Four villagers died in an explosion when they tried to lift a CRPF jawan’s body

Adivasi villagers at Amvatikar have accused the CRPF of beating them and using them as shields as they were forced to search for security personnel’s bodies in the Katiya forest in Latehar district on January 8. Eleven security personnel were killed in an encounter with Maoists a day earlier.

In an interview to The-Hindu on January 11, Vijay Turi (40), who survived the blast that killed four villagers, said the explosion took place when they tried to lift the body of Baijnath Kisku on the CRPF’s instructions. It caused a three-foot deep pit. A scarf, broken slippers and scraps of cloth lay scattered on the slope of the Bhaluwahi hill at the edge of the adivasi hamlet.

Police officials initially said the blast was triggered by explosives planted under Kisku’s body. They later said it was likely that Maoists had sewn the explosives inside the body, as they had done with CRPF’s Babunath Patel’s body. That bomb was detonated safely outside a hospital in Ranchi on January 10 after doctors, suspecting something was amiss when they noticed an incision on the body, called the police.

“Pramod Sau from Nawadih came at 10 a.m. and said the police would beat us if we did not help them look for the bodies,” said Turi’s nephew Binod Turi (18). “The police made us walk in three queues, men and women on both sides and the police at the centre. We spotted the body on the hill slope. The police stood with the villagers at the base of the hillock, 20 feet from the body. They asked six villagers in the front to walk ahead and lift the body.

“Suddenly there was a huge explosion. We ran. The police asked us to take cover with them, but the villagers were running. Some policemen then started hitting the men with their guns, sticks, boots, saying ‘you shelter Maoists.’ They put a gun to my stomach and made me sit there,” he recounted.

On Friday morning, he and Turi’s wife Asha packed a few bags of clothes and some grains and fled the village with Turi’s two sons and several Adivasi families, fearing more violence.

Another villager, Suresh Parahaiya, said a CRPF man hit him in his forehead and leg when he ran in panic after the blast. “They beat us when we tried to run and made us sit there till 4 pm when two bodies were found and loaded on a tractor,” said his wife Mano Devi.

“The policemen made us walk to the hill and then they held some men in the front by the back of their neck; they held a gun to Ganu, my niece’s son,” said Bimli Devi. Ganu (16) had walked a few steps up the Bhaluwahi hill and was bending over the jawan’s body when the blast took place. Only the lower half of his body was recovered on Tuesday evening. He was the youngest among the four villagers who died.

“On Monday, we heard gunshots all day,” said Rajkumar Bhuian (70). “My older son Jogeshwar asked his wife and five sons to leave for Manika town with my younger son Suneshwar. On Tuesday, I was in the forest grazing cow and found out only in the evening that the police had taken Jogeshwar to search for the bodies. I found only his gamchha (small towel), his chappal, and three ribs.”

“They could not find my son Birendra’s body on Tuesday,” said Bihari Yadav. “When I went to the police station in Latehar, the policemen began beating me and calling me a Maoist before an officer intervened. On Wednesday I found only his limbs.”

Pramod Sau, a shopkeeper from Nawadih who had helped the police gather villagers from Amvatikar, Nawadih, Chahal and also got two tractors from the village to carry the bodies, succumbed to his blast injuries in his face in Ranchi on Wednesday.

The mukhiya of the neighbouring Chungru panchayat, Baldev Parahiya, said he had agreed to help the police look for four bodies and arranged for three tractors on Tuesday morning, but requested that the villagers be allowed to go home after the explosion occurred.

IG (Operations) S.N. Pradhan could not be reached for his comments on Friday. In an interview to TheHindu on January 11, Mr. Pradhan denied the charge that the CRPF forced villagers to accompany them. “We often need the help of villagers to borrow cots to carry bodies back. Women and children sometimes accompany the men as they think this will ensure the men’s safety,” he said.