Ranchi, Sept. 14: Four road robbers paid dearly, that too, within almost 24 hours, for looting a mobile phone and cash worth Rs 2,500 on September 12 at Kasari More in Chatra.
This morning their bodies were found dumped on Chatra-Ranchi Road. A hand-written note recovered from the pocket of one of them claimed that the death sentence was meted out to the unfortunate four for their act of looting a sub-zonal commander of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee, a break-away group of Maoists.
Ironically, the four dead men had no previous police record of committing any crime. And it is almost certain that the road hold-up would have gone unsolved and unpunished if the police had investigated the case.
But it has also served a chilling reminder of the lawlessness that prevails in the Jharkhand countryside, where everybody appears to be playing the polices role, taking law into their hands and meting out summary justice on the plea that police and courts have failed to curb crime.
The authenticity of the note is by no means clear.And it will be difficult to prove in court that the committee abducted the four men, tried them in a jan adalat and executed the death sentence.
Nor is it clear why the four dead bodies were dumped at two different spots, two kilometres apart. While two bodies were dumped under Balumath police station in Latehar district, two bodies were dumped under Simaria police station of Chatra district.
But police today was quick to claim that the four men were indeed criminals engaged in loot and road-robbery. Neighbours and villagers, they claimed, had endorsed the slur.
But if they had known this, surely police should have taken action against the criminals earlier'
By all accounts, the extremists enjoy better rapport with the villagers than the police, enabling them to track down the road-robbers within 24 hours. Police, however, claimed that the extremists had first abducted some villagers and gleaned information from them about the robbers. It is not clear though if the extremists managed to recover the mobile phone and the cash from the suspects.
While both Maoists and break-away groups of extremists have been holding jan adalats to levy fines and punish informers, class enemies and exploiters, they are increasingly playing the role of police in chasing criminals.
A Maoist action squad this month waylaid a group of criminals escaping on motorcycles after robbing passengers of a bus in Vishnupur (Gumla). One of the passengers was apparently an MCC supporter , who tipped off the armed squad. The squad then chased the robbers and shot one of them to death.
Not just extremists, even villagers are increasingly taking the law into their hands. The dangerous trend is spreading like an epidemic and days after villagers lynched and hacked four members of a family on the outskirts of the state capital, villagers at Barwadih (Latehar) last night killed a man, who allegedly was trying to kidnap a child.
Superintendent of police, Latehar, Ravikant Dhan said the right things when confronted by The Telegraph. One should not take law into ones hand. Awarding punishment is the duty of the court and nobody can usurp that role, he asserted.
People, however, can catch criminals but they should hand over the criminals to the police, he said. I am doing everything to enforce law in my area, he added.