July 4: A CRPF deputy commandant was killed in an encounter with the Maoists in Jamui this morning, barely a week after Union home minister Rajnath Singh asked the security forces to tighten the noose around the rebels.
The slain CRPF officer, Harikant Jha, was second in command of the 7th battalion of the elite force stationed at Giridih in Jharkhand. Police said a group of heavily armed CPI(Maoist) guerrillas ambushed a CRPF team proceeding towards Lakhari village in Jamui district, around 180km south-east of Patna, for carrying out a search operation. A bullet hit 43-year-old Jha on his head and he died on the spot.
Jha, hailing from Dhanbad in Jharkhand, is survived by his wife Vinu, daughter Kirti (11) and son Saurabh (8). Vinu, along with her minor son and daughter, reached Dhanbad from Delhi, where Jha was earlier posted.
Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has asked the chief secretary, Anjani Kumar Singh, and principal secretary of home Amir Subhani to bring the body of the slain CRPF officer to Patna for his funeral with full honours. Condemning the attack, Manjhi said the government would provide compensation to Jha’s family according to the prescribed rules.
The CRPF team, headed by Jha, had left for Lakhari forest early morning after being tipped off about the assemblage of some Maoists. As the team comprising 35-40 personnel was not aware of the topography of the area, they easily fell in the trap of the Maoists. The armed guerrillas started firing as soon as the security personnel entered the deep forest on the borders of Bihar and Jharkhand around 6.30am.
Continuous rain since morning added to the woes of the security personnel, who had no inkling of the Maoists’ ambush. The CRPF personnel retaliated and kept the rebels engaged for over two hours but they did not get additional support from the district police on time. As a result, the Maoists — observing “martyrs’ day” from June 25 to July 7 — managed to escape after killing Jha.
Inspector-general (operations) S.M. Khopade said a joint operation of the Bihar and the Jharkhand police was launched in the areas bordering the two states to drive out the Naxalites. “The Friday’s search operation was a part of this joint operation,” he told The Telegraph.
CRPF deputy inspector-general (DIG) Chiranjeev Prasad said Jha had received information around 4am that some top Naxalite leaders were camping in the forest. “He formed a team of CRPF jawans and led them to the forest. They came across the Maoists and an encounter ensued. Jha was hit by a bullet on his head and died on the spot,” he said.
The DIG said his jawans informed him that some Maoists also suffered injuries in the exchange of fire. But they managed to escape. “Senior CRPF officers have rushed to Jamui to take stock of the situation,” he said.
The CRPF jawans expressed anguish over the delayed arrival of additional forces to the spot. “No helicopter was sent take the injured officer for treatment. Moreover, no help came either from the district police or the central forces on time,” a jawan said.
Acting Jamui superintendent of police (SP) Ram Nath Tiwary said a helicopter was scheduled to join the police operation but it could not fly from Ranchi because of inclement weather.
Pradip Kumar, the company commandant of the 131st battalion of the CRPF stationed at Jamui, said the reinforcement rushed to the spot around 11.30am from Nawada and adjoining districts.
Ironically, Jamui is going without a regular SP since June 20 despite it being considered as a hotbed of rebels.