Neeraj Uttam Kumar

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Neeraj Uttam Kumar; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, Aug 15 2015

The Times of India, Aug 15 2015

Crawling under fire, they beat back Reds on a hill

On May 17, 2015, the 205 Co BRA battalion received in telligence of Maoist presence in Barachatti's villages. A 21-strong team under Assistant Commandant Neeraj Uttam Kumar left for Tiletand on foot. They reached Tiletand early May 18. Surrounded by hills, the village looked a trap. Kumar took some men and scaled a hill to reach the village. Around 6.30am, the CoBRAs spotted some men on the hill slope they were about to climb, followed by an armed group. “They were too far for us to see if they were Maoists.Just then an armed woman, her hair loose, emerged on the hill, confirming suspicions that they were Naxalites,“ says Kumar.

The CoBRAs were in an open patch while the Maoists had the height advantage. Kumar told his men to crawl. By then, the civilians walking ahead of the Maoists had drawn close. “When one of us shouted at them to disperse, firing began,“ says Kumar.

Unable to retaliate effectively, the CoBRAS daringly , “crawled ahead in the gunfire“. The troops fired grenade launchers and one shell killed the woman. She was later identified as Sarita, who carried a reward of Rs 3 lakh. The Maoists retreated leaving behind her body and weapons.

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