As the encounter between security personnel and CPI (Maoists) in which 10 security personnel and four local villagers have been killed since Monday continued in Latehar, those with injuries who were brought to Ranchi spoke up about the details of the encounter.

Fifteen security personnel - four of whom are yet to gain consciousness - are being treated for bullet wounds at Apollo Hospital in Erba on the outskirts of Ranchi. Vijay Turi, a farmer from Amvatikar village in Latehar district is also being treated at the hospital for injuries in his eyes, on his face and hands. He is the only one among five villagers to have survived when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stitched into the abdomen of Baijnath Kisku of CRPF’S 112 Battalion went off on Tuesday when they tried to lift the body as part of the police’s search party. An IED, consisting of gelatin sticks, detonator and battery in a plastic container, found inside the body of a second CRPF jawan from 112 Battalion, Babulal Patel, was defused on Thursday morning when doctors doing an autopsy in Ranchi had noticed fresh stitches on Mr. Patel’s abdomen and alerted the police.

“There were 500-600 policemen all over the area. They came to our village on Tuesday morning and asked us for our help. They did not use any force against us, but it seemed there was no option but to go,” recounted Vijay Turi, in his early 20s speaking with difficulty through the bandages on his face. “Almost 100 of us, including many women and children, went as search party from my village and from Navadi village. In fact, there were more women than men. We took children because we thought we will be safe from the police doing anything to us if we take them with us. Ten of us at the front and got injured the most from the blast,” he said.

The CRPF jawans, most of whom have been operated upon for bullet injuries, narrated details of the operation that began at 10 am on Katiya forest. “We had left in a train from Barwadih at 4 30 am. We got off at Hedegarha station and walked 15 kms to Katiya forest. The firing started within a few minutes of our reaching the base of a hill. There must have been 400-500 Maoists who surrounded us in a L-shaped formation. They were firing from a height on the hill and from tree-tops,” said one jawan. The firing went on till 3 pm. Ten jawans who were shot at in the morning waited till 3.30 pm before being put on a local jeep with 10 others and sent to a hospital in Daltonganj after the police’s helicopter failed to land in the forest.

A jawan who had been part of an operation for the first time since joining CRPF in 2011 said Mr.Kisku carried him after he had been shot at in his right elbow. Mr.Patel from whose body the IED was removed was 29 years old and had returned from leave a week back.

“Four jawans were killed in the afternoon and their bodies were missing but it was not possible to reach them in the darkness. There was firing when we tried to retrieve the bodies the next day and then there were blasts. We managed to get to the bodies only by Wednesday so the Maoists had two intervening nights when their medical teams may have planted the pressure devices inside. We never expected this to happen,” said S.N.Pradhan IG Operations. “We frequently take help of local villagers for use of local cots, bedsheets to carry bodies back,” he said.

Latehar police said it had arrested two People’s Liberation Guerilla Army members at 3 am on Friday. “We arrested two PLGA members who were part of a peripheral party keeping guard for PLGA as part of a group led by Nakul Yadav, Special Area Committee in North Koel-Sangh,” said Latehar SP Kranti Kumar. “We found Naxal literature and material used for making bombs on Dinesh Singh alias Panditji and Harinath Singh,” said an officer at Latehar police station.

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Shinu Soren and BJP leader Dineshchand Goswami visited the jawans and gave them gifts on Friday afternoon.