ROURKELA: The encounter killing of two cadres of Jharkhand-based criminal outfit People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) by Rourkela police on Saturday may have dealt a blow to the outfit in Sundargarh, but the PLFI menace seems far from over.
The PLFI, which operates on ‘franchise’ mode, in all likelihood would recruit new local cadres to continue its extortion and other criminal activities on Odisha-Jharkhand border.
However, sources said it is a good sign for Sundargarh that Jharkhand police changed its strategy towards PLFI over the past six months and is continuing crackdowns on the outfit. The arrest of top PLFI leaders Barud Gope and Hira Singh in Jharkhand and a few encounter killings by Rourkela police had weakened the outfit to some extent.
Sources said the PLFI, formed by a group of runaway Maoists, has a strong presence in 10 districts of Jharkhand including Simdega, Gumla, Lohardega, Khunti and Ranchi. It is the second largest outfit banned in Jharkhand after the outlawed Maoists.
A senior police officer of Rourkela police district admitted that crackdown on PLFI in Simdega and West Singhbhum districts in Jharkhand has weakened the outfit in Sundargarh.
In fact, over the past six years, PLFI had spread its tentacles in areas under Bisra police station limits which shares border with West Singhbhum.
In recent years, they have expanded base to Chandiposh and Gurundia areas under Rourkela Police District. Moreover, areas under Hathibari, Birmitrapur, Raiboga, Rajgangpur and Bargaon police limits under Sundargarh police district sharing border with Simdega are also in the grip of PLFI.
In 2011, Rourkela police had killed a PLFI member and arrested five others besides seizing arms after raiding a forest in Jharkhand. This was followed by an encounter killing of zonal commander Jaidhar Gope by Rourkela police in April 2014. The latest blow came on Saturday with the killing of Shankar Munda and his aide Bhima Munda in Jarda forest.
IGP (Western Range) RK Sharma claimed Shankar, a notorious criminal, had joined PLFI eight months ago and was involved in extortions in interior pockets of Gurundia, Rajgangpur and Brahmani Tarang police limits.He said increased offensive by the police has put the PLFI on the backfoot.
Meanwhile, sources said PLFI leader Mahesh Singh is still active in Simdega and Sundargarh, while leader Akash Singh, operating in West Singhbhum, has developed differences with the PLFI.