Maoists struck in a gruesome manner near Hajipur town on Thursday morning, severing the limbs of a farmer and then shooting him dead for refusing to pay 'tax' to the banned organisation.
The dismembered body of the farmer, 50-year-old Haresh Singh, was recovered--with two bullet wounds and a deep gash on the neck--on the busy Hajipur-Muzaffarpur highway, 8 kms north-east of Hajipur in Bihar. It led to such uproar and a massive blockade by local residents on NH-77 that thousands of vehicles on their way to Patna and other north Bihar districts were left stranded for over six hours.
Police said that the Maoist operation was short and meticulously planned. Police quoted eyewitnesses as saying that the Maoists, riding two motorcycles, tagged the victim and managed to corner him at Dhobighati pond when he was on a morning walk with a co-villager. They struck with knives, severing his hands and legs and then shot him dead even as he fell to the ground.
Vaishali superintendent of police (SP) Suresh Prasad Choudhary said the victim had been on the target of CPI (Maoist) as his name had figured in the pamphlets of the organisation recently. Maoists regularly serve demand notes to farmers and businessmen, levying different rates of 'taxes' to fill their war coffers. Refusal to pay is often met with violent retribution but not before a few warnings.
"Prime facie, the police cannot rule out the Maoists, but investigations are needed to ascertain the facts," he added. Police raided several villages under the Sadar police station even as the administration tried to get the blockade lifted from the busy highway.
The road block was lifted late afternoon after much persuasion, but tension continued to simmer, forcing the administration to reinforce thanas around. According to police sources, the victim was attacked twice earlier and in one incident, he was dashed by a vehicle and was rendered unconscious, but survived.
District intelligence sources said the Maoists had slowly spread their tentacles in over two dozen villages of Vaishali district and had significant support in blocks of Patepur, Thathan, Kartanha, Jandaha and other remote areas. Some of these areas are simply off limits to the police, strongholds as they are of the Maoists.
It was only recently that the Hajipur police together with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) jawans ventured Thathan, the native place of a proclaimed Maoist offender, who is now serving a jail sentence. Vaishali is one of 20 naxal-affected districts of state which was recently included in the hotlist of Maoist-affected districts of the country and designated for funds for development under security-related expenditure (SRE).
While the Maoists regularly hold rallies of their front organisations and enforce bandhs while blowing up train tracks, this was only the fourth incident of selective killing since 2007. Vaishali's proximity to active Maoist dens in East Champaran, Muzaffarpur and Sheohar also contributes much to the 'red' activity in this area.
If police sources are believed, some 100 hardcore Maoists are active in the region. The posting of an ASP, especially for operations against them has not been able to stem their influence.