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Aftermath of monsoon combing operations in Saranda

September 11, 2011

 

 

 

7Sept.11-Page 4

HT Exclusive

Combing operations in Saranda partially successful

Maoists repelled temporarily, back on patrols in Saranda; DIG says
operations will continue there

Ushinor Majumdar

Ushinor.Majumdar@Hindustantimes.com

UM/ER/SEP 6, 2011

Saranda: “Operation Anaconda”, a month-long joint operation of the central
and state security forces in Saranda, ended on Friday; a Hindustan Times
team traveled here for four days to observe the aftermath and spotted a
Maoist patrol back in business on Tuesday morning.

The well-planned operation took place here in the lush, green largest
Sal-tree Saranda forest in Asia comprising of 700 hills and home to the
state’s mineral reserves. The forest cannot be navigated during the
monsoon as it snakes through kuchcha, red-soiled roads cut in places by
four rivers that spill over every few hours due to the heavy rain and
prevent travel.

Operation Anaconda, named after the constrictor-snake that coils around
its prey, represented the approach taken by the security forces comprising
of state police, the central reserve police force (CRPF), COBRA, Jharkhand
Armed Forces, the Jaguar and the Orissa Police.

Kolhan DIG, Naveen Kumar, told HT, “Troops marched into the forest, armed
to the hilt, and made their way to various tactical locations, including
Tholkabad, which is 45 km uphill from Manoharpur, on August 31, where
Maoists were reportedly hiding complacently after conducting summer
training camps for new recruits,” adding, “ they were also celebrating
their ‘martyrs’ day’ that week.”

According to the DIG, the Maoists include the villagers in their
celebrations, which are held close to the villages and away from the
Maoist camps.

 “The Maoists had not been here for over a month when the police stormed
in and opened fire at us, and we ran,” was the initial version of Vishal
Nag, who had returned, armed with a hockey stick, after a month to his
native Tholkabad with five others to see if the security forces had left
the village.

However, another villager, with fear writ large on his face, on condition
of anonymity, said, “On September 1, most of the villagers were gathered
around the school building. A team of about 40-50 Maoists was here
demanding food. The police opened fire at them at an advantageous position
(elevated) from the Karampada road, the Maoists returned fire and
retreated into the jungle using us as human shields.”

More security personnel lay in waiting down the hill near Tiril Posi
village ready to cut off the retreating Maoists.

According to this villager, shielded unwilling by the villagers, the
Maoists ran into the shelter of the thick jungle a few hundred metres away
from the Tholkabad school building, the walls of which have been blasted
through many similar encounters. (see pic)

A few Maoists remained behind in front of the school building and kept
exchanging fire with security forces from various places around the school
building. Finally, they too retreated.

“We were unable to return as the police would have either arrested us and
beaten us as Maoists or shot at us”, says Kinnar Poorty of Tholkabad
village.

The DIG says that the security forces were near the village but their
drill did not permit attacks at night so waited till the day and their
were several encounters between the Maoists and the security forces from 5
AM on September 1 to about 11 AM, when the Maoists ran back in the thick
jungle, where it was difficult to follow them, but this led to discovering
the training camps and confiscating materials from the dumps.

The HT team found no spent shells or other evidence of crossfire between
security forces and Maoist rebels.

The more than 50 households of Tholkabad stayed away for the entire month
as the paramilitary forces set up base in Tholkabad and made their way to
Tiril Posi (13 km downhill), where also they set up base.

In Tiril Posi, for over a month, the security forces set up camp, taking
over a few houses, including that of Pator Gagrai, which HT had reported
on August 30.

The security forces left the area on September 2 and were debriefed that
evening by Kolhan DIG Naveen Kumar in Jaraikela.

The DIG said he was aware that Maoists may be back in that area.

EOM

HT Exclusive

Security personnel leave deprivation in their wake in Saranda

Strap: Couple left to die in Saranda; Tiril Posi and Tholkobad
unauthorized barracks

Ushinor Majumdar

Ushinor.Majumdar@hindustantimes.com

UM/ER/Sep 06, 2011

Saranda: A Hindustan Times team traveled into Saranda in Jharkhand to
observe the aftermath of the month-long monsoon combing operations by the
state and central security forces and the trail of human rights violations
left in its wake.

Tholkobad is approachable through the Karampada road and the Tiril Posi
road. Edging forward from the Tiril Posi road, a column rose from within
the tiled roof of the munda’s (chief) house.

No one responded to queries in Ho (the regional language of the tribals).
Around the back of the house, accessible by wading through deep, red mud,
a door led into a room, where an old, disabled couple – the parents of the
village Munda — lay on two separate beds. The room stank of illness, human
excrement and urine. (see pic)

As he lay helplessly on his bed, Tupa Honhaga said, “I don’t know what has
happened. I was slapped and prodded and asked for information on where
everyone had run away too. I haven’t seen my son for a month.”

Tupa claimed the police broke his legs during questioning in an earlier
operation.

