It was a new year – 2002 – the first week of the year. Recently our results for promotions were out. I stood second!! My colleague, Sanjay Prasad and I were to visit some branches in Jharkhand; we both being posted in the Zonal Office so it is a part of our duties. One of the visits was to be in Deoghar, which is also famous for Lord Shiva temple – Baidyanath Dham. This is a ‘jyotirlinga’ – a shrine where Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or “Lingam (pillar) of light.” There are twelve traditional Jyotirlinga shrines in India. Deoghar happens to be one of them.
As we were promoted as Senior Manager just a week before, we planned to take our family also with us to pay our reverence to Lord Shiva. We traveled in an Ambassador car. We were returning via Giridh. We had our lunch there at the famous “Bewaqoof” (Idiot) Hotel. It was getting a bit late. We thought that we may stay in Giridih and start next day but then changed our views and proceeded for Ranchi. The security situation in that area is very bad. Nobody moves there in night out of any city. The area there and neighborhood districts are practically under the control of Maoists, called Red/Liberated Area.
We safely reached GT Road (NH-2). Nothing happened! It boosted our confidence on our luck as we crossed the most dangerous zone safely. There were lights also. Again, we were at a dilemma to reach Hazaribagh via the straight road or take a long route via NH-2 and then NH-33 from Barhi. It would delay us by around 1 hour. As it was not dark then, we decided to take the straight road, which would reach us to Hazaribagh in 30 minutes.
We were going smoothly and reached the Narayangarh forests. Suddenly at a turning we found some vehicles are lined up. We smelled problems and tried to turn the car back and return. It was a narrow road with ditches on both the sides. It’s around 6.30pm by then. Little did we know that the dacoits were in huge numbers and they surrounded our car. They were armed with guns, pistols and grenades. We knew that we are caught so we had no option then other than to obey their diktats. As directed, we also lined up there.
They fell a trunk of a big tree across the road and were robbing vehicles on both the sides. They were masked/covered their faces. They came to us and put a gun near my left ear and another one went to the other side to Sanjay. He had grenades in his hand. They demanded all the valuables from us. As we found that we were trapped, we though much of cash under seat of the car. We gave our watches, cash from purses. They also took the gold earrings, chains, bangles from Jaya, wife and daughter of Sanjay. Everybody were very much scared, we quietly gave them the valuables and were praying to the Almighty for our life and to get away from there as soon as possible.
They came to our car to check it. That was the scariest time as if they could find that we hid cash & ornaments from them then they could do anything to us in revenge. What was very peculiar that they were talking to us with respect! One of them came to the Sanjay’s side and asked him to stand out of the car so that they can check. They said to him “Sir, will you please come out, we will check the car”. Luckily, another car came then and joined the queue and that diverted their attention. They went to that car. It was the MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) of Hazaribagh. He had an armed escort, but one escort cannot do anything while they were more than 50. So, he too meekly surrendered to them. Those dacoits also snatched the gun from his escort.
It was quite dark by then. We were all scared, horrified and out of our wits. We were waiting there fully surrendered us to their whims. Who can dare to do anything against a large gang of armed criminals? Every minute passed were like ages to us.
After sometime, we saw them vanishing into the darkness of the forest. We saw some people in police uniforms coming and asking for them. We were silent and did not say much as we did not know whether they were police of Maoists. Maoists also move in police fatigues sometimes. The policemen asked us to go back. There was a huge trunk blocking the road. We decided to go ahead instead of turning back. Some people from buses, trucks and we all volunteered to move the trunk. It was very heavy. We moved it so that one vehicle moves. We went ahead against their advice as we said to the police that by then everybody on the road had come to know that we have been robbed. Nobody robs a pauper! So, nothing would happen to us. It all happened what we were thinking to avoid all throughout.
As we said, the news spread that we were being robbed, we found some buses, cars etc waiting at the motel for clearance about 2km from that area. We informed them that they were safe and then they could proceed as we are coming from there robbed.
We reached Hazaribagh and collected the cash & some ornaments we threw and hid under seats of the car. We did not hid everything so that the dacoits did not feel cheated and start checking the car or hitting us. We crossed Ramgarh and Chuttupallu ghati. A ghati is a small valley. There is a good motel there. We stopped there and had whiskey followed by dinner. We just went through a harrowing nightmare.
We called our respective house and informed what happened. They were also worried as we were getting late. They also felt relieved that we returned safe although we lost some valuables. At that moment, nobody cares for items howsoever valued it may be. Everybody was happy that we returned safe and unharmed.
But it left a very bad psychological effect on the women. Jaya was scared of the darkness for many years. She could feel their eyes through their masks/covers. Thank God that she is alright now.