A team of top Jharkhand officials on Thursday discovered in Khunti district a school built, funded and operated by outlawed People's Liberation Front of India, a splinter Maoist outfit.
The team comprising chief secretary Sajal Chakraverty, home secretary NN Pandey and director general of police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar had gone to the district after the PLFI cadre had shut several government schools, alleging security forces were using buildings of these schools as camps.
While travelling in the Rania block, about 100km from Ranchi, the team stumbled upon Vidhya Vihar Public School comprising two big concrete buildings, a hostel for girls and other infrastructure spread over a vast campus.
Questioned briefly by team, the school wardens feigned ignorance about the owners of the school and its association with PLFI.
"We only know the principal, who is a lady from a neighbouring village. She is the one who pays our salaries," said a warden who refused to identify herself.
This is the first time the government has identified and acknowledged that the rebels own and run schools in the state as part of their populist programs.
This particular school, Chakraverty said, is believed to shelter PLFI leadership, especially its chief Dinesh Gope, while DGP Kumar dismissed Maoists allegations that government schools were being used as camps for security forces.
Sources told HT the state police have set up several camps in the PLFI strongholds during the past one year, including one in Token village, very near to the Vidhya Vihar School. This has curtailed PLFI leaders' access to their hideouts in the area.
The PLFI is one of about 19 Left Wing Extremist groups active in Jharkhand, where 18 of the 24 districts are affected by Maoist violence.