A large,angry mob allegedly comprising Chhattisgarh Special Police Officers (SPOs) and former members of the Salwa Judum,pelted the vehicle of social activist Swami Agnivesh with stones here on Saturday,abusing him and raising slogans against his frequent advocacy of the Maoist cause.
They pushed the swami around,attacked reporters who were accompanying him,and snatched and broke the camera and cellphone of this correspondent. Agnivesh,who was on his way to Chintalnar where security forces had allegedly attacked and burnt down homes of villagers earlier this month,was shaken by the attack,but not injured.
Hours after the incident,the Chhattisgarh government cracked down on the security lapse that led to the attack,transferring Senior Senior Superintendent of Police S R P Kalluri and Collector R Prasanna out of Dantewada.
SPOs are local youth recruited to assist the security forces in anti-Maoist operations. Agnivesh who was accompanied by Ajay Singh and Acharya Rishi Milind of the Art of Living,and several journalists was pulled out of the official vehicle of additional SP D S Marawi,in which he was travelling,manhandled and heckled.
The mob,which included many women,shouted,Are we animals? Dont we have human rights? Where were you when the Maoists massacred 76 security personnel last year? Where were you when they set a relief camp on fire and killed 33 people including women and children at Errabore?
They stoned vehicles,including those of the additional SP and the media accompanying Agnivesh,and chased TV reporters and cameramen. They searched vehicles,including the one carrying this correspondent,and took away laptops and other valuables,but returned everything about half an hour later.
Agniveshs team,which was carrying relief material for the victims of the alleged attack by the security forces,was forced to abandon its plans and return to Sukma. Local villagers blocked NH 30,connecting Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh,for several hours afterward,demanding that Agnivesh be thrown out of Dantewada.
I dont think this was a spontaneous attack by the villagers as is being portrayed by the police administration in Dantewada, Agnivesh told The Indian Express. Its an engineered attack on us as well as on the media. Chief Minister Raman Singh had promised adequate security,but these so called Koya commandos assaulted their own police force, he said in Sukma.
My turban saved me from suffering head injuries, Agnivesh said. Dantewada SSP S R P Kalluri will have to explain who was behind this attack,who had organized meetings there a day before,and brought youths from other places for this planned attack, he said.
The current wave of trouble in Dantewada began on March 14 after two SPOs locally known as Koya commandos and a police constable were killed in a gunbattle between Maoists and security forces. Subsequently,a contingent of SPOs and other security personnel allegedly raided Tadmetla,Morpalli and Timmapuram villages in Chintalnar,and set fire to 100-odd hutments.
More than a week later,after word of the violence got out,the police denounced the reports as Maoist propaganda. After the district administration announced an inquiry,however,SPOs blocked all roads leading to Chintalnar and warned reporters not to try to go there.
Late on Saturday evening,a government spokesman told The Indian Express,District Collector R Prasanna has been shifted to Raipur Municipal Corporation as commissioner while SSP S R P Kalluri has been posted as Deputy Inspector General of Police,Sarguja Range.
Om Prakash Choudhary,currently Commissioner of the Raipur Municipal Corporation,will be the new Collector,while Ankit Garg will be the new SSP of Dantewada.