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Valsa murder a Maoist plot - Thirty rebels involved, 7 villagers held

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  • Published 21.11.11

Amrapara/Ranchi, Nov. 20: A group of villagers, instigated by Maoists looking to establish a role for themselves in Pachuara village’s dealings with a mining company set up there, murdered Sister Valsa John as they perceived her to be an obstacle in their designs, the police have concluded.

Seven of those villagers have been arrested, including Advin Murmu, who is also accused of raping an associate of the Sister, said IG of Santhal Pargana Arun Oraon in Amrapara police station today.

Oraon claimed that the police had in five days cracked the murder case that has rocked Jharkhand, which is struggling to project a favourable industrial climate to woo big-ticket investments.

Valsa was murdered at night on November 15 after Maoists, owing allegiance to area commander Ramesh Soren, surrounded her rented home, while the villagers they had instigated barged in and killed her using traditional work tools and weapons.

None of the Maoists have been arrested. But all the seven villagers held, including a close associate of Valsa who would stand in at meetings with mining company Panem, were presented before the media today.

The seven are: Advin Murmu, Pycil Hembrom, Prem Turi, Tala Marandi, Rakesh Turi, Rajan Marandi, and Pradhan Murmu. All belong to Pachuara and adjoining Alubeda villages.

“In the absence of Sister Valsa, Pycil Hembrom used to monitor the functioning of the committee overseeing relief and rehabilitation of those affected by the Panem coal mine, a cause the nun fought for over a decade. Pycil, along with some other local youths, turned against Sister Valsa and were involved in masterminding protests against her,” Oraon said.

The Maoist hand

“The murder was committed with the strategic support of Maoists active in the area, who wanted to establish their hold on the Panem coal mine,” Oraon said.

The killer mob comprised 45 — 15 villagers and 30 Maoists. The Maoists surrounded the rented house Valsa lived in, while the villagers barged in and killed her.

The IG said the Maoists systematically carried out a disinformation campaign against the nun, till a section of village youths actually believed Valsa had been bought out by the Panem management though she continued to work for the affected people.

The attempt by some local youths to sideline Valsa from the committee constituted to ensure proper implementation of the resettlement and rehabilitation package also played a decisive role in mobilising villagers against the nun. “She was considered a hurdle when it came to misappropriating compensation money and other benefits being provided by the Panem management to the land losers and other affected people,” Oraon said.

The trigger

“The rape of a close associate of Sister Valsa on November 7 was the immediate motive for her murder as she had insisted on lodging an FIR against accused Advin Murmu, contrary to attempts by a section of villagers to settle the matter at the panchayat level,” the IG said.

Modus operandi

What took the police by surprise was the modus operandi adopted by the Maoists.

“It is apparent that the Maoists are not well organised in the area and so could not act against the Sister directly. They provoked the villagers to take the lead. The incident is an eye opener for us as far as tackling the Maoist menace is concerned,” Oraon said.

He added that the Maoists had adopted a similar strategy when they felled executive director of Panem coal mine D. Saran and assistant mining manager Sheetal Prasad on October 12, 2009. The two were gunned down while they were out on a morning walk.

“The police initially thought it was a professional hit. The Maoist link was established when we arrested a Naxalite four months ago, who confessed that the rebels had hired professional criminals to kill the duo,” the IG said.

He added that the Maoists were unable to gain a foothold in the area because of Valsa’s clout, with the Sister ensuring that whatever benefits were being provided by the management went to the villagers.

“In the absence of Valsa, Pycil Hembrom used to monitor the functioning of the implementation committee, and he was involved in masterminding protests against her,” the IG said.

Notably, Hembrom is the son of Pachuara village head Binej Hembrom, who was also the president of the Rajmahal Pahar Bachao Andolan of which Valsa was a top functionary.

Last call

The IG said Sister Valsa’s last call from her cell phone was to one Sonia Dehri of Pachuara village on the fateful night at 10:37pm.

The Sister spelt out the threat to her life as she realised that an armed mob had surrounded the house, where she had been staying after moving out of Pycil Hembrom’s house a few months ago when the rift between them surfaced.

“The call details are being traced. This apart, the arrested accused would be taken on remand to establish whether there was someone behind the curtain masterminding the killing,” the IG said.

Probe on

The IG said the probe was far from complete. “We have just managed to establish the motive and the men behind the crime. The probe will not be complete till we get hold of the last person involved,” he said.

Meanwhile, chief minister Arjun Munda today said the killers would be brought to justice soon.

“The state government will ensure speedy investigation and trial,” he told The Telegraph.