Over 12 hours after Chhattisgarh PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel was reported missing with his son Dinesh following a Maoist attack on the border of Bastar-Sukma districts,their bodies were recovered around 8 am Sunday from a wooded area a few meters off the spot.
They were with a group of seven persons,including Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma. While Maoists let the remaining five go after holding them hostage for nearly 90 minutes,the father and the son were shot dead. While the police search operations failed,local reporters located their bodies.
Sixteen other bodies,including that of Salwa Judum founder Mahendra Karma,were recovered Saturday night. Apart from 12 Congress leaders,eight policemen and two labourers who were in a truck that was caught in the ambush were killed. Two of the deceased were drivers of Congress leaders. A heavy contingent of security forces has now surrounded the Darbha area and search operations are on as some persons are still believed to be missing. Around 200 Maoists are believed to have been part of the attack.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who visited Chhattisgarh along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi,is said to have expressed displeasure at the security failure. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told PTI from New York that Chief Minister Raman Singh had agreed to an NIA probe into the attack.
At an informal meeting with top functionaries including the CM,Governor Shekhar Dutt,DGP Ramniwas and Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar,also attended by Sonia and Congress vice-president Rahul,the PM is said to have taken strong exception to the entire incident. How did this incident take place? he is said to have repeatedly asked the CM and others. His questions were met with complete silence,said sources.
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Apart from Nand Kumar Patel,his son and Karma,ex-MLA Uday Mudaliar and other local leaders were among the Congressmen killed. All the deceased were residents of Chhattisgarh. Karma will be cremated in Dantewada on Monday.
Patels body was brought to the Congress Bhavan in Raipur on Sunday,before being taken to his native village in Raipur district. The PM and Sonia addressed partymen at the bhavan while paying tributes to Patel. This is an attack on democracy. Our party is a party of those who sacrificed their lives…we must keep patience, said Sonia. The PM said Naxalism had to be fought jointly.
Sonia,Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the CM also visited Patels family in Raipur and expressed condolences. The PM and Sonia also visited Ramkrishna Mission Hospital where injured party leaders are admitted.
Senior Congress leaders Bhupesh Baghel and T S Sinhadev told Rahul about the security lapses that,they said,had led to the attack. Sinhadev was part of the yatra that came under attack Saturday. Patels relatives have demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident.
Rahul confronted Raman Singh with Sinhadevs claims. The CM was present along with Rahul when Patels body was brought to Raipur. According to sources,when Singh said that it was wrong to blame security lapses,Rahul immediately called Sinhadev to tell him what had happened. The CM was reportedly left speechless.
Union Minister of State for Home R P N Singh also visited Raipur and termed the incident a major security failure,though adding that we do not want to give it a political colour.
V C Shukla was airlifted to New Delhi Sunday morning. He received three bullets and was operated upon by Jagdalpur doctors Saturday night. The rest of the injured too have been shifted from Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur to Raipur.
Raman Singh,who also visited injured Congress MLA Kawasi Lakhma in the Jagdalpur hospital,promised a proper inquiry. He has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the relatives of every deceased and Rs 2 lakh for injureds families. We need to strengthen our intelligence network and constantly change strategies in Maoist area, he said.
The incident has sparked outrage in the state Congress. Partymen took to roads,blocked roads,burnt effigies of the CM,attacked BJP offices and forced a complete bandh in many cities.
The Congress will hold a prayer meeting on Monday at its Delhi headquarters for its leaders and workers killed in the Naxal attack. The meeting will be attended by Sonia,Rahul and other senior leaders and Union ministers.