In Maoist zone, no dusk-to-dawn travel

“The last bus for Ranchi leaves at 2:30 pm. And if you have to go from Chatra to Bihar, then the last bus to leave for Gaya is 5 pm. After that, there is no public transport as people do not travel here from 5 pm to 5 am.”

This is what the Deccan Herald correspondent was bluntly told as he entered the Maoist-infested zone from Hunterganj and was headed towards Latehar after crossing Chatra in Jharkhand.

When I informed the locals that I have my own taxi, they said, “Private vehicles are allowed to ply only at the owner’s risk. Ambulances or any other emergency services get police escort but borders are usually sealed from dusk to dawn.”

As I mutter, “Is this true even after 67 years of Independence?,” a junior cop pointed towards the naka (police check-post) and confirmed that borders were sealed for safety reasons.
The National Highway (NH-99), which connects Hunterganj with Latehar district passes through the most difficult terrain in the State—Chatra, where even cops pray they are not posted there.

The Neeranjan river, which bisects the Talbanwana and Baniyadih Hills, makes it look quite scenic, but I am told not to venture deep inside as this is the route which Maoists, owing allegiance to five different groups, take while escaping and have made the hills their safe haven.

Jharkhand has its own Maoist history where senior police officers like Lohardagga SP Ajay Kumar, Chatra sub divisional police officer (SDPO) Vinay Bharti, besides several CRPF personnel, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MP from Jamshedpur, Sunil Mahto and former chief minister Babulal Marandi’s son have been killed in Maoists’ attack or explosions in the last one decade.

Though the Jharkhand Police won’t admit it publicly, but it’s an undeniable fact that Maoists run a parallel government in the jungle areas of Chotanagpur region, particularly Chatra, Latehar and adjoining Palamu.

While much is written about the banned outfit, CPI (Maoists), not many people know that there are four other Maoists groups which are fighting a battle of supremacy.

The most prominent one is Tritiya Prastuti Sammelan Committee (TPSC), which reportedly enjoys the patronage of the Jharkhand Police and has been formed with an aim to counter the CPI (Maoists).

Two days ago, the zonal commander of CPI (Maoist) Chetlal Yadav was hunted out from Itkohari block by the TPSC men and shot dead.

His body was thrown on the GT Road, which leads to Hazaribagh. The internecine war among Maoists suits the Jharkhand Police so long as they weaken or eliminate each other.

The other two Maoists’ outfits are the Jharkhand Liberation Tiger and the Jharkhand Prastooti Committee, but these two organisations basically indulge into levy collection from private contractors and government officials.

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