The Naxal attack that wiped out the local leadership of the Congress in Chhattisgarh is set to boil over into a major political battle,with top government sources indicating that the state had ignored express advice to shift paramilitary troops into the area ahead of the attack.
Top home ministry (MHA) officials said security measures were lacking and there was no comprehensive security plan by the state government. Alarmed by the killings,the MHA has sent a fresh set of guidelines to all Maoist violence-affected states,instructing them that no less than a SP-level officer shall issue written orders on security for political rallies and convoys.
Two days after the incident,government sources said specific intelligence was available that about 200 Naxals had moved into the Darba Ghaati area where the attack took place,but there were no troops to counter them.
They said there were paramilitary troops in the area,but had been moved a week earlier to carry out area domination exercises in another location close to where Chief Minister Raman Singh was holding his Vikas Yatra.
While that exercise was underway,intelligence inputs came in that close to 200 Naxals had moved towards Darba Ghaati. At that point,sources said,the state government was asked to push back the forces into that area as central reserve police force battalions function under directions of the state government. But that apparently did not happen.
Officials also said only 70 policemen were posted for the convoys security.
MHA officials said the Maoists central committee member Katakam Sudershan was noticed moving in the area two days before the attack and he is being seen as the mastermind of the entire operation.
The entire security plan was chalked out at the police station level in the three districts through which the convoy passed. There was no supervision at the senior level. Neither the SP nor any other senior police officer monitored the situation, said a senior MHA official.
The Centre is also of the view that senior leaders such as Mahendra Karma,Kawasi Lakhma and PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel were soft targets who faced serious threats and should have used helicopters. It has also been pointed out that all important leaders were travelling together which is against the standard security drill.
The alleged oversight and lax security arrangements,including the absence of a road opening party,are issues that will be investigated by the National Investigation Agency. The probe will also cover the delay in help reaching the spot.
It is learnt that the Chhattisgarh government was reluctant to have the NIA probe the incident,citing its decision to conduct a judicial inquiry.
However,Raman Singh was pressured to agree to a NIA probe and he eventually gave in to try and calm an extremely angry Congress.
The decision was taken after a stormy meeting in the Raj Bhavan in Raipur on Sunday where Congress president Sonia Gandhi came down strongly on the Chhattisgarh CM.
Accordingly,a team of NIA officers from Lucknow and New Delhi reached Chhattisgarh Monday. Union Home Secretary R K Singh and IB Director S A Ibrahim are also slated to visit the state Tuesday.
The Centre,on its part,is unwilling to draw any early conclusions. Official sources explained that while this was an unusual and horrendous attack,the Centre will wait for the investigations to assess all facts before arriving at any judgment.
At this point,the Centre is unwilling to even interpret this as an attack aimed at key Congress leaders in the state. The MHA said the latest attack is seen as an attempt to recapture the national media space to motivate their own cadres.