Maoist Attack on Congress Party Leaves 30 Dead

RAIPUR: Naxals on Saturday wiped out almost the entire state Congress leadership when they launched a daring attack on a party convoy at Dharbha Ghati Valley in southern Chhattisgarh's Sukma district in the restive Bastar on Saturday evening.  Late night reports put the death toll close to 30, an official said Sunday.

Three Congress leaders, including Mahendra Karma and state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel were killed in the attack.

Karma was on the Naxal hitlist and was the founder of the anti-Maoist tribal force the Salwa Judum. Karma was the main target and sources said that he was shot in cold blood dozens of times.

Initial reports based on body count Saturday night said that at least 28 people were killed and 20 others were injured when the Maoists carried out a daring ambush of the Congress convoy in the forested area 35 km from Sukma. Some of those in the Congress convoy enjoyed the Z category security.

While a list of the dead and injured has been collected from various hospitals, search operations continue to find out if there are more bodies lying in the forested area, or if people have been taken hostage by the insurgents, a police official in the know of the combing operations said.

Listed among the dead are: Leader of Opposition in the Chhattisgarh assembly Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh Patel, former leader of opposition Mahendra Karma, Chhattisgarh Congress president Uday Mudaliyar, former MLA from Rajnandgaon Gopichand Madhwani, Manoj Kumar, Chandrabhan Dhruv, Rajesh Chandrakar, Yogesh Sharma, Alladhoor, Emanual Kerketta, R. Ashok Kumar, Praful Shukla, Abhishek Golcha and Ganpat Nag.

Among those injured in the attack are former union minister Vidya Charan Shukla, Konta MLA Kawasi Lakhma, former Keshkal MLA Phulo Devi Netam, former MLA from Dhamtari Harshad Mehta, Shivnarayan Dwivedi, Malkeet Singh, Satar Ali, Nikhil Dwivedi, Rajiv Narang, Choleshwar Chandrakar, Anna Singh, Abdul Majid Khan, Oyi Ram, Ram Avatar, Rajesh Mishra, Chandra Shekhar Yadav, Rehan Khan, Surendra Sharma and Chandrabhan Jhadi.

Who are the Maoists?

The strengths, weaknesses and threats of the Naxalites

200

The number of districts across India in which Maoists and affiliated groups are active.

8,000

The number of people who have died in the fight for communist rule in India since 1967

Beginnings

The Maoist insurgency in India has its roots in a 1967 rural uprising in Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal, and in a simultaneous series of splits in the powerful Indian Communist party. By the early 1970s the Indian state had crushed the first wave of agitation, led largely by university educated urbanites. But violence has surged again with the unification of two extremist factions, the People’s War Group, and the Maoist Communist Centre, which formed the Communist party of India (Maoist) in 2004.

Aims

The aim of the movement, according to Indian government officials, is the overthrow of the Indian state through a protracted armed campaign lasting many decades. The Maoists’ own literature says their targets include “eco-imperialist exploitation” by multinational companies, and the “social oppression” of India’s caste system. Many of the Maoists’ recruits are from India’s marginalised tribal communities who have gained nothing from their country’s recent economic growth. The group’s leaders are largely educated and have urban backgrounds.

Strongholds

From their stronghold in the southern districts of the state of Chhattisgarh, the Maoists have been trying to expand operations into West Bengal. In all, there are believed to be several thousand hardcore Maoist fighters and many tens of thousands of active supporters. Most weapons are stolen from security forces or made in basic workshops. Some are bought on the black market. They are strongest in rural areas where security forces are isolated or are thin on the ground.

Threats

Though the insurgents appear not to be a strategic threat to such a large country, their activity worries investors and advertises India’s deep inequalities. The Maoists have won the sympathy of many leading Indian intellectuals, including the writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who have been accused of ignoring the more unsavoury aspects of the Maoist campaigns, such as the kangaroo courts, killings of alleged “informers”, and the civilian casualties. Critics also say the Maoists do not physically attack the businesses they accuse of unfairly exploiting mineral resources but extort money from them instead.

‘The Red Corridor’

India’s Maoists have asserted control over vast swathes of land in central and eastern India, establishing a so-called “red corridor”. This spans the states of Jharkand, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh and also reaches into Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

The leader

The Maoists’ military leader is Koteshwar Rao, otherwise known as Kishenji. He reportedly suffered temporary paralysis in June 2010 when a police bullet hit him in the knee. Normally a regular communicator with the press, Kishenji was little heard of until January 2011 when he issued a statement saying he expected India to succumb to a Maoist revolution by 2025.

—Sources: IANS, Guardian News & Media, BBC, DPA

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