Security forces in Thalkobad, a forest village deep inside Maoist-hit Saranda forests in Jharkhand, have discovered a school which the rebels apparently used to indoctrinate young myriad minds in wars and use of guns and explosives.
The Thalkobad middle school pitched on a raised ground amidst hills on all sides is today reduced to ruins as the Maoist rebels blew it up during the 2012 Operation Anaconda launched by joint forces comprising CRPF and the state police. The school ground, however, serves as a temporary helipad as it is the only flat piece of land available in the hilly terrains conducive for helicopter landing.
Only a few senior security and administrative officials besides ex-Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has flown to this place. Traversing by surface transport is difficult as there are no roads and the entire area is mined with explosives by the rebels.
A visit to the partially damaged classrooms depict a gory picture of the Maoists intent to ingrain violence besides Maoist tactics, strategy and assault among minor children. The damaged blackboards have pictures of guns drawn with chalks, walls are littered with pictures defining salient features of light machine guns (LMGs) and functioning of their military outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA). There are holes of gun shots on the walls and Maoist slogans scribbled presumably by children here and there.
Most of those children and their families have moved out the village to neighbouring Odisha, but some who have returned since are not seen by the authorities as potential future recruits for Maoists. Those students now go to different schools and are unlikely to return to a life of guns and indoctrination.
“The first time a company of CRPF reached here during the operation two years back, they discovered three live can bombs, which were defused,” said Jitendra, a CRPF commander. “Later, when we moved out and move ahead, they blew it up to ensure that we do not camp there again and spoil their programmes,” the commander added.
Quoting local villagers, CRPF officials said that the Thalkobad School for long was the epicentre of all training programmes of the Maoists. Its aloofness vis-à-vis its location from where one could see people and objects clearly at a distance made it an ideal place for organising training camps and prolonged shelters.
“We have cleared the forest of the Maoists. Its time we usher in development and educate the children,” director general of police (DGP) Rajeev Kumar told HT.“Flushing out the Maoists from Thalkobad was our biggest achievement,” said chief secretary Sajal Chakraverty, who recently visited Thalkobad to examine the speed of development work initiated under the ambitious Saranda Action Plan, brainchild of Ramesh.
“It once used to be a beautiful vacation spot, which drew tourists from far and wide, especially Bengal in hordes. But the Maoists have spoiled it all,” Chakraverty said, adding, the rebels nefarious designs would be put to end shortly. “We will not allow them equip the children with guns,” he stressed. Chakraverty also said that the government was pushing with education, health and employment for all in Saranda, adding that there was no question of the children turning to Maoists. “Maoists’ nefarious designs are over,” Chakraverty remarked.