DHANBAD: Armed Maoists killed a police constable at Topchanchi and injured 15 men in khaki on GT Road as they laid an ambush shortly after their 24-hour bandh to protest Operation Green Hunt began at midnight on Tuesday. The rebels disrupted railway traffic by blasting the tracks near Dhanbad and Latehar, damaged a goods train engine and setting on fire some parts of Hehegada station.
The Naxalites also damaged a bridge at Pandedih between Dhanbad and Giridih on NH-32 suspending vehicular traffic on NH-2 and NH-32. The Maoists had earlier circulated and pasted leaflets at Bank More, near the SP office and Dhanbad police station, here and at some places in Tundi block asking the government to stop the operation and vacating all school buildings converted into police camps. The posters and pamphlets also accused police of attacking the women in rural areas. However, the handouts, claimed to have been issued by the Bihar, Jharkhand and North Chhattisgarh Area Committee of Maoists, sympathized with the police constables.
Dhanbad SP R K Dhan said the drive against Maoists would continue. Shashikumar, the commandant of RPF who visited the damaged railway tracks, said both the up and down lines were destroyed because of the explosion by the Maoists. Station master of Latehar Kripalal Prasad said the Maoists assaulted him and his assistant and took them away for an hour. “They (Maoists) exploded six bombs. One goods train engine was damaged and some part of the station too damaged. The armed Maoists asked the driver to come down and warned him of ignoring the bandh call. ‘You have read in the newspapers that we have given a bandh call, even then you are running the goods train,’ he was warned and assaulted by the Maoists,” Prasad said.
Amit Bara, (20) a policeman who is admitted to Dhanbad Central Hospital, said the Maoists had laid an ambush on both sides of GT Road. “Around 1am, when police driver Prakas Mahto had driven the vehicle hardly 1,000 metres on GT road from Topchanchi police station, firing started from both sides of the highway. Two bullets hit the top of the vehicle and one hit the tyre. The driver tried to return to the police station, but by then the Maoists had overpowered and fired indiscriminately killing Dhaneshwar Mahto, a constable, on the spot. The entire operation lasted for hardly 10 minutes. We were not even able to retaliate,” Bara added.
Dinesh Tuddu (35), Suman Kuzur (20), Prakash Chandrea Mahto (20), Uday Ram (35) and assistant sub-inspector Hari Oraon, who received serious injuries, were later rushed to Ranchi from Dhanbad Central Hospital.
Condition of Akhilesh Kumar Pandey (35) is serious and he has been admitted to the intensive care unit. Doctors described the condition of the remaining policemen as out of danger. All of them got bullet injuries on the legs and arms. They are – Nirumuddin Kandulana (40), Baljit Singh (24), Damodar Rai (35), Satruj Prasad Bhaiya (55), Surendra Oraon (32), Prakash Khariya (38), Mahendra Thakur, Mohammad Mehboob and Amit Bara.
Police claimed the night’s attack might have been led by Ajay Mahto, the self-styled zonal commander of Dhanbad-Giridih and Bokaro zones of the Maoists.
More than 12 trains were hit by the violence. The three Rajdhani Express – Sealdah, Howarh and Bhubaneshwar – were stopped at different stations between Gaya and Gomoh. The Ganga-Damodar Express between Patna and Dhanbad was stopped at Koderma, Ajmer-Howrah Express, Howarh-Doon Express, Kalka Mail, Howarah-Delhi Duranto Express, Howrah-Ludhiana express were some of the trains got stranded at different stations. Dhanbad-Gaya-Dehri On Son Intercity Express and Asansol-Gaya passenger trains were cancelled. Two trains were diverted through another route.
Train services near Dhanbad were restored after about eight hours and at Hehegada and Latehar at noon. Movement of buses and trucks on NH-32 became normal at noon when workers created a diverted route between Dhanbad and Giridih and on NH-2 thousands of vehicles were stopped at different places following violence near Topchanchi on GT Road.
Senior police officers, including IG M L Meena and DIG Lakshman Prasad Singh, met the injured policemen in the hospital and paid homage to Dhaneshwar Mahto at the police lines.