Soft target for rebels, hard way for cops

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  • Published 9.07.12

Ranchi, July 8: Horror has a synonym in Latehar police lexicon. It is called Hehegara.

The halt on CIC section of East Central Railway’s Dhanbad division has seen more than a dozen Maoist attacks in three years, thanks to a mined kutcha road that can be covered only on foot and delays response time by several hours.

As many as 22 passenger trains and 55 goods trains pass through Hehegara every day. Three years ago, a passenger train was hijacked, while blasts on tracks have been routine during Maoist bandhs. Ambushing of patrol parties has not been uncommon either.

The vulnerability of the halt, 100km from Ranchi, came to the fore once again on July 6, when rebels forced a coal train to stop in the dead of night and demanded levy from Hindalco that was supposed to receive the consignment.

According to district police chief G. Kranti Kumar, Maoists are slowly and steadily turning the remote railway halt into a base station for striking deals with industrial houses.

On Friday, the coal train left Rai for Hindalco’s Renukoot plant, but was intercepted at Hehegara at 1.30am. Maoists took the driver’s mobile phone and spoke to senior company executives.

The high-voltage drama went on for some three hours while other passenger and goods trains remained stranded at various stations. Police managed to reach the halt only at 5am. The rebels were gone by then.

Kumar contended that the nearest police station was Barwadih, 18km away, and it took the force over three hours and a half to reach Hehegara. “There is no pucca road to this railway halt and rebels lay landmine traps almost everywhere. At night, we cannot rush. To avoid an ambush, jawans have to trek cautiously and only after cross-checking information,” he said.

A police officer said that the topography was such that a permanent police picket would be risky too. “Latehar is covered by dense forests. In fact, you walk 2km from the district headquarters and you are inside the woods, where rebels will always have an advantage,” he added.

Another officer pointed out that making industrialists and businessmen cough up hefty levy was the easiest way for Maoists to replenish their resources — from arms and ammunition to food and water.

“And Hehegara provides the perfect opportunity because police will never be able to catch them in the act unless they drive on the mined road instead of walk,” he added.