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Rebel hunt in Saranda

Jamshedpur, May 6: A fresh anti-Naxalite operation was conducted in Saranda forests in West Singhbhum district today ahead of DGP Rajeev Kumar’s visit for a janta durbar amid reports that a rebel group had sneaked into the sal reserve.

A joint team of police and paramilitary personnel scoured and sanitised a section of the dense jungles that fall under Saranda forest division to ensure smooth passage for Kumar, who was visiting Mahadevsal in Manoharpur block. The operation was concentrated on Jeraikela, which is 45km from Mahadevsal, and Manoharpur with the security personnel conducting an area-domination exercise through long-range patrolling.

The DGP arrived at Mahadevsal around 3.30pm.

“We would have sanitised the area any way because of the DGP’s visit. But then we got intelligence inputs that an armed rebel group has become active in Saranda. Hence, we decided to carry out a full-fledged anti-insurgency operation in Manoharpur and Jeraikela,” West Singhbhum superintendent of police N.K. Singh told The Telegraph.

This is the first time that police held a janta durbar in the area that is thought to have been purged of Naxalites, thanks to sustained efforts of the CRPF and state police. The news of the public hearing was kept under wraps till the last minute lest the rebels, who keep sneaking in, try to disrupt it.

The DGP first came to Chaibasa, the district headquarters of West Singhbhum, in a chopper and then travelled to Mahadevsal, about 140km away, via road.

Apart from the DGP, inspector-general of police (zonal) M.S. Bhatia, deputy inspector-general of police, Kolhan, Mohammed Nehal and deputy inspector-general, CRPF, Ashok Shamyal also attended the public meeting that was aimed at building a conducive atmosphere so that villagers easily opened up to police and the district administration.

“Though theoretically, Saranda has been freed of rebels, it cannot be denied that some are still present in the deep forests. Naxalites are still active in Jeraikela located on the bordering Sundergarh district of Odisha,” a police officer said.