Ranchi, April 8: Suspected Maoists gunned down eight villagers, including the founder of a citizen’s group formed to fight terror, in Jharkhand today while the victims were on a shopping trip during a tribal festival.
The attack occurred in Gumla, around 150km from Ranchi, on a day the tribal population was celebrating Sarhul, an occasion to pay tribute to nature.
The insurgents, who were lying low after suffering a series of reverses in encounters with security forces, struck at Semra village, killing five men and three women. Most of the victims were related to one another.
Around 9am, a group of about 150 suspected CPI(Maoist) activists opened fire on Bhado Singh’s vehicle as they were on way to Gumla for festival shopping. All passengers died on the spot. Later, the rebels set fire to the vehicle.
“The group got trapped in an ambush laid by the rebels. The Maoists opened fire on the vehicle and then set it ablaze,” said state police spokesperson Raj Kumar Mallick. “Though Singh retaliated with fire-arms, injuring two on the spot, he could not resist them for long,” he added.
The dead have been identified as Ranthu Manjhi, Nakul Singh, Lalka, Janki Devi, Sumitra Devi, Fulmani and Ghanshyam Singh.
Among the injured were Renu Devi and her son Kesri Singh who have been admitted to a local hospital, police sources at Gumla said.
Singh was the chief of Shanti Sena, a village outfit floated in 2002 to counter the rebel threat.
Singh formed the Shanti Sena to fight for his land seized by Naxalites. He was considered to be a friend of the security forces as he helped them with information. Sources in Gumla said he had himself taken part in several anti-Naxalite operations.