jagari Baskey used to look after the action and elimination operations in this area. Now Sabita has taken over as Jagari is pregnant,” said an officer.
The police searched the school premises and found two bags. But they did not touch them or the bodies of the two rebels as there could be traps. The bodies were removed only after experts from the bomb disposal squad had examined them.
The police also found three .303 rifles at the spot. “One of these firearms had been snatched from the police in Purulia,” an officer said.
The police said last night’s encounter was the biggest in recent times.
Encouraged by the “successful mission”, the police have virtually issued a shoot-at-sight order. “Wherever they notice Maoists, I have ordered my officials to fire at them,” said Singh.
State school education minister Partha Dey and backward class welfare minister Deblina Hembram visited the encounter site today. “Last night, the police proved their bravery. But from now on, the police will have to be more careful while protecting villagers and our partymen,” Dey said.