Ranchi: The encounter near Palamu-Latehar border late on Tuesday night, which killed 11 ‘active Maoist cadres’ and a zonal commander, was fake, the rebel outfit has claimed in a letter sent to a vernacular daily here. In the letter, CPI(Maoist) spokesperson Gopalji further claimed that it were the armed cadres of Jharkhand Jan Mukti Parishad (JJMP), a Maoist splinter group, sponsored by the police that killed the Maoists. Two days after the encounter, police could not establish any Maoist link in the profile of 11 of the 12 slain “cadres”. One of those killed was underage.
Earlier too, Jharkhand police had been accused of engaging in fake encounters and the state crime investigation department (CID) is investigating one such encounter in Latehar a couple of months ago in which two Maoists were killed and one injured. In previous fatal encounters, police were quick to identify the Maoists but their inability to do so in this case has fuelled suspicions. “We have identified one Anurag Yadav alias RKji alias Doctorji who was a zonal commander with a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh. We have identified all others but it would take sometime to find out their Maoist background,” Palamu SP Mayur Patel said. A villager from Chatra, Lakhan Yadav, brother of Doctorji, has told local TV channels that Santosh Kumar (Doctorji’s son) and Yogesh Kumar (Doctorji’s nephew) have never worked for the Maoists. Two of them were para teachers and one a driver. Lakhan received the bodies of the three on Thursday.
A retired security officer said the police theory of the encounter has several missing links. “How can 12 people travel in one SUV that too with arms? How can one SUV easily escape during such a powerful operation and the other get trapped? All the 12 Maoists were killed easily and no security personnel suffered even minor injury,” he asked. According to an IPS officer, a Maoist of the rank and profile of Doctorji, carrying Rs 10 lakh bounty, never moves unprepared. Even when they take rest armed cadres protect them. “In case of a genuine encounter with security personnel, Maoists would have hurt at least a few security personnel. In the dark of night it is not so easy to kill 12 of them so easily,” he said.
Maoist spokesperson Gopalji has levelled similar allegations. “The Maoists were carrying sophisticated fire-arms. JJMP rebels killed 12 men and police rewarded them with the sophisticated firearms they snatched from the dead comrades,” the press note said. State police spokesperson S N Pradhan rejected the allegations. “All those killed were carrying firearms and traveling with most wanted Doctorji. It is the old habit of the Maoists to make false claims to show police in poor light. Any source we use in operations, Maoists call them JJMP,” he said. About one underage victim Pradhan said: “If an underage tries to shoot us down, we will first neutralize him before asking his age.”