The Ranchi police that is yet to arrest two of the four people accused of making at least 150 people, most of them tribals, pose as members of left-wing extremist organisations and surrender here, said they couldn’t find the two as they live in interior villages. The FIR naming the four was registered on March 28 this year. On Sunday, The Indian Express traced both down in a day.
This is just one of the many glaring omissions on the part of the officials investigating the case, which is believed to involve one former Military Intelligence officer and CRPF personnel. The state government has now called for a CBI probe.
The chargesheet framed by the Ranchi police shows reluctance to expand the scope of the investigation to include more witnesses and accused, which could expose a larger conspiracy. The former MI officer, Ravi Bodra, was involved in the so-called surrenders — dating back to 2011-12 — as part of a botched Ministry of Home Affairs plan.
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While one of the two accused who the Ranchi Police couldn’t arrest so far claims to have proof indicating his innocence, the other is central to the case.
Carolina Kerketta (50) has been listed as the second accused in the first chargesheet in the case, filed on May 27. She allegedly acted as an agent for Digdarshan Defence & Civil Service Zone, an institute run by first accused Dinesh Prajapati, and brought students to him for a commission.
Prajapati allegedly turned them over to Ravi alias Ramesh Bodra, who made the youngsters “surrender” before officers of the 203rd Battalion of the CRPF’s CoBRA unit at the old jail in Ranchi. Bodra told the youths this would make them eligible for the Army, paramilitary and Jharkhand Police jobs intended for surrendered left-wing extremists.
Kerketta lives with her daughter in Nichitpur village in Khunti’s Torpa block. She said she was introduced to Prajapati when a girl in her village who wanted to enroll for school-level tuitions at his institute took her along in 2011. “During our conversation, Prajapati said he can get government jobs for youngsters if I would introduce them to him. I must have taken some 12 children. He would pay Rs 500 for each,” she said.
Those taken by Kerketta — such as Vijay Topno (24) of Nichitpur — say she would point out that Prajapati was successful in getting her own sons into the Army. Ranjit and Roshan Kerketta are posted in Bangalore and Jabalpur currently.
After some probing, Kerketta admits Prajapati had helped her sons. “He took Rs 40,000 each for my sons. When there was a delay, he took us to a Pathak in (Ranchi’s) Namkum and arranged for my sons to be appointed.”
Among the youngsters Kerketta took to Ranchi were three girls. Prajapati reportedly merely collected money from them; they were never made to surrender.
Masi Kerketta, the third accused, is an ex-serviceman who is currently a constable with the Khunti police. He said he had met Prajapati only once and had not even heard of Bodra till the news of the scam began doing the rounds.
According to Masi, who lives in Khunti town’s Pahantoli, his name was added to the FIR by mistake. “I am in good terms with the family of Pamesh (the victim who registered the FIR). Prajapati had taken out an advertisement in a newspaper guaranteeing Army jobs in six months. Since Pamesh’s father used to ask me to keep an eye out for Army recruitment announcements, I informed the family,” says Masi.
When Pamesh registered the FIR, he mentioned that Masi was the one who had told him of Prajapati. “After the boy’s family forced me, I even took Pamesh along when I when to the Army canteen the next time and dropped into Prajapati’s office. However, I was told they would talk only to parents,” says Masi.
He has a letter from the boy’s father — submitted to the Ranchi Superintendent of Police’s office — admitting that naming him was a mistake, to prove his claim. Masi has moved for anticipatory bail to quash the case against him.
Ravi Bodra appears only as the fourth accused in the first chargesheet. The document doesn’t even mention the fact that boys were kept on the old Ranchi jail premises for up to a year in some cases, with apparently the help of CRPF officers.
The charges against Bodra — arrested on April 7 — and Prajapati, who surrendered on May 13, are nondescript. They are accused of “conspiring to fraudulently offering (sic) jobs and cheating (sic) their victims out of money”, and charged under Sections 406, 419, 420 and 120(b) of the IPC.
While the police have listed only 19 youths as witnesses, at least 90 victims, including girls, had turned up for a meeting with Chief Minister Hemant Soren on July 4.
All the victims this newspaper spoke to said that, at its peak, the old jail housed 550 youths. They know the exact figure as there were roll calls at night, with inmates assigned numbers.
Even though the state police’s Special Branch facilitated the CM’s meeting with the victims, no attempt was apparently made to take down their statements. One of those named by them, Vijay Bara of Khunti district, who allegedly recruited the 13 boys of Gutia-Jamgari village, falling in Ranchi’s Namkum block, doesn’t find mention in the chargesheet.