May 29, 2013

INDIA: Naxal Attack Convoy Carrying Members Of India's Ruling Party Killing 27; Naxals Are Maoist Communist Militants. Experts See Insider Hand In Attack.

Hindustan Times
written by Staff
Monday May 27, 2013

The death toll in Saturday’s audacious Maoist strike on a Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar division rose to 27 after bullet-riddled bodies of state party chief, his son and eight others were found on Sunday morning as reports emerged that the state was warned of a possible strike by the rebels.

The bodies of Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh and eight others, most of them securitymen, were recovered from Jiram Ghat in Sukma district of Bastar division, police said.

Former union minister VC Shukla, among the 32 injured, was airlifted to Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon earlier in the day. The 84-year-old, who suffered bullet injuries, was critical but stable.

“Maoist violence is a serious challenge to Indian democracy,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while visiting the injured in the state capital Raipur.

“I have spoken to Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh CM) and he has agreed for a probe by the NIA,” home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told PTI late on Sunday from New York.

"Maoist violence is a serious challenge to Indian democracy. The Centre and Maoist-affected states are working together on the issue," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while visiting the injured in Raipur. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was with him, said the strike was an attack on democratic values.

The massacre, which has wiped out a section of the state Congress leadership, looks to have been brought on by security lapses at multiple levels. Intelligence alerts seem to have been ignored and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) prescribed for 'Red Zone' flouted.

It was in April that the state was alerted about the presence of top Naxal leader Katakam Sudershan alias Anand, who led the strike, sources said. The police were told that Sudershan along with 100 CPI (Maoist) cadres was moving in Bijapur district.

Central agencies had warned in early April that around 250 armed Maoists were carrying out a month-long counter-tactical offensive in the Bastar area, sources said. The alert was marked to state's director general of police Ram Niwas and inspector generals of the CRPF and BSF.

The killings took place at a time when 5,000 police personnel were camping in Sukma for anti-Naxal operations. Two specific intelligence inputs about the presence of 60 Maoists in a Darbha village was sent on March 13. Darbha is in Sukma district.

While the DGP is reportedly resisting efforts to fix accountable, reports reaching home ministry indicate that no road opening parties were provided to the Congress leaders despite Maoist threat to Mahendra Karma, the founder of the anti-Maoist force Salwa Judum, and Patel.

The Congress leaders and workers were not briefed about the SOPs, reports said. "Do you expect a politician to remain well-versed with the SOPs. Who is to be blamed if not the district administration and the security forces if the Naxals easily found their target," an expert on jungle warfare said on condition of anonymity. The convoy should have avoided the same route while returning and should have moved in small groups.

Karma and ex-MLA Uday Mudliyar were among those killed on the spot when around 600 armed Naxals ambushed the convoy at around 3.35 pm on Saturday in Jiram Ghat area, some 40 km from Jagdalpur.

The Congress leaders were returning to Jagdalpur from a rally in Sukma as part of the party's state-wide Parivartan Rally in the run-up to the assembly polls due in October.

Hindustan Times
written by Ejaz Kaiser and Sanjib Kr Baruah
Tuesday May 28, 2013

As the debate rages over the alleged security lapses leading up to the Bastar massacre, the "almost perfect Maoist operation", say intelligence officials, couldn't have been possible without "inside information".

The "selective killings" of state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son, Dinesh, too, have raised many questions.

Patel was among the 27 people killed when a Congress convoy was ambushed in Sukma district of Bastar division on May 25.

"As soon as the Maoists descended from the plateau, they had one question: 'where is Nand Kumar Patel?'" said officials familiar with the events.

The road where the attack was staged cuts through dense forests.

"On both sides of the road for at least 50km there is nothing but thick jungle with no known human habitation," said a senior police officer serving in the area for several years now.

The operation could only have been possible with precise information which only an insider could have provided, security and intelligence officials say.

Brig BK Ponwar, a guerilla warfare expert, wondered why the Congress convoy took the same route back.

"The person who asked them to follow the same route should be questioned," he said.

The convoy was to take another route - via Dantewada - on way back to Jagdalpur from Sukma but at the last moment the decision was changed.

The rebels spared Kawasi Lakma, a Congress MLA, who was in the same vehicle as Patel but took the PCC chief - who was not on their 'hit-list' - and his son almost half a kilometer away from the spot after identifying them. They tied up their hands and shot them dead.

"Why should they even kill his son and that too in a manner quite unusual to theirs," an expert on Maoist strategy and affairs said on condition of anonymity.

It appeared to be a motivated action as Maoists typically don't go for selective killings during an ambush, said a senior officer who has worked in Bastar.

Sources told HT that the National Investigation Agency team, which reached Bastar on Monday, was also probing the conspiracy angle.

State Congress general secretary Bhupesh Baghel dismissed the "conspiracy theories" and said "Raman Singh (chief minister) got them killed".

Why would a ruling party risk its prospects in an election year by getting involved in such attack, a senior BJP leader countered.

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