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‘Mentor & first leader’ of SPOs killed in Maoist attack

Police fight Naxals around Chhattisgarh thana where body is kept

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Raipur | Published: February 10, 2012 3:29:19 am

One of Chhattisgarh’s most effective and successful anti-Naxal fighters,described by the police as the “mentor and first commander of SPOs”,was killed in an ambush by Maoists in Sukma district this evening.

Hours later,Maoists attacked Dornapal police station,where 30-year-old Kartam Surya’s body lay. Heavy gunfire was reported at around 11 pm from the centre of the town,and the firing was ongoing at press time.

“The Naxals have attacked the thana and adjoining areas and are firing continuously. They are at a distance of 400-500 m now. We have held our positions and returned fire,” Dornapal subdivisional police officer Jaiprakash Badhai told The Indian Express.

Sources in Dornapal said over the phone that the insurgents had reached the middle of the town.

Kartam,a former special police officer (SPO) or Koya Commando who was inducted into the regular police force after the Supreme Court outlawed SPOs,was killed in the thick jungles near Morgunda village some 60 km from Raipur in Sukma district,recently carved out of Dantewada.

Police driver Surya Prakash Sonwani died with Kartam,and four others including ASP D S Maravi were injured.

“They were returning from Polampalli to Dornapal. It is not yet known why they went to Polampalli. It’s a matter of inquiry,” DGP Anil M Navaney told The Indian Express. Polampalli is a Maoist stronghold.

Kartam grew up in the state’s biggest Salwa Judum camp in Dornapal — located across the road from the police station where some 250 policemen were engaging the Naxals late on Thursday night — and went on to become a formidable contributor to anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh.

“We have lost our best man… I am not in a position to say anything. No one can. His body has just arrived. Thodi der baad phone karenge,please,” Dornapal thana in-charge R D Kurre said over the phone at around 10 pm. He sounded distressed,and could not be reached thereafter.

ADG (Naxal) Ramnivas said,“Kartam was one of our best policemen. Naxals feared him.” Sukma SP Abhishek Shandilya said Kartam “mentored and became the first leader of SPOs”.

Kartam was very young when he joined Salwa Judum,Chhattisgarh’s state-backed anti-Maoist militia,and grew up to become an SPO who was vastly knowledgeable about Naxal movements and hideouts. He rose to become a group leader of the Koya Commandos before being made a part of the regular police force.

A photograph on Kartam’s Orkut page showed him with a gun on his shoulder,with the caption “Surya Comondo: Jai Hind,Jai Chhatishgar”. He is survived by his wife Kartam Pushpa,who is sarpanch of his native Misma village in Sukma,and a child.

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