As the encounter between security personnel and Maoists, in which 10 security personnel and four local villagers have been killed since Monday, continued in Latehar on Friday, those injured were brought here. Fifteen security personnel — four of them yet to regain consciousness — are being treated for bullet wounds at Apollo Hospital in Erba on Ranchi’s outskirts.
Vijay Turi, a farmer from Amvatikar village in Latehar district, is also being treated at the hospital for injuries in his eyes, face and hands. He is the only one among five villagers to have survived when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), kept under the body of Baijnath Kisku of CRPF’S 112 Battalion, went off on Tuesday. The blast took place 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. Doctors doing an autopsy here luckily noticed the fresh stitches on Mr. Patel’s abdomen — similar to what was found on Mr. Kisku’s body — and alerted the police.
“There were 500-600 policemen all over the area. They came to our village on Tuesday morning and asked for our help. They did not use any force against us, but it seemed there was no option but to go,” recounted Mr. Turi, in his early 20s, speaking with difficulty through the bandages on his face.
“Almost 100 of us, including women and children, went as search party from my village and Navadi village. In fact, there were more women than men. We took children along because we thought this would ensure our safety from the police,” he said.
The CRPF jawans, most of whom have been operated for bullet injuries, narrated details of the operation that began at 10 a.m. on Katiya forest. “We had left in a train from Barwadih at 4.30 a.m. We got off at Hedegarha station and walked 15 km 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 were n an 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 p.m. Ten jawans, who were shot at in the morning, waited till 3.30 p.m. before being put in a local jeep with 10 others and sent to a hospital in Daltonganj after the police’s helicopter fail ed to land in the forest. A jawan, who had been part of an operation for the first time since joining the CRPF in 2011, said Mr. Kisku carried him after he had been shot in his right elbow. Mr. Patel (29), from whose body the IED was removed, 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. ,” said IG Operations S.N. Pradhan.