Constable-driver Sukhlal Kudada, the sole survivor in the attack on
Friday in which five policemen were killed by suspected Maoists in
Jharkhand, believes he survived only because he was not in uniform.
“I was in civil dress and sitting inside the vehicle and I think that
is why I survived. I saw my colleagues being stabbed and their throats
slit, one by one. In less than five minutes, the ambush was over,” says
Five policemen of the Tiruldih police station — two Assistant
Sub-Inspectors and three constables — were killed in the ambush at 4.45
pm on Friday at Kurku market in Saraikela district.
Chaibasa DIG Kuldeep Dwivedi said police have launched a “sustained operation” to arrest the Maoists involved in the attack.
Kudada, who has been posted as driver at the Tiruldih police station
for the last nine months, says that an hour before the incident, he had
driven the team of policemen to Ichakdih village to attend to a call
regarding a dispute. While returning, he says, they stopped at the Kurku
market and all the five policemen stepped into different shops to buy
water, cold drinks.
Kudada, who claims he was seated in the car when the ambush began,
says, “Suddenly, some people emerged from the crowd and started stabbing
(the policemen). They all had bhujali (daggers). I rushed out and tried
to save one of them, but one of the attackers swung his bhujali at me
and I ran.” He says there were at least four attackers for every
policeman who was targetted.
While Kudada says the attackers were armed with bhujaali, Saraikela
SP Chandan Kumar Sinha said the policemen had sustained both bullet and
stab injuries, and that the Maoists fled with the weapons of the dead
policemen. Asked if the Maoists had come without any firearms, he said,
“We cannot say so for sure as cartridges, apart from those from police
guns, were recovered from the spot.”
It was outside a utensils shop in Kurku market that one of the policemen was killed. Bhagwat Mahto, whose relative owns the shop, says he had come to the market on Friday to buy a goat when the attack happened. On Saturday morning, he has returned to take home the goat which he kept locked in the shop all night. “I first saw blood… people were screaming. I could not understand anything and I ran for my life. Soon, the attackers were screaming ‘Maowadi Zindabad’ and waving guns. A few had towels wrapped around their faces.”
Kudada, however, says he never heard any slogans. He claims that
minutes after the attack, he heard gunshots. “The Maoists took three
INSAS rifles and two pistols from the policemen and they appeared to be
firing from it. They also seemed to video record the incident. This
time, I ran for my life,” he says.
Kudada claims that he ran for 10 km, called Bobby Jha, munshi at the
Tiruldih police station, and informed him about the attack, after which
he took a lift and reached the police station in Tiruldih.
At the station, the munshi, who received a call from Kudada at 5.49
pm, informed his superior, Sub Inspector Dayanand Ram. “I called up
senior police officers and a team was sent to the spot. When we reached
there, there was complete silence and blood everywhere,” says Ram.
The police station runs with 40 per cent of its sanctioned strength. “Of the sanctioned police strength of 35, we had 15. Now, we have lost five of our colleagues. Our station house in-charge is under suspension and a few others are on leave,” says Ram, now the most senior officer at the police station.
“It could have been any of us… Our jurisdiction was never thought to
be unsafe,” he says, worrying that since driver Kudada was the lone
survivor, he will now face a lot of scrutiny. “Who knows if he ends up
as the suspect…”
DIG Dwivedi, however, said, “The driver is not a suspect as of now. But as I said, we are investigating all possible angles.”