Eighteen people, including the youngest son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi, were gunned down by Maoists at a cultural programme at Chilkhari village in Giridih district late last night.
The incident occurred shortly after midnight, at about 12:30 am, when 50 CPI (Maoist) cadres dressed as CRPF jawans in khaki uniform opened fire. Among those present at the cultural programme, held to mark the end of a football tournament, were Marandi’s youngest son Anup, 24, and his brother Nunu.
The Maoists were reportedly looking for Nunu Marandi. “I saw them sitting on the chairs, wearing khaki uniform. We thought they were CRPF jawans. But when some of them went up to the dais, grabbed the mike and announced that they were Naxals and had come to kill me, I hid behind the chairs. They sprayed bullets everywhere,” said Nunu, who survived the attack.
Among the 18 dead was Anup Marandi, who had just got married in June this year. Six people were injured in the attack, but are reported to be out of danger.
“I have lost my son, but I promise I will not leave any stone unturned to bring the misguided youths back to the mainstream,” said Marandi, who figures in the Maoists’ hitlist. Both Marandi and his brother Nunu have actively campaigned against Naxalites since the creation of Jharkhand in 2000.
While the State Government has provided security to former chief minister Babulal Marandi, his family members are not covered. “We are not afraid of the Naxalites. But now we will be extra careful,” said Nunu.
Superintendent of Police, Giridih, Arun Singh, said the attack had been meticulously planned. The Naxals had formed small groups of 10-15 members, comprising both men and women. They mingled with the crowd and specifically targeted those seated in the front row.
“Even after the deaths, the Naxals did not leave. They stayed at the spot for nearly an hour and shouted ‘Lal Salaam, Lal Salaam’,” said Surendra Hembrom, father of one of the victims.
“We were about to leave for home when the firing began. I saw my brother reeling in a pool of blood,” said Rupam Kusku, one of the survivors.
The attack comes seven months after JMM MP Sunil Mahato was gunned down by Naxalites. Earlier, in January 2005, CPI(ML) MLA Mahendra Singh too fell victim to Maoists.
PTI adds: Admitting lapses by the police, Assistant Superintendent of Police Arun Kumar Singh said Virendra Singh, the officer-in-charge of Deori police station under which Chilkhari falls, was deputed with some police personnel for both the football match and the cultural programme. But the policemen returned after the prize distribution ceremony in the evening. “It is a clear case of negligence on the police officer’s part,” Singh said.
Chief Minister Madhu Koda and JMM chief Shibu Soren, who visited the spot, announced ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh to the victims’ families.
Mar 4, 2007: JMM leader and Member of Parliament Sunil Mahato shot dead while watching a football match near Jamshedpur. Targeted for mobilising Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (NSS) to counter Naxal influence.
Oct 26, 2007: Anup Marandi, son of former chief minister Babulal Marandi shot dead during cultural programme in Giridih district.
Several attacks on NSS members in past few months