Maoists kill steel official in Gadchiroli - Naxalite passenger recounts hour of terror in Bihar train, 3 die in Maharashtra

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By JAIDEEP HARDIKAR
  • Published 14.06.13
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Nagpur, June 13: An executive from a private steel company was among three persons killed by suspected Maoists near Surjagarh village in the rebel-hit eastern Maharashtra district of Gadchiroli late last night, police said today.

The bullet-riddled bodies of Jaspal Singh Dhillon, 61, vice-president of the Lloyds Steel plant at Ghughus 300km away, mining contractor Mallikarjun Reddy, 45, and Surjagarh resident Raju Sedmake, 65, were found around 12.30am on Thursday.

The police are yet to ascertain the reasons for the triple murder. Sources suggested the Maoists may have killed the trio to warn the Lloyds Group company off its proposed iron-ore mining project in the tribal-dominated hills of Surjagarh.

“We have no idea why the officials (Dhillon and Reddy) went to Surjagarh so late last evening,” Gadchiroli deputy inspector-general of police Ravindra Kadam told The Telegraph. “They had not informed us.”

Lloyds Steel has not issued any statement so far, nor would any official at its Ghughus plant comment on the incident. Police sources said Dhillon had arrived in Surjagarh in a car with Reddy yesterday. Around 9pm, they got off the car and asked the driver to come sometime later to pick them up at Manger villager, 5km away.

Then they rode into the forest with Sedmake on a motorbike. When the driver reached the appointed spot, he found the bodies dumped on the road.

Dhillon had retired from a senior position in Ballarpur Industries Limited in Chandrapur district and joined Lloyds’ Ghughus plant about a year and a half ago. In his previous job, he would negotiate with Gadchiroli’s villagers over extraction of bamboo for Ballarpur’s paper mills, the police sources said.

Lloyds’ website says it is a $850 million group and makes steel and related products. The Surjagarh hills are rich in high-quality iron-ore and at least a dozen companies are vying for mining leases there.

These include Lloyds Steel, seeking the lease through its subsidiary Gadchiroli Metals and Minerals Private Limited, and JSW Steel, a Sajjan Jindal group firm. But the tribal-dominated villages around Surjagarh are opposed to the mining, as are the Maoists.

Two years ago, the rebels had kidnapped and beaten officials of another private company that is seeking a mining lease in Surjagarh. Police sources say the rebels had threatened Dhillon and Reddy, too, to stay off the area.

A police release said Reddy was a contractor with the Hyderabad-based firm Hemlata Minerals, which takes mining sub-contracts from Lloyds.

Officers said Dhillon and Reddy had been in touch with Sedmake, the patil (unofficial headman) of Surjagarh, apparently to get him to persuade the gram sabha into giving a no-objection certificate so the company could acquire a mining lease from the government.