Giridih, Oct. 27: Maoists gunned down 19 people, including the son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi, at Chilkhari village, about 55km from here, in small hours today.
“Armed Naxalites opened fire when a cultural programme was on between 12.30am and 1am and killed 19 people, including Anup Marandi (21), the son of Marandi,” deputy inspector-general of police R.K. Mullick said in the capital.
Marandi’s brother Nunulal, who was present at the function organised after a football tournament as the chief guest, was the prime target of the rebels. He, however, escaped unhurt. All the 85 artistes of the opera group from Bokaro performing at the function miraculously survived the attack.
Jharkhand Vikas Morcha has called a statewide bandh on Sunday to protest against the killing of 18 innocent villagers and Marandi’s son by the Naxalites.
According to reports, 17 persons succumbed to bullet injuries on the spot. Thirteen injured persons were rushed to Giridih hospital, where two more villagers died. Suresh Handa, the newly elected vice-president of the students’ union in Giridih College, was among the victims of rebels’ indiscriminate firing.
Five of the injured persons were shifted to Patliputra Medical College and Hospital in Dhanbad around 11.30am today. The rebels, according to eyewitnesses, came to the venue of the cultural programme in two groups — one sporting CRPF uniform and the other in plain clothes. The second mingled with the crowd that had gathered at the soiree before the attack, said additional superintendent of police of Giridih Arun Kumar Singh.
Some of the rebels, said eyewitnesses, went up to the stage around 12.40pm and thundered they had come to kill Nunulal. Immediately they opened fire at the guests sitting in the first row assuming their target was sitting there. But Nunulal was in the second row, and he managed to flee.
The Giridih ASP admitted to lapses by the police. Virendra Singh, the officer in charge of Deori police station, under which Chilkhari falls, was deputed along with police personnel for the football match and the cultural programme but he returned in the evening after prize distribution.
“It is a clear case of negligence on the police officer’s part,” Singh said, adding the assailants could have sneaked back to Bihar as the village is near the Bihar border.
Babulal Marandi said: “My family is a target of Naxalites. My son and brother should not have ventured out at night.”
He alleged that there was a spurt in Maoist violence in Jharkhand and the Chilkhari incident was “another episode of a series of Maoist attacks.”
JMM chief Shibu Soren denounced the act of the Maoists vociferously. Condemning the attack, chief minister Madhu Koda said: “It is a sad incident. The attack was in retaliation of the police action against the rebels.”
Koda visited Chilkhari later in the day and said a joint combing operation by Bihar and Jharkhand police had begun. Two companies of central paramilitary force have been pressed into service, he added.
After a meeting with chief secretary P.P. Sharma and DGP V.D. Ram in the evening, Koda announced the kin of the deceased would get Rs 1 lakh and a job as compensation. The government also decided to meet the medical expenses of the injured.
The attack at Chilkhari village was reminiscent of the killing of former JMM MP Sunil Mahto on March 4 during a football match. Suman Mahto, the widow of the slain MP, has sought more security after today’s massacre.