Neil Ratan Patra, a Class 10 student recruited by the Jharkhand Police as a special police officer, have two demands: Rs 3,000 a month as promised and a AK-47 rifle.
Patra, who first joined Maoists and then switched camps to join the police as an SPO, was not sure how he could fight the ultras with a double-barrel gun and no salary.
The state police armed villagers — mostly youngsters and former Maoists — in Bundu, one of the strongest Maoist bastions around 40 km east of Ranchi, with double-barrel rifles to fight the rebels.
Umakant Munda (18), SPO at the Barahatu camp in Bundu, has a similar story. "I can't fight the Maoists' automatic weapons without an AK-47."
Munda left the Maoist camp after the police arrested him with a 9mm pistol and promised to release him if he joined the fight against the rebels and offered Rs 3,000 a month. "For six months since my recruitment, the police didn't pay me."
The experiment seems to be failing with the SPOs now threatening to return to the Maoists' arms if not given automatic weapons.
Ranchi Senior SP Pravin Kumar denied having armed the SPOs. He said, "The police have never armed any SPO in the region. We cannot put arms in civilian hands."
Although HT has pictures of the SPOs, who accused the police of ignoring the threat to their lives, senior police officers, including inspector general (Operations), Chhotanagpur region, Rezi Dundung, refused to comment on the issue.