Deadly Maoist attack in naxal-affected Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday led to the killing of two policemen and a cameraperson of Doordarshan. Two naxals were also believed to be killed in retaliatory action by the security forces after the ambush in a forest area near Nilawaya village, around 450 kms from here, the police said.
According to Deputy Inspector General (anti-naxal operations) Sundarraj P, the incident occurred at around 11 am while a squad of local police was patrolling on motor cycles from Sameli camp towards Nilawaya.
A three-member team of Doordarshan was travelling for election-related news coverage at the same time and was caught in the cross-fire, he said, adding Sub Inspector Rudra Pratap Singh, Assistant Constable Mangalu and D News Cameraman Achyutanand Sahu were killed in the attack.
Other two members of the DD team, including a journalist, were safe, the police officer said.
Constable Vishnu Netam and Assistant Constable Rakesh Kaushal sustained injuries in the gunfight, he added.
The area which came under attack was to vote for the first time as it has traditionally been naxal-affected, some reports suggested. There was however, no official confirmation.
According to DM Awashti, Special Director General (anti-naxal operations), exchange of fire between the security forces and Maoists continued for nearly an hour.
The naxals then retreated into a village, with the security forces chased them, he said.
The security forces saw two people being dragged away by the maoists, which indicated that they were killed in the retaliatory action.
Nearly 10 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which were later defused were recovered by the security forces after the gunfight, Awasthi said.
He claimed the attack was not linked to the upcoming Assembly elections but was aimed at discouraging men and contractors working on a road construction project.
"I would like to clarify once again that these two incidents -- one which took place this morning and another which took place three days back -- do not have any direct or indirect conection with the ensuing elections in the state," Awasthi said.
Road construction work is underway at several places across the naxal-affected areas over the last three years and this attack was aimed at thwarting the workers and contractors, he said.
Colleagues of Sahu, who was employed with DD News on contractual basis, wore black bands at work, even on air, to condemn the attack by Naxals.
Political parties condemn attack
The incident was condemned by political parties across the spectrum, with The Editors Guild of India urging law enforcement agencies in the state to provide necessary security to media professionals, particularly when they are covering elections.
The Congress party launched an attack on the Raman Singh-government in the state and termed it as ‘incompetent and worthless.’
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said the government has taken the attack very seriously.
"The government has taken the incident very seriously. In the attack, one cameraman of Doordarshan and two policemen were killed. It was a very unfortunate and condemnable incident. I express my deep condolences to the families of the bereaved," Singh said while talking to reporters in Delhi.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore announced financial assistance of Rs 15 lakh to the next of kin of Sahu.
He condemned the attack and said the insurgents won’t be able to weaken the government resolve.
Chhattisgarh goes to polls in two-phases. While naxals have given a boycott call for the elections, voting is scheduled in the area for November 12 in the first phase of the state assembly polls.
The second phase of polling will be witnessed on November 20.
The counting of votes will take place on December 11.