"Gruesome attack in Chhattisgarh is an attack on democracy. Time has come to adopt policy of Zero Tolerance towards Terrorism & Naxalism."
~ Narendra Modi tweeted about the attack on Congress leaders by Maoists in Chhattisgarh, 25 May 2013 (11:37 p.m.)
25 May 2013 was a dark day for several Congress Party members’ families. According to news reports, about 27 persons were killed on the spot and 32 injured on this day, when a convoy of Congress Party leaders was travelling through the Darbha Valley in the southern part of Chhattisgarh, which is renowned for its Maoist infestation. The convoy of 25 vehicles passed through the dense forest in the Sukma district, while travelling towards Keshloor, near Jagdalpur for a rally named “Parivartan Yatra.” The attack on the Congress Party leaders not only killed senior members like Mahendra Karma and Nand Kumar Patel, but also some lower party workers, drivers, personal security officers, and accompanying villagers. The Maoist spokesperson issued a statement owning the responsibility of the attack, three days after the incident.
According to the initial forensic report of the Maoist attack incident, the entire operation was well planned – about “40 to 50 Maoists had been camping in the area near the blast site for five days before the attack.” These Maoists comprised both men and women. On the day of the journey of the Congress Party members, they set up a 27 kg to 30 kg of country-made ammonium nitrate filled ‘improvised explosive device’ (or IED) on the road, and waited on hill tops for the convoy of vehicles. As the convoy arrived at around 4:00 p.m., it was first stopped by a road blockage, while the bomb was remotely detonated. The blast “created a five-metre-deep crater” blowing up some of the vehicles. The gun carrying personal security officers of the party members fired at the Maoists to save the team, but their strength was much less than that of the attackers.
Witnesses say that the Maoists opened fired at the 200 odd people in the vehicles injuring many of them. The Anti-Naxalite Movement, Salwa Judum founder, Mahendra Karma, supposedly shouted at the Maoists asking them to stop the firing. He also introduced himself. It was then that the attackers stopped their firing and took Mahendra Karma aside, to confirm that it was him. According to statements given by commandos and shepherds who witnessed the incident, “Karma was taken from the roadside into a thicket and asked whether he wanted to put on fresh clothes or have his last meal... then a dark-complexioned woman fired a shot in his back. But he did not fall down. Another woman broke his leg with a log of wood and he collapsed. Soon, other women joined her and began stabbing his face.” The post mortem report confirms that Karma was stabbed about 78 times “with a blunt object.”
Along with Karma, the other targets for the Maoists were Pradesh Congress Committee President, Nand Kumar Patel and his son. They were also separated from the group and presumed kidnapped by the Maoists. Although, next day they were found dead. Father Patel was killed by multiple bullet wounds and son, Dinesh Patel succumbed to axe blows to his head.
During the open gun firing, Vidya Charan Shukla, a former union minister and senior leader of the Congress Party was critically injured. He was taken to a Gurgaon hospital, where he died giving in to the bullet wounds, on 11 June 2013.
Many of the Congress Party workers were let off without any violence. In his statement, the Maoist spokesperson accepted that the operation was to exact revenge from the Salwa Judum founder, Mahendra Karma, and the death of others was “unfortunate”.
News of the attack soon spread across India. Air ambulances were used to transport the injured to hospitals. Paramilitary forces were sent “to help launch a combing operation for release of abducted leaders.” Several leaders talked to the media about their shock and pain by the incident, including Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Member of Parliament Naveen Jindal, Jairam Ramesh, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others.
Next day, the prime minister announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs. 5 lakh to each family who lost their loved ones’ in the Chhattisgarh Maoist attack. President Pranab Mukherjee issued a statement criticizing the brutal incident, “Deeply dismayed at the wanton attack of the Maoists. Want to reiterate violence has no place in democratic polity. Nation will neither be overawed nor intimidated by such action.”
Along with the confirmation of the attack, the Maoist spokesperson placed their demands as well, which included stopping the “Operation Green Hunt,” stopping the yatras, removing CRPF forces from the Bastar district, punishing officials for killing innocent people in fake encounters, and releasing “fellow comrades who are innocent.”
Some of the major issues brought about in the aftermath of the Chhattisgarh attack were the lack of adequate security, and the rise of Naxalism in the “red corridor” area. The attack in being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the complete report is still pending.
Also on this day:
1886 – Rash Behari Bose, Indian freedom fighter who was the key organizer of the Ghadar Movement and Indian National Army, was born
1899 – Kazi Nazrul Islam, Indian writer, poet and revolutionary, was born
1954 – Murali, Indian National Award winning actor, was born
1972 – Karan Johar, Indian actor, director, producer, and screenwriter, was born
1983 – Kunal Khemu, Indian actor, was born
2005 – Sunil Dutt, Indian actor, director, producer, and politician, died