The iron ore mining controversy in Gadchiroli has taken a bloody turn with alleged Naxals killing a vice-president of Lloyd Steel and two others near Surjagarh village in Etapalli tahsil.
Jaspal Singh Dhillon,vice-president (mines),Lloyd Steel,Mallikarjun Reddy,proprietor of Hemlata Minerals which mines iron ore for Lloyd,and Raju Sadmake,the police warden of Surjagarh,had reportedly gone into the forest near the village around 5 pm Wednesday.
Reports suggest they had parked their vehicle near Surjagarh and had proceeded inside the forest on a bike asking the driver to come to Manger village two hours later. When the driver reached there,he found their bodies, Gadchiroli collector Abhishek Krishna told The Indian Express.
All three were shot dead by alleged Naxals. No note was left at the spot but police suspect Aitu,a fiery Naxal leader in the area who has been the mastermind of ambushes and attacks. Although there is no official word on the motive,the three men were reportedly pushing for augmenting mining operations in the area.
They hadnt informed us before going there. We have fetched the bodies from the spot and have launched an operation in the area, DIG of Police (Gadchiroli range) Ravindra Kadam said.
Dhillon (60) and Reddy (45) are veterans of working in Naxal areas. Dhillon had retired from Ballarpur Paper Mill that extracts bamboo from Naxal-affected interiors. Earlier too he was beaten up mercilessly by Naxals. Due to his special experience of working in Naxal areas,Lloyd Steel had taken him on board, one police officer said.
Reddys firm also has long experience of working in Naxal areas.
Sadmake (65),it is learnt,had been instrumental in getting village youth to work for the company that had just started low-key mining in the area five years after getting the lease. Some in the village were opposed to the project. Also,during operations in the area,the police would visit his house as he was a police warden. So he may be a suspect in the eyes of the Naxals, one sources said.
It is gathered that there was a vertical split in the Naxal camp over allowing mining. Senior leader Narmada was in favour of allowing mining in barren agricultural lands since she believed it would give employment to local youths. Aitu,however,was staunch opponent, a senior former Naxal said.
The fact that Lloyd Steel had actually started mining means they had got a go-ahead from the Naxals. Otherwise,it is just not possible, a senior official confirmed. Dhillon always spoke about expanding mining operations. It may not have gone down well with the Naxals,perhaps.
Two Llyod Steel engineers,S K Sharma and N V Rughshe,were abducted by Naxals in 2007 in the same area but were released unharmed.
The company was granted lease five years ago, collector Krishna said but could not give details of when it had started mining.
Two other companies,Gopani and Sunflag,are also attempting to start mining in the area.