The Congress party has scripted a stunning victory in the Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections. The party’s remarkable victory is a good time perhaps to revisit the Naxal attack that wiped out its entire state leadership.
In May 2013, around 250 Naxals descended upon a convoy carrying senior leaders of the Congress party and slaughtered 27 people in cold blood. It is believed that the Congress party was warned of a possible attack earlier. The attack was part of the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) launched by the Maoists. 30 kilograms of explosives are believed to have been employed by the Naxals to carry out the attack. The Naxalites stopped the convoy after triggering a blast and shouted the names of the people in their hit list.
Former Home Minister of Chhattisgarh, Mahendra Karma, was one of the people in the hit list. It is said that he pleaded with the Naxals to take him but let others go before he was murdered. Karma was also the architect of the Salwa Judum, a people’s movement against Naxalism.
Naxals ambushed the convoy at Jarim Ghat, which is near to Jagdalpur, headquarters of Bastar district. Those unaware, Bastar is a Naxal infested area and has been fighting a war against Naxalism for years. The attack, meticulously planned, had the advantage of an element of surprise.
Apart from Karma, former Congress MLA, Rajnandgaon Udya Mudaliyar, was also shot dead and several other Congress leaders were critically injured. Several Congress activists were also believed to have lost their lives. State party chief Nand Kumar Patel also lost his life. Chief Minister Raman Singh had expressed his shock and grief on the death of Mudaliyar and other politicians. “Udai was my family friend. His sudden demise is a shocker for me”, Singh had said while consoling the family of the deceased. He also said that he had lost a brother as well referring to the late Mudaliyar.
The attack also triggered a spate of conspiracy theories. The Congress party had then alleged that unlike previous occasions, there wasn’t any security cover on the day the attack occurred. “Security lapses could have taken place,” the then junior Union home minister R.P.N. Singh said in Delhi while announcing an NIA probe into the matter.
According to eyewitnesses, at least one person died with his own bullet. Former Union minister V C Shukla’s Personal Security Officer, Prafulla Shukla, used the last bullet he had left after the attack to shoot himself dead. “Sorry sahab, I could not protect you,” are believed to have been his last words.
The Congress’ response to the attack was mixed. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde called for joint operations in all Naxal affected areas following the attack and dubbed it an act ‘bigger than terrorism’. “Whatever the ideology may be, we cannot agree to an ideology where one human being kills another human being”, he had said.
Congress Tribal Affairs Minister KC Deo, on the other hand, asserted that there was no point in calling Naxals terrorists. “Calling them terrorists… is it going to help or improve the situation? You can use different terms but ultimately you have to get at the root of the problem… we have to preempt such happenings in the future and also take the path of development and empower the people,” Deo stated.
Later in September that year, in a joint operation by a team of Special Operations Group (SOG) and District Voluntary Force (DVF) in Odisha’s Malkangiri district, at least 14 Naxals were killed. The same Naxals were suspected to have been involved in the attack on the Congress convoy.
The Congress party has come a long way since then and in their victory, perhaps, they will accord the Modi government its full support in wiping out the Naxal menace.