In the third Maoist attack in less than two weeks, five persons — a CISF head constable and four civilians — were killed when their bus was hit by an IED blast in Bacheli, in Dantewada, on Thursday. Senior police officers said the private bus had been requisitioned by the state government for the elections in Bastar, which goes to polls on November 12.
According to police, around Thursday noon, eight persons, including four CISF personnel, took the bus from the Bacheli hills, where the NMDC mines, as well as CISF camps, are located, to go to town to buy supplies.
While one CISF sub-inspector stayed back in Bacheli town, the bus returned with seven occupants. Near turn number 6, about an 8-km ascent from Bacheli, an IED exploded under the bus. While five persons were killed in the attack, two CISF men were injured.
The victims have been identified as CISF head constable D Mukhyopadhyay, bus driver Ramesh Patkar, his helper Roshan Kumar Sahu, Sushil Banjare, a truck driver, and Johan Nayak, his helper. The injured CISF personnel have been identified as Satish Pathare and Suresh Pishal. Both have been airlifted to Raipur, and are reported to be out of danger.
The Bacheli hills are controlled and operated by NMDC, which has an iron ore mine atop the hills in a complex that is routinely protected by the CISF.
The Indian Express went to the site of the blast less than an hour-and-a-half after the attack. A culvert on one of the steep curves of the road had been uprooted, and the front portion of the bus, which overturned on impact, was completely destroyed. Sources said at least two bodies were flung into the trees on the hills.
Investigators at the site said preliminary findings suggested that the Maoists used the dense cover of trees to wait for the bus, and then triggered the IED.
Senior district administration officials said since an additional 20 CISF companies have arrived in the district for the elections, private vehicles have been requisitioned. “Many of these buses are parked on top of the hill in Akashnagar,” said an official. “The CISF personnel wanted to buy supplies, so they took the bus. Another truck driver and his helper, whose vehicle was also parked in Akashnagar, went along to buy some daily supplies,” said the official.
Inspector General of Police (Bastar) Vivekanand Sinha told reporters that the district police had advised CISF officers against establishing a pattern by using the buses. “We had told them that they were using the bus for routine purposes, and there was a predictability. The Maoists may have taken advantage of this predictability,” he said, adding that Maoists were trying to affect the morale of security personnel because of the advances made by the state in the district.
On October 30, three men, including a Doordarshan cameraman, were killed in a Maoist attack in Neelavaya in Dantewada. On October 27, four CRPF personnel were killed in an IED blast in Bijapur district.