Until Wednesday, six-year-old Rashmi Gota, a student of Standard one of the Zila Parishad school here, would go to school regularly. But now, she is worried for her school that was damaged in a blast that killed three policemen late on Wednesday night. The school provided primary education to 16 kids here. All of them are now worried because they will have to walk three km every day to a school in Gyarapatti village. Also, it is still unclear whether the school there will admit them in the middle of the year.
The blast not only stopped the education of the children, but also made them victims of police atrocities. Angered over the death of their colleagues, policemen thrashed almost every one of them, claimed villager Sherkebai Dhurve.
“They did not even spare women and kids,” said Jankai Achala, a young girl of the village. Now, the threat of criminal cases being lodged against the villagers for “helping” Naxals looms large. Almost every one from the village is called to the Gyarapatti police station for interrogation every day, a villager said.
The Gadchiroli police have arrested five villagers for the attack and interrogation of many is on. “The school is situated right in the middle of the village. Naxals could not have planted explosives without taking villagers into confidence,” said a policeman.
According to Police Sub Inspector Harshraj Adaspure of the Gyarapatti police station, someone first opened fire from a house before the blast.
“The firing was a signal to trigger the blast. It was triggered by someone who was standing behind the school,” Mr. Adaspure told The Hindu .
Naxals had planted “Ammonium Nitrate four months ago” beneath the school building, according to some police sources. This was triggered with the help of a remote control from the distance of “at least 100 meters” when 41 police jawans of a Special Action Group of Maharashtra police were staying in the school building on Wednesday.
According to villagers, the police team came in the afternoon on Wednesday and stayed in the school building until late night. Police teams often stayed in the school building whenever they visited the village, claimed villagers.
However, Gadchiroli Superintendent of Police (SP) Mohmmad Suvez Haque refused to accept or deny that there was a procedural lapse on the part of the police team. “School building was the only government building in that village. So the jawans decided to stay there. About lapses, only a detailed investigation of the incident will make things clear,” he told The Hindu .
The SP also denied that there were any atrocities on the villagers. “The DIG and I spoke to the villagers on Thursday but they did not complain about police atrocities. But I have asked the Sub Divisional Police Officer to inquire into it. Our policy is clear. Atrocities against tribal people, even by our men, will not be tolerated and strict action will be taken against anyone found guilty,” he said.
But District Collector of Gadchiroli Ranjeet Kumar expressed his displeasure over the police teams staying in the school building. “I will raise this issue with the police and we will try our best to reopen that school as soon as possible.”
According to the police sources, a relative of Tipagarh Naxal Dalam Commander Dinakar Gota is a resident of the village and thus it is frequented by Naxals. Even the SP said that there were strong inputs regularly about Naxal presence in the Bada Jhaliya area. Naxal supporters or not, people of Bada Jhaliya appear to be at the receiving end.
“We have death on either side,” rues Gelet Gota of who could evade police interrogation as he was away from the village when the blast took place.