Anti-Maoist Salwa Judum movement’s founder Mahendra Karma was the prime target of the insurgents when they attacked the Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region during Saturday’s ambush and the rebels danced before they riddled him with bullets, a survivor said yesterday.
As the insurgents went about shooting two to four bullets into the occupants of the vehicles after they ambushed the convoy at Darbha Ghati, 35-km from Sukma, they started dancing when Karma identified himself and then sprayed him with bullets, said the shaken survivor.
As Karma fell, the insurgents stabbed his head with a bayonet. Similarly, the insurgents inquired about Leader of Opposition Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh, and after finding them, took them hostage about 100 metres into the woods before shooting both of them dead.
The insurgents, it was learnt, made all the gunmen of the leaders lie on the ground and shot them in their legs one by one and asked them to run away after taking away their weapons.
Death toll rises
The toll in the attack by Maoist insurgents on the Congress convoy is close to 30, an official said yesterday. Initial reports based on body count on Saturday night said that at least 16 people were killed and 25 others were injured when the Maoists carried out the daring ambush.
While a list of the dead and injured has been collected from various hospitals, search operations continue to find out if there are more bodies lying in the forested area, or if people have been taken hostage by the insurgents, a police official in the know of the combing operations said.
PM Manmohan Singh yesterday asserted that the Maoist attack on Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh will not weaken resolve to combat extremism as he and party chief Sonia Gandhi met the injured and families of the dead, which included two senior leaders. Both the prime minister and the Congress chief visited the hospital here where the injured have been admitted, and interacted with members of victims' families.
They also attended a condolence meeting at the party office in the Congress Bhawan here and spoke to party workers. Speaking at the meet, the prime minister said that such incidents will not weaken the country’s resolve to fight violence with firmness. “We have to be more determined in fighting Naxal (Maoist) extremism. These lives should not go in vain. We will pursue the perpetrators of this crime with urgency, and I can assure the nation that the government is committed to bringing them to justice,” he said.
“Those who commit such dastardly crimes are working against the interests of peace and development in the area,” he added. The PM announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to the families of those who have lost their lives and Rs 50,000 to those injured.
Calling it a “cowardly act” on the part of Maoists, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the strike was not an attack on the Congress or its leaders, but an attack on democratic values. “This is a cowardly act. It is not an attack on Congress or its leaders but an attack on democratic values,” Sonia said. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who arrived in Raipur in the wake of the ambush, also expressed shock over the attack.
BJP, Left condemns
Terming the ambush “one of the most audacious” attacks, the BJP and CPI-M called upon everyone, especially political parties, to “come together” to combat the “politics of violence and terror.”