“I feel like leaving the force.”
Several policemen, overwhelmed by the killing of Lukas Tete, admitted that the writ of the government runs dry across a large swathe of Lakhisarai. Tete was killed when the state government refused to release eight imprisoned naxal commanders. But what will I do if I leave? How will I earn? My family wants me to quit police service. But when I am jobless and unable to provide for my family, will they treat me well? asked Rajendra Prasad, sub-inspector, Kajra police station. This police post is hardly 15 kilometres from the spot where four policemen were kidnapped after a skirmish with the naxals on August 29, in which seven policemen were killed and 10 injured.
The pressure mounted by the Yadav community on caste leaders within
the PLGA led to the release of Abhay.
With the state government failing to put a rescue plan in action, Abhay’s father, Indu Prasad Yadav, contacted his caste brethren linked to PLGA commander and self-styled spokesperson for naxal operations in eastern Bihar, Avinash, alias Arjun Yadav. “The appeal made by all political parties, including RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav made a difference. The government did nothing,” said Sambhu Yadav, Abhay’uncle, who received the three captive policemen at Simra Rari, a naxal-held region of Lakhisarai.
They are not led by officers who lead from the front.
“Why should we fight the naxals when we know politicians pay them several lakhs of rupees every month?”asks Jawaharlal Singh, ASI, Jamui Police Station. Policemen in Bihar don’t want to fight the naxals. They have AK-47 and INSAS Rifles but aren’t trained for jungle warfare. They admit that the naxal tactics are superior to theirs. “Why would a policeman want to die in the line of duty? I joined the police because it gives me power, influence and prestige. These villagers come to me because I am a bada babu (influential and high ranking officer). I joined for law and order duties, not engage naxals in combat?” confessed Atul Kumar Mishra, the Station House Officer(SHO) of Chanan police station. He was waiting for the Banu Bagicha village chowkidar to return from the Morve Dam area, a stronghold of the naxals, after the naxals announced that they would free the hostages. Every rural police circle in Bihar has 23 village chowkidars who are paid Rs 1,200 and used as police informers and spotters. Mishra camping at Banu Bagicha’s defunct and unused Block Office felt insecure in spite of 25 well armed SAP personnel accompanying him.
Policemen in naxal-dominated areas have an informal standard operating procedure. First, stay out of areas which have naxal presence. Second, after 6pm, ensure that the police station they are holed up in is well protected from naxal attack. The idea is not to fight back, but ensure that they don’t lose their lives if there is a naxal attack. “I have trained 30 stray dogs. They don’t allow anyone inside the premises after dusk”, said the SHO. So post 6pm any crime within a police station’s jurisdiction goes unattended till day-break.
Prasad at the Kajra police station can’t shake off his gloomy and introspective mood. He said: “We have no comforts. We don’t have a place to stay. Several police stations in naxal-dominated areas are functioning from dilapidated, rented buildings. This police station used to be a Congress party office. We built our barrack by raising funds from the residents of Kajra. Our welfare must be taken care of to enable us to get mentally attuned to combat duty.” Besides, the policemen are trained for regular policing duties and not for combat operations. “I went through police training twenty five years ago. Since then I haven’t had the opportunity to retrain and re-skill. I can aim and shoot, but don’t know what to do in a combat situation. I am not trained for jungle warfare. How can I survive an encounter with the naxals in the jungles?” asked Prasad.
“We cannot fight and win this war. We are not trained…”
We don’t know the terrain because we are engaged in law and order duties. Our men don’t want to go into jungles, climb mountains and bust the naxal hide-outs. The naxals have superior weapons and tactics. They dominate the regions they control, admitted Mishra. During the tense waiting period on September 4th and 5th for the release of the captive policemen, senior police officers repeatedly barked instructions to middle level police officers: “Do not leave your police stations and venture into areas controlled by naxals. Send the village chowkidars as look-outs.”
The policemen in Bihar are seething with anger. They said: “We will lose our jobs because service rules prohibit us from telling the truth.” There are a lot of uncertainties to be afraid of. Their nervousness was palpable when the said: “What if we are ordered into combat without any planning? Death is certain.” The sight of their dead colleagues provoked the BMP personnel to thrash the former Lakhisarai SP, Ashok Singh, for pushing them into a naxal ambush. Senior police officials, including IG (Operation) KS Dwivedi and ADG (Headquarters) PK Thakur denied that the Singh was assaulted by BMP personnel. Denials notwithstanding, Singh was transferred out of Lakhisarai three days after the incident.
“For ten days prior to the August 29 encounter we were alerted almost every day by intelligence reports of a Jehanabad-type attack in Lakhisarai. There are several naxals imprisoned in the Lakhisarai jail. We were told that naxals would attempt a jail break, attack the District Magistrate’s office and the CRPF camp at Kajra,” a distressed sub-inspector of Kajra police station, Rajendra Prasad, revealed. This was corroborated by the commandant of CRPF’s 131 battalion, Bidhan Chandra Patra: “Superintendent of Police, Ashok Singh, told me that he received an intelligence input about thirty naxals moving in the Lakhisarai forest. He said there was no specific input, just a generic alert and that he was putting together a team to conduct area domination exercise and get back. There was no intimation of the possibility of a gun-battle. So I passed instruction to assemble a team of 34 CRPF soldiers.”