Attack comes near Dumka in Jharkhand

In one of their most fierce strikes this year, the cadre of the banned CPI (Maoist) ambushed a police vehicle carrying Pakur district Superintendent of Police (SP) Amarjeet Balihar, 53, on Tuesday afternoon killing six policemen, including the recently-appointed SP. The policemen were travelling to Pakur after attending an official meeting in Dumka, the adjoining district. Jharkhand Director General of Police Rajeev Kumar termed the attack as Maoist tactic “to divert police’s focus from ongoing operations.”

Mr. Balihar, an adivasi, had joined the then-Bihar state police in 1986 and had only recently been promoted to the Indian Police Service. Pakur on Jharkhand’s eastern border with West Bengal was his first posting as SP, a post he had joined on May 22 this year.

Maoists ambushed the police vehicle while it was passing through Kathikund forest in Pakur, more than 350 km from Ranchi. Mr. Balihar was returning to the district after attending a meeting called by Deputy Inspector General (Dumka Range) Priya Dubey in Dumka, 60 km away.

“DIG (Dumka) had taken charge only three days back and called the meeting to take stock of the area. The meeting was attended by by SPs from all six districts in the range. More than 50 Maoists surrounded the vehicle in a forested area in Kathikund near Amrapada at around 2:30 pm and began to fire indiscriminately,” said Jharkhand police spokesperson DIG (Personnel) Shambhu Thakur. Mr. Balihar and four policemen died on the spot, three injured policemen were rushed first to Dumka Government Hospital and later referred to the government hospital in Dhanbad.

“We are investigating the attack and have launched further operations,” said DGP Mr. Kumar. “We have mounted a lot of pressure on the Maoists in many areas. This could be their strategy to dilute our focus, to divert our attention from operations, but we will not cease operations,” said Mr. Kumar, who reached Pakur on Tuesday evening with the home secretary N. N. Pandey and Director General (Special Branch).

An encounter was on between paramilitary forces and Maoist rebels for over five days last week in Latehar district along Jharkhand’s western border with Chhattisgarh as Central Reserve Police Force personnel barricaded Kumandih railway station and carried out search operations in nearby villages. CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Gopal had issued a statement on Saturday threatening that attacks will be intensified “if the government did not call off Operation Greenhunt.”

In recent years, Santhal Pargana region in the east, where Pakur lies, has witnessed fewer incidents of Maoist violence than Chottanagpur to the west and Kolhan covering southern Jharkhand.

Before being posted to Pakur in May, Mr. Balihar served as commandant, Jharkhand Armed Police II, last year. He had also worked as Additional SP, Special Branch, and as several postings as Sub-Divisional Police Officer in Khunti and Latehar districts, and in Rajgir in then Bihar.

“We interacted regularly when Mr. Balihar was posted in Ranchi. He had an excellent reputation among all officers and was highly regarded by all his colleagues,” said Ranchi Senior SP Saket Kumar Singh. Mr. Balihar is survived by his wife, a lecturer in a college in Hazaribagh, and two daughters and a son — students of class XII, X, VIII in Ranchi.