Tupa lay sideways on his bed, craning his neck to get a glimpse of his
wife, Pelong, who lay semi-naked – wheezing. She has been critically ill
and has not received medical attention during the month-long operation and
could not open her mouth to drink the drops of water that were offered
her. Neither of them can move to go to the bathroom, cook food or get
water.

At the behest of the HT team, James Soi, district programme coordinator of
the National Rural Health Mission, visited the place on Tuesday and
confirmed that they are in a critical condition and alerted the nearest
primary health care centre at Manoharpur, 42 km down the hill, which has
no road for an ambulance to reach them.

Cattle – left unattended by the villagers who had run away during the
encounter between the Maoists and the security forces on September 1 – sit
grazing along the road between Tiril Posi to Tholkabad using the Sal trees
shielding themselves from the heavy downpour.

Tholkabad lies deserted after the security forces have receded and this
made the local guide – Pator Gagrai of Tiril Posi village (15 km down the
hill) – nervous and reluctant to enter the village.

The forest broke open into some lush, paddy fields, being grazed on by
cattle. The village square comprises of two burnt and demolished
motorcycles (belonging to Maoists) and in the yard of the house on the
right of the square, a dog feasts on the rump of a dead sheep. (see pic)

There are no villagers here, everyone had ran away after they were used as
human shields by the Maoists when security forces opened fire at them on
September 1, while both Maoists and villagers were gathered outside the
school building, tattered from previous operations.
EOM

DIG assures to survey extent of operations’ damage

Strap: DIG to lead special mission to assess damages; says security
personnel sometimes fail to stick to protocol

Ushinor Majumdar

Ushinor.Majumdar@hindustantimes.com

UM/ER/SEP 06 2011

Saranda: Kolhan DIG Naveen Kumar assured Hindustan Times that he will look
into any human rights violations by the security forces during their
month-long monsoon combing operations in Saranda.

The DIG said, “The security personnel are there for a purpose and it is
difficult to gauge who is a Maoist, as they hide their arms and mingle in
with the villagers to avoid detection.”

“I will lead a team to assess the damage and previously where there have
been bona fide claims, we have reimbursed them for damages. We will do the
same this time,” he added.

HT visited Saranda forest in West Singhbhum district  and went to Tiril
Posi and Thalkobad villages to observe the damages and met with villagers
of Bitkel Soi who had sought refuge in Manoharpur. Bitkel Soi was
inaccessible due to the heavy rains.

Tiril Posi

According to villagers, Tiril Posi village (42 km uphill from Manoharpur)
was taken over by security forces on September 3, unauthorized barracks
set-up in houses taken over from villagers, livestock and stored grains
plundered and used up by the paramilitary forces, who set up unauthorized
barracks there and have arrested seven youths from the village.

Tiril Posi Munda (chief), Budhram Gudiya, told HT, “At 8 pm, each night
during the operation, adult males were herded into a one-and-half room
hutment where the larger room had two bricks, placed next to each other,
which served as a urinal for them.”

According to Gudiya, villagers were not allowed into the forest and had to
use the yards to defecate and urinate. A few villagers were allowed to
cycle down the steep hill to buy rations for everyone, once a week.

As reported by HT on August 30, the home of Pator Gagrai, the village
midday meal ration-supplier, and his wife Ashurika Gagrai, the village
health worker (sahiyya), was taken over and turned into CRPF barracks.
Besides using up midday stores, security forces made alcohol for
consumption out of two sacks of mahua (a forest-produce flower).

Bitkel Soi

Villagers of Bitkel Soi (7 km from Tiril Posi) had sought refuge in
Manoharpur town. On September 2, villagers were rounded up at 5 AM and
beaten, asking for whereabouts of Maoists.

The village munda, 55-year-old Isaac Topno, started describing the ordeal
but became incoherent in the midst of recounting the details. Another
villager, Nicholas Gudiya, offered, “He has ‘lost his mind’ as he too was
beaten up.”

Gudiya added, “All of us were taken to Mansookh Dhan’s house, our hands
tied and our mouths gagged and then beaten up.”

Eight villagers, now refugees in Manoharpur, had turned up to meet he HT
team.

Thalkobaad

Thalkobaad was deserted save an old, disabled couple, who are the parents
of the village munda.

According to the DIG, Maoists had been hiding in the munda’s house and
that is where they had first started firing from.

No spent bullet shells were found in or around the said house.

As per the account of one of the six villagers, who had returned to see if
security forces had left, the more than 50 households of the village were
used as a human shield by the Maoists to the jungle when the police had
opened fire on Maoists and villagers gathered together outside the school
building on September 1.

Later, these villagers ran away and most of them went to relatives’ houses
in Tupadi and other villagers in and around Saranda.

The Saranda tribals live in these hard-to-reach areas accessible through
un-motorable roads and have no health centers. The schools have been shut
down or blown up (as in the case of Thalkobad in an earlier operation) and
midday meals stopped.

They survive mostly on subsistence farming and some rations from the PDS
about 15 kilometres down the hill. All their stores and livestock have
either been consumed or destroyed by the security forces who set up these
unauthorised camps and the villagers are unsure of how to gather their
lives again.

EOM

 

 

 

 

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