About 500 metres away from a dense line of trees where a blood splattered patch on the ground is a grim reminder of the encounter in which the security forces killed Communist Party of India (Maoist) Polit Bureau member Koteshwara Rao alias Kishenji, lies the sleepy village of Burisole. None dared venture out of their houses there on Friday, a day after the incident.
After the deafening sound of gunfire the previous evening, there prevailed an eerie calm. Tension was palpable, dread haunted the faces of the villagers, and fear stalked the dusty paths.
“None in the family could sleep throughout last night, even my 80-year-old mother who, despite being hard of hearing, was so terrified by the sound of gunshots that she spent a restless night,” said Buddheswar Mahato, whose house borders the forest.
The 50-year-old farmer spent all the day feeding his cattle while his other family members made plates of sal leaves. Other men like Buddheswar remained huddled in corners just watching the movement of the security forces.
By 10 a.m., security force personnel had gathered in large numbers in the village. With some holding onto the leashes of sniffer dogs, they went inside each of the sixty thatched houses in the village and asked if they have any outsider hidden in their houses. Women were asked to come out and grilled: “Have you seen anyone. Have you seen a woman?”
The question was repeated, one house to the next.
The security personnel are on the lookout for Suchitra Mahato, Maoist leader and widow of slain Maoist Sasadhar Mahato, who is suspected to have been with Kishenji when he died. As the search continued, a woman — incidentally a namesake of Suchitra Mahato — mustered some courage and asked the jawans: “When are you going to let my husband free?”
“My husband Mohit Mahato and brother-in-law Kanchan Mahato have been detained since Thursday evening. I am not aware where they are. They had gone to the fields on Thursday,” she told The Hindu .
None of the children in the village went to school on Friday. Krishna and Jagadish, both students of class IX, instead played carom, casting glances at the security personnel striding into their home.
Like in Burisole village, residents of adjoining Sarkata and Barsole village, too, had to put up with various round of searches of their homes by the security forces.
Lakhan Rana of Sarkata village said that he was talking to his brother, who works at Kharagpur, over telephone when the security forces asked him to hand over the phone. “They said that they would return once they come back in the morning. But they have not come yet,” he said.
The villagers admitted that the jungle party (Maoists) had visited the village ahead of the Assembly elections but they had not returned since.