A splinter Maoist outfit gunned down seven people including the leader of an armed group formed to counter left-wing extremists, in Jharkhand’s Gumla district on Monday evening, police said.
The renewed Maoist violence comes days before the state goes to the polls from November 25 and will test the government's resolve to ensure an atmosphere conducive for the electoral process.
Maoists groups regularly issue diktats asking people to stay away from elections.
Police said that a group of heavily-armed rebels of the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) ambushed the SUV in which the seven persons were travelling near Rerwa village under Kamdara police station of Gumla district, around 100 km from the state capital.
The leader of Shanti Sena, Madan Sahu, was among the seven killed on the spot.
Sources said two among the dead have been identified as Karnal and Lalmohan, brothers of Madan Sahu. Police, however, did not confirm their identities.
The Shanti Sena – also known as Bajrang Sena – formed around 2002 to take on Maoist outfits. Despite its name, the outfit is accused of killing rival group members and even extorting money from villagers.
The PLFI, on the other hand, is a splinter group of the CPI-Maoist, one of the country's oldest Left-wing outfits.
“Seven people have been gunned down by PLFI members. Our team has rushed to the incident,” said Jharkhand Police spokesperson, inspector general of police (IGP) Anurag Gupta.
Sources told HT that Shanti Sena members were mobilising people in the area to lift arms against left wing extremist outfits active in the area.
The attack occurred when the Shanti Sena members were returning after conducting meetings in forest villages in Rerwa.
A senior police official not authorised to talk to the media told HT that the PLFI have been trying to make it presence in the area and influence people to join the banned outfit and agitate against the government.
According to the official, the Sena had managed to suppress the movement of PLFI rebels in the area.
According to villagers, the PLFI group consisting of 30 to 35 rebels was led by the outfit’s supremo Dinesh Gope.