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‘Conspiracy,unusual method’ seen in PCC president’s killing

Mukesh Gupta,believes Patel and his son Dinesh were “singled out”

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Raipur | Published: May 28, 2013 2:52:30 am

A union minister of state from Chhattisgarh Monday alleged that there was a “political conspiracy” behind the killing of state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel in the Maoist attack in Bastar,while one top police officer said the targeting of Patel was unusual going by the pattern of attacks by the extremists.

The officer,additional director general of police (intelligence) Mukesh Gupta,believes Patel and his son Dinesh were “singled out” and said the bloodbath was not a “typical Maoist attack” even as a six-member team of NIA officers landed in the state Monday to probe the incident.

“What has come to us is that they singled out Patel,tied his hands,took him inside the forests and killed him. They adopted the same method with his son,” Gupta told The Indian Express.

“Like Mahendra Karma,Patel was not a proclaimed target of Maoists. In the past also,Patel was not known to have taken any offensive posture against Maoists. Why they killed him or his son is not clear. These intriguing points need to be probed,” he said.

While Karma was on the hit-list of the extremists,the manner in which Patel and his son were killed is being seen as unusual. Although Maoists have in the past targeted top politicians such as then West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu,Saturday was the first time they hit a huge political convoy.

While 21 people were killed in random firing,Saturday’s attackers confirmed the identities of Karma,Patel and Dinesh from the three of them as well as others around them before killing them.

“This is not a usual Maoist attack. They open indiscriminate fire only at security forces,but here politicians,even some labourers were killed recklessly,” Gupta added.

Alluding to these doubts,Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing,Charan Das Mahant,termed the attack a “political conspiracy”.

A section of Congressmen have gone as far as claiming that the date and journey map of the Parivartan Yatra targeted Saturday was changed to suit those who stand to benefit from the Patel’s death.

In the two years since he became PCC chief in 2011,Patel had been able to reorganise the party and was expected to pose a tough challenge to CM Raman Singh in Assembly elections due later this year. He was also considered to have a strong chance of becoming chief minister if the Congress came to power.

While the yatra date was changed,the route was not,other Congress leaders said. The route map was given,in writing,by Congress office bearers in Sukma and Bastar to district authorities and the yatra followed the same route. Saturday’s rally was held in Sukma and the leaders were on their way to Bastar when the assault took place near Darbha Ghaati,a serpentine road surrounded by hilly forests.

The Indian Express spoke to several leaders involved in the yatra and found that the dates were rescheduled as Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma wanted former CM Ajit Jogi to attend the Sukma rally. Lakhma was in the same vehicle as Patel and Dinesh. The Maoists held the trio and four others hostages for nearly 90 minutes before releasing everyone except Patel and his son.

Lakhma and Jogi rubbished the attempt to create suspicion around the rescheduling.

“This is absolute nonsense. Dates are often rescheduled in such campaigns,and were changed on several occasions during the yatra. Even the Vikas Yatra (launched by Raman Singh) dates were rescheduled. This is a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation and divert attention from this great tragedy that has befallen us. It is shameful,” said T S Sinhadev,the Surguja MLA who is in charge of the Parivartan Yatra.

Raman Singh also called for calm. “This incident is shameful for us. There was a security lapse. But let us not politicise the issue. This is not the time to blame each other. NIA probe is on. Why it happened,how it happened,will come out in the investigation,” he said.

The state police believes that the NIA,which met top state police officers and visited the injured in hospital,has a tough task in probing the attack. Officers said the manner and execution of the attack indicated intense planning by the Maoists. They also pointed out that the Darbha thana and CRPF camp were less than 10 km away on a national highway and help could have reached in 10 minutes.

However,the attack continued for some 90 minutes. while the police have claimed they reached within 90 minutes,eyewitnesses and local reporters claimed that the police arrived after four reporters.

Also,the Maoists did not fire and flee. After opening fire from elevated spots,they came down,surrounded around 20 vehicles in the convoy,looked inside,even administered medicines and injections to some,gave water to others,including Lakhma,and then killed Karma,Patel and Dinesh,before letting the others go.

They were at the site for 90 minutes and left unhurt while the police were a 10-minute drive away.

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