With Kairo Munda becoming the latest victim of the CPI (Maoist) cadre in Khunti last week, Special Police Officers in the State, who are in perpetual need for necessary backup from police, are fearing for their lives, sources said.
This weekend, the cell phone of a senior police officer in Ranchi rang around midnight. It was a frantic cry for help. “Sahab, woh log phir se active ho gaye hain. Humain dhoond dhoond ke target kar rahein hain (Sir, they are active again and are targeting us individually),” said Ganesh Munda (name changed), an SPO working in Tamar area.
Munda was scared because on October 31 Kairo Munda, an SPO also working in Tamar, Arki and some other parts of Khunti district, was murdered by Maoists led by zonal commander Kundan Pahan.
On July 25, Vikram Lohra, another SPO, was killed under Arki police station jurisdiction in Khunti district. His pistol was taken away by the Maoists and they killed him after following him for two days.
On November 18 last year, three SPOs including Pradeep Munda were killed in a house at Barahatu village by Maoists. The three were sitting indoors when the Maoists barged into the house. The rebels, however, failed to find the AK-47 kept in the house.
“SPOs usually drop their guard after sometime and that is when they are killed,” said a police officer engaged in anti-Naxal operations in the Bundu-Tamar-Arki area.
Ironically, Jharkhand police denied that Munda was an SPO. They said he was killed by Maoists in a turf war. “Munda was not an SPO. In Khunti and Gumla districts splinter groups are engaged in turf war and the killing is possibly a fall-out of the same,” said DGP Gauri Shanker Rath, adding that he has sought a report from the Khunti SP on the matter.
Though police refutes that Munda was an SPO, he successfully participated in anti-Naxal operations to take over the fortress of zonal commander Kundan Pahan active in Ranchi and Khunti area about a couple of years ago.
These SPOs were once part of the rebel brigade but now walk alongside security forces with their faces wrapped in towels, guiding personnel through the difficult forest terrain.
“Sahab woh ek bahaut accha informer tha aur uske paas bahaut jankari hoti thi unlogon ke bare main (Sir, he was a very good informer and he had a lot of information about the Maoists),” said Ramkishan Gope, an SPO and colleague of Munda.