For 10 hours on Saturday, around 30 Naxals held off 250 police commandos in this village, killing three cops. One of the Maoists was Raneeta, 32, who, the police said, fought the elite CoBRA commandos for six hours single-handedly, using a .303 rifle, hiding in a small maize field behind a hut.
On Monday, police recovered the body of Raneeta alias Ramko Hichami, the commander of the Chatgaon Local Organisational Squad (LOS). Raneeta kept fighting even after a grenade blew off one of her legs below the knee. By the time she was shot by one of the commandos, she had killed two CoBRA commandos and left two injured, police said.
Not only was the encounter unique for the length for which it went on, the police are alarmed at the quality of training the Maoists displayed.
A local tribal girl, Raneeta had joined the Maoists in 2000 and risen to the level of LOS commander. She is believed to have been involved in more than 12 encounters, and was named in 26 FIRs for offences including murder and arson.
Her husband Sunil was a member of the North Gadchiroli Divisional Committee till last year, when he was demoted as area committee member for alleged violation of the no-mobile and no-motorcyles rule. Raneeta’s brother Bhaskar is also a divisional committee member.
Around 8 am, a 70-member police party from the Potegaon post, located about 7 km away, had come to Makadchuha — a village that has just five huts — on a search mission. “There were general inputs about Naxal movement in the area but no specific input about their presence in the village. Our men got fire from inside the village which set off the encounter,” said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Gadchiroli range) Sunil Ramanand.