A 30-year-old man gunned down by security forces in Latehar jungles on Monday was a para teacher who had gone to the Maoists' den to convince them he wasn't a police informer, claims the slain man's brother.
On Tuesday, Uday Yadav's bullet-riddled body lay alongside the 11 others killed by the forces , awaiting postmortem at Palamu Sadar hospital, 164 km away from Ranchi. At the hospital were Uday's wife and two minor children, inconsolable throughout the day.
"Destiny had been very cruel to him. While the Maoist considered him to be a police informer, the forces on Monday declared him an ultra and killed him in cold blood. He had gone to the Maoist camp to seek mercy and permission to teach freely in his school," said Hriday, who is younger to Uday by four years.
Uday's saga resonates with the plight of scores of teachers who travel long distance to reach left wing extremism-affected areas only to be caught between security forces and ultras, who often brand them as police informers and torture.
They are also victims of Jharkhand's thriving extortion industry. Thepara teachers are forced to pay a part of their salary as levy to extremist groups. According to Jharkhand para teachers' association president Prakash Pandey, around 12 teachers have been killed in extremism-related violence over the past three years in the state.
The police, however, were quick to shoot down the allegation they killed an innocent man.
"If he had no links to the rebels why was he moving with the Maoist guerrilla squad led by dreaded leader Anurag Ji in the SUV," Palamu IG A Natrajan asked.
Hriday said his brother served in the upgraded primary school in Newar, which is considered a safe zone of red ultras. In 2011, the Maoists thrashed his brother and locked his house alleging he grassed on them. Uday scooted from the village to Manika town where he lived in isolation with his family.
While Uday went hiding, Hriday replaced his brother in school and began teaching voluntarily.
Two weeks ago, the education department sent a notice threatening to terminate Uday's job if he didn't report to duty, said Hriday.
"On Sunday, my brother left for the jungle to broker peace with Anurag Ji and seek his permission to go back to the school and teach," said Hriday.
"We have evidence of how he led a miserable life ever since the Maoist branded him a police informer."
Another collateral damage?
Besides Uday, Mohammad Ejaz, 27, who drove the SUV, was among the 12 killed in the encounter.
While the police claimed Ejaz, too, worked for the Maoists, his father-in-law Mohammad Islam claimed Ejaz was innocent.
He said Ejaz had been working at Raniganj in West Bengal for several years and had returned to his home in Neema village in Chatra district four months ago. In the village, he worked as a driver for vehicles on rent. On Sunday, Maoist leader Anuragji's son Santosh and nephew Yogesh allegedly hired his service to travel to Manika.
"The vehicle belonged to Chhote tailor. Little did he knew that the boys who had hired him were taking him into the jungle to meet a guerrilla squad," Islam said.