Rebels chase away workers

Ranchi, Jan. 31: Maoist guerrillas today manhandled road construction equipment at Chhatariyatar, a village 10km from Latehar district headquarters, barely three weeks after the Amuatikar gun battle, signalling without a single bullet the rising clout of rebels in the area despite Jharkhand's efforts to turn the tide.

Around 11.30am, a 12-member armed Maoist squad swooped on the construction site and chased away the labourers deputed to build a 5km stretch under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). Then, simply using sticks and stones, they shattered the earthmover's windscreen, damaged the mixer and overturned two diesel pumps in Dhardharia river.

"We heard them using filthy language against the contractor, Tannu Singh. The rebels waited at the site for some time to check if labourers would resume work," a local resident said.

But the Maoists had driven their message home. Workers were too scared to return.

By the time police reached the spot after 1pm, the Maoists had already left.

Latehar superintendent of police Kranti G. Kumar confirmed the incident. "After the police came to know about the incident around 1pm, it strategically rushed to the spot but the Maoists had left," he said.

A police officer not wishing to come on record said today's incident was a 'gentle reminder' from the rebels for the contractor of the road project to shell out levy.

"They did not seem interested in serious damage. If they had, they would have resorted to arson and more violence. It seems Naxalites just wanted to mount pressure for levy on the contractor who's in charge of constructing the 5km stretch linking Barwadih forest area with Sarwadih village. The project is worth around Rs 1 crore," he said.

There may be more to it than what meets the eye.

Amuatikar, where the rebel ambush and combat with security personnel took place on January 7-8, falls under Barwadih police station. A road will aid easy access and rob the area its importance as a strategic hideout for rebels.

On January 20, four rebel landmines blew up at Jhumra in Bokaro to stall the 14km road constructed by the state at a cost of Rs 18 crore to link the area with the mainstream.

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