BETTIAH: Apart from the cache of arms, ammunition and detonators the joint team of the Bagaha police special task force (STF) and the SSB’s small action team (SAT) recovered along with the bodies of four Maoists after a 50-minute encounter in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) jungles on Friday, the cops also seized a laptop and some Maoist literature from the encounter site.
“The seizure of the laptop is important. This should provide us with vital information on their plans and present organisational links,” Champaran range DIG Lallan Mohan Prasad told this newspaper on Saturday.
Friday’s successful encounter, the DIG said, was an outcome of close coordination and input sharing between officers of the STF led by ASP (operations) Dharmendra Jha and the SSB’s inspector Rituraj, an officer of the Muzaffarpur-based 32nd battalion that monitors extremist activities in north Bihar. Rituraj, who was injured in the exchange of fire, is out of danger.
Late on Thursday evening, when Jha, a CRPF officer from the Hazaribagh-based 203 Cobra unit on lien to the Bihar Police exchanged notes with the SSB officer, their inputs matched and the location of the Maoists were confirmed. At 10pm that night, their joint team moved towards the jungles. The heavy downpour made movement slow but the cops managed to reach the jungles around Chautha naala after midnight. With the first rays of light, movement was detected and the team opened fire around 4.45am. “The operation lasted for 50 minutes and when firing from the other side stopped, our men moved in cautiously,” the DIG said.
Jha, the ASP (ops), instantly recognised the body of Vipul whom he had arrested in 2018 for the murder of Manoj Singh, mukhiya of Champapur-Gonouli. A native of Pavitranagar in Sheohar, Vipul had first moved to these jungles in 2017 to re-establish base and recruit fresh cadre. He had befriended and recruited Nisha Majhi, a young Musahar girl. The two were soon married. Nisha too was arrested in the mukhiya murder case. “After she secured bail, she soon grew disillusioned and left the organisation,” a local officer said.
In the 1990s, the Maoists had entrenched themselves in the VTR jungles under the leadership of Narendra Nath, a maverick originally hailing from Surajkund, Haryana. Apparently a ‘bhakt’ of Godman Rajneesh, he had assumed and was known by the name of ‘Osho’. A BIT-Mesra grad, Osho moved to JNU and undertook doctoral research on the peasant struggle in Hazaribagh. He then moved to the VTR jungles and opened a school at Sundarpur within this area. His arrest in August 2001 blew his cover of being an educationist and social worker. He was an ideologue and had recruited local Tharus and Oraons.
For the last 15 years, VTR has been peaceful and government development work, especially education, is visible. The return of the Reds, therefore, raises concerns. While a number of young women too were recruited then, the fresh attempt is believed to be in nascent stage. In 2018, Chanda Mahto, a 19-year-old Tharu girl was recruited. But she too was soon disappointed and returned home.
Among the four Maoists killed in Friday’s encounter was 22-year-old Chotu Mahto, a Tharu youth who the Reds had recruited just three months ago. Friday’s encounter thus is a body blow to fresh Maoist designs, but recruitment patterns preceding this along with their plans to resurrect Champaran’s VTR jungles as their safe haven may now be unlocked with the examination of the seized laptop’s contents.