A day after BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi was killed, along with his driver and three personal security officers of Chhattisgarh Police, on the last day campaigning in an IED blast planted by Maoists, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Tuesday blamed the current Congress regime in the state and said that the government has “lost control” in just 100 days.
Emerging from the courtyard of Mandavi’s home in Gadapal, a village 20 km from the district headquarters, Singh condoled with the family and went on to attack the Congress government under Bhupesh Baghel.
“I am travelling around in Bastar, and the villagers tell me that Maoists are saying their government has now come. In a hundred days, the Congress has lost control. I had said that there needs to be an investigation because the only BJP MLA in Bastar has been assassinated, which points to a conspiracy.”
Singh also said, “(Congress leader) Raj Babbar had said during his Chhattisgarh campaign that the Maoists were ‘bhatke hue krantikaari (revolutionaries who have lost their way)’. Maybe he should come here and look at their revolution.”
Besides Singh, many people standing on the road in, and on way to, the village spoke on similar lines among themselves on Wednesday. Many of them were involved in the government and security apparatus in Dantewada. Some asked how anyone from the immediate area would have the courage step out and vote.
While some people cursed the Maoists, many others were critical of both the Congress government’s performance in Bastar and the administration’s response to Tuesday’s attack. A senior paramilitary official said, “Since this (Congress) government has come, they have been confused with their approach to Maoism. They say they want to talk to stakeholders, but there doesn’t appear to be a plan. The DGP is three years junior to the DGP-Anti-Naxal Operations, which means there isn’t a chain of command. The forces are not patrolling as they used to, which means Maoists are emboldened.”
The paramilitary official also said, “They (government) may not support Maoists but even the absence of a plan hurts, and can cause irreparable damage. The best officers, SPs (superintendents of police) and Collectors have been posted out, and those in place do not seem to have the wherewithal to deal with the problem.”
Pointing at the administration;’s response, another government official said, “They said Bhima Mandavi was told by a thana in-charge to not use the route. Does that mean the police have no responsibility? The police station is less than 2 km away. Could they not sanitise the road? The problem may have been Mandavi’s refusal to listen to the policeman’s advice, but the real problem is that 2 km from Nakulnar town, you don’t even have enough control to stop an IED from being planted, or from being triggered.”
Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, as Mandavi’s body was brought back to the village, every woman in the village sang the dirge – like women of his family had done on Tuesday night outside Dantewada hospital. This time, the song louder, a deep, painful hum. Both hands on head, they hugged, the hum a constant. The words to the song of melancholy were not constant, as they never are.
“This is what happens when there is a death in a Gond adivasi family. As the women grieve, they cry, and they sing. They extol the virtues of the departed. This is our culture,” a villager said.
Earlier in the day, at Dantewada district headquarters, a glass casket containing Mandavi’s body was kept at the BJP headquarters, where people paid their last respects. By 10 am, the body was taken to the Police Lines ground for a wreath laying ceremony. Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel paid his respects, as the coffins of all five – driver Danteshwar Mourya, and Constables Chagan Kuldeep, Ramlal Uyami and Somdu Kawasi – came, wrapped in the Tricolour.
Baghel thereafter held a high-powered meeting in Dantewada to review the security situation.