Rebel Maoists on Sunday in Raipur, India, killed State Congress member Karma and then danced on his bullet-riddled body. It was just one more example of the extremes that the Maoists went to in their latest attack, this one aimed at State Congress leaders.
The majority of the dead and injured were Congress leaders and workers. Four to five of those killed in the attack were personal security officers of the Congress leaders.
“We were terrified and shocked to see the Maoists singing and dancing after killing Karma,” Sattar Ali, a Congress leader from Konta in Sukma district, said on Sunday.
“Karma raised his arms, surrendered before the Maoists and appealed to them not to kill any Congress workers. They dragged him a few metres and indiscriminately pumped bullets into him,” Ali continued.
The attackers, according to a PTI report, numbered about 100-150. The Maoist rebels peppered Karma’s body with bullets.
Another survivor, Dr Shiv Narayan, said, “The Maoists did not harm me when I told them I was a doctor. After killing Karma, they rejoiced as if they had achieved something priceless.”
Karma had been on the rebels’ hit list for some time. He had been at the forefront of Salwa Judum, an anti-Naxal drive, and was the home minister in the state. Karma last represented the Congress in the Chhattisgarh assembly as the opposition leader.
Nearly twenty vehicles in the convoy were attacked by the suspected rebels as it passed through the Darbha valley. The Congress politicians were returning from a rally organised as part of the Congress party’s Parivartan Yatra. The people of Chhattisgarh hold elections later this year.
Triggering a powerful blast with a landmine, the suspected Maoist rebels blew up the second vehicle of the convoy. They then opened fire on the politicians and others who were in the convey, killing as many as they could. The gunfight lasted an entire hour, at least 27 people were killed while several others were wounded, according to MA Ganpathy, who is the Joint Secretary in the Union home ministry in New Delhi.
The attack occurred around 4 p.m. Security forces could not get to the area until after 9 p.m.
The few survivors were aided by locals and some reporters in reaching Darbha police station on Saturday. then, they were transported to Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur by ambulance.
The death toll in Chhattisgarh rose to 27 after the bullet-riddled bodies of state party chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh and eight others were found on Sunday.
The bodies were discovered lying in the forested Jiram valley of Bastar region. According to the police, that is located about a kilometer away from the spot where the rebels had ambushed the convoy around 5pm on Saturday.
Other politicians among the dead included State Congress leaders Mahendra Karma and Uday Mudliyar. They were gunned down even as they tried to surrender. Another person who was critically injured was party veteran and former Union minister Vidya Charan Shukla. He was also part of the convoy returning from a pre-election rally.
Shukla was airlifted to New Delhi late at night and admitted to Gurgaon’s Medanta hospital.
According to Chhattisgarh DGP Ram Niwas, 32 people were injured in the attack. Seventeen bodies were brought by the police brought to the Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur during the early hours of Sunday. Rescue operations were hindered by a heavy downpour since morning.
The ambush was described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a “dastardly attack.” There had been a relative lull of more than a year of Maoist violence. Their attack on the convoy, many speculate, could mark a possible attempt by the rebels to stage a new offensive.
Prime Minister Singh ordered the home ministry to send out more than 600 paramilitary personnel. These included elite CoBRA anti-Maoist commandos. Their mission was to sanitize and take control of the site of Saturday’s attack.
“I have spoken to the chief minister of the state and urged him to provide all possible assistance to those who have been injured and to ensure the security and safety of those who have been abducted,” said Singh.
Large parts of Chhattisgarh are under the control of the extremists and it is among the state worst-affected by Maoist violence.
In 2012, the state of Chhattisgarh accounted for half of all Maoist attacks on police personnel in the Red Corridor. The Red Corridor includes Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and several parts of Bihar.
Written by: Douglas Cobb