Death of a boy 'forced' to lift bomb-body

Rajmani Singh, a gaunt tribal mother of a teenage son who dreamt of becoming a footballer, heard a distant explosion when she was grazing her goats in Katiya forest on the morning of January 8.

An encounter between Maoists and security forces the previous day in another part of the forest, 30km from district headquarters Latehar and 150km from Ranchi, had killed several jawans.

Rajmani did not know that after she left home, her son Gannu and other villagers had been taken by the forces to remove the bodies. Or that one of those bodies had been booby-trapped by the Maoists with a bomb that exploded when it was being moved.

She returned home as usual at dusk to Amwatikar, a poor tribal village of about 155 families in the Palamu forest division, to find Gannu dead. The Class VIII student had been killed in the explosion.

"My son was tall and well-bodied. He was a sports lover and dreamt of becoming a footballer. I too dreamt that some day he would get a job…. Why did police force my son to lift the body?"

The mother shivered when she asked the question ' her torn clothes offered no protection against the bitter cold ' stopping to speak as she fled the village with her other children and fellow villagers on the evening of January 20.

"Why did they involve my son?" echoed Rajkumar Bhuiya, another goatherd. "It was the police's fight with Maoists. They are trained and paid for it. Why did they involve my son and others?"

Jogeswar, his son and a father of five, was also killed in the explosion while trying to remove the bodies of the CRPF and Jharkhand Jaguar jawans. The small farmer who doubled as day labourer had moved his family to safety the day the encounter started but could not save himself, Rajkumar lamented.

Birendra Yadav and Promode Sau were the other two villagers killed.

Bimli Devi, a relative of Rajmani who was among the 200-odd villagers who had accompanied the security forces into the forest on January 8, alleged that Gannu and the others were forced at gunpoint to lift the jawans' bodies.

Only half of Gannu's body was found. Jogeswar and Birendra also died on the spot. Promode died of his injuries later. Bijoy Turi, another injured villager, has survived but remains in hospital.

Villagers said the security forces beat them up and abused them when they tried to flee after the explosion. They said they had fled the village, home to Parhaiya ' among the Particularly Vulnerable Tribes and of which Rajmani is a member ' and Kharwar tribals, after the encounter began on January 7 and returned at night. Eleven jawans died in the encounter.

The next morning, Promode, the village shopkeeper, and Baldeo Parhaiya, mukhiya of the neighbouring Nawadih village, conveyed to the villagers that the forces wanted their "help". Men, women and some children from Amwatikar, Nawadi, Painiya, Churra and some other villages were assembled. The CRPF and state police forces arrived with tractors.

"We had no choice but to join since refusal would invite beating. Women came since they feared harm to their husbands and sons. Men too felt women's presence might save us. Some mothers took their children along,'' said Mohon Bhuiya, who works at the Amwatikar middle school.

But there were arguments on who would lead. "The uniformed men forced us to walk in columns flanking them on both sides. They wanted us to act as cover in case of Maoist attacks, '' Bimli Devi said.

Another woman said: "Police were abusing us, saying we give food and shelter to the Maoists, so we must obey police now."

On reaching the spot, the villagers wanted the police to take the lead in lifting the bodies. "But the forces started slapping and beating us with rifle butts…. They held some men at gunpoint and asked them to pick up one body. As soon as they lifted it, a huge explosion took place," Bhuiya said.

As villagers tried to run, a second round of beating began, Bhuiya and another villager Suresh Parhaiya alleged. They had to remove some bodies, including that of Gannu, Jogeswar and Birendra.

Rajmani did not even get time to mourn her son. She fled home with many other villagers. Gannu's body was taken for post-mortem and returned days later.

Bihari Yadav, Birendra's father, alleged that policemen beat up him when he went to bring back the body after post-mortem, calling his son and the others Maoist supporters.

The CRPF refused to comment on the allegations, saying it does not speak about anti-Naxalite operations.

On January 20, when a media and human rights team visited, the site was littered with spent cartridges ' proof of the encounter in which the Maoist guerrillas took the advantage of their position on higher slopes to gun down the securitymen. A crater 3ft deep and 5ft wide held what looked like a mangled explosive container, part of a water bottle and a torn shoe. Villagers said Maoists had cautioned them that unexploded grenades, bombs and booby traps might still be there.

The villagers were again fleeing home, after the forces returned to Nawadih earlier in the day. "Now that forces have returned, they will beat us up demanding information about Maoists," said Chandradeo Bhuiya, leaving with four children and wife.

In the dark, a woman's wails broke the silence. Nilmani Kujur, a government health and anganwadi worker, had come to Amwatikar for work leaving her three young children at home in Katiya village inside the forest. But by evening, villagers had started fleeing Katiya and Nilmani was afraid to go back alone. "Who will take care of my children,'' the widow cried.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

[REWIND] The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

It's getting increasingly tough for bowlers: Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Moores set for England recall

Moores set for England recall

The 51-year-old will succeed Andy Flower, who stepped down after five years in charge following the 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia in January. More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »