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Police link to Reliance attackers Salwa Judum in another name

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By OUR BUREAU
  • Published 8.04.11
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Hazaribagh/Ranchi, April 7: The anti-Maoist militants who fired at Reliance Power executives in Jharkhand yesterday were the state’s version of the Salwa Judum and had for years enjoyed police patronage, a senior officer admitted today.

He, however, claimed the force was now set to crack down on the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), whose attack on a Reliance vehicle in a case of mistaken identity killed general manager Manoj Ojha and critically injured additional vice-president Haren Buch.

Local villagers in Chatra district, however, doubted how much the police could now do after allowing the rebels to dominate the region and strengthen themselves by extorting coal companies and contractors.

“The police did help the TPC come into being in 2003 as we were under pressure to rein in the Maoists. But today we are leaving no stone unturned to arrest the killers of Ojha,” the senior officer said.

The police are yet to arrest anyone though they claim to have “stepped up” patrolling across Chatra, known as the “Jaffna of Jharkhand” because of its backwardness and rebel groups.

Villagers at Hesatu, the site of the 2pm attack, expressed disgust at both the police and the rebels. They said they were sitting ducks in the everyday crossfire between the Maoists and the TPC, whose cadres had broken away from the CPI (Maoist) and turned against their former comrades.

“The TPC was the brainchild of senior police officers,” said a septuagenarian farmer in Hesatu. He said the outfit had killed many Maoist leaders and helped the police with tip-offs to arrest several others.

“The rebels now collect about Rs 1.5 crore a month in levies. Its chief, Brajesh Ganjhu, and his men move about freely. The police have no control over them,” another villager said.

Some members of the outfit had even contested and won panchayat seats, a local grocer said. “We know the patronage will continue in the future.”

Sources close to the rebels confirmed the mistaken-identity theory. They said several senior TPC leaders were present in the nearby forests and an armed squad was keeping a watch when the speeding Reliance SUV took them by surprise.

The firing, they said, was meant both to stop the vehicle and alert the leaders. The police had yesterday criticised the company for not informing them beforehand about the team’s visit.

Reliance Power is building a 3,960MW plant at Barhi in Hazaribagh district and has been allotted coal blocks in Keredari close to the attack site. The company officials were returning to Hazaribagh, apparently after a survey for a second plant in Siddpa village, when they came under attack.

Funeral

Ojha, 40, whose last rites were performed in Ranchi this evening, was posted in Delhi and had arrived in Jharkhand on assignment only a few weeks ago.

His wife Vinita flew in from Noida with her two children this morning, while Ojha’s younger brother Sanjay, a Hazaribagh resident, brought the body from Chatra.

The slain man was the third of the four sons of B. Ojha, a retired Central Coalfields Limited official.

“Our plans in Jharkhand will go on as conceived,” said one of the Reliance officials who attended the funeral.

The injured Buch is out of danger after major surgery at a Ranchi hospital last night. He had taken two bullets in the back that pierced his abdomen and impacted the small intestine. Buch is from Gujarat and is posted at the company’s Mumbai headquarters.