DD cameraman, two policemen killed in Maoist attack

Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), Oct 30 : Two weeks before the Maoist bastions of Chhattisgarh go to the polls in the first phase of Assembly elections, Maoists ambushed here a police party on Tuesday killing two policemen and Doordarshan cameraman Achyuta Nanda Sahu.

A top police official said the attack was an attempt to threaten road construction going on in the area.

Two other policemen and a journalist were injured in the ambush, the second in the last four days. It took place around 11.20 a.m. when a Doordarshan crew was moving with a police patrol in Aranpur area, Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Sundarraj told the media.

“Two police personnel died on the spot while the cameraman, who suffered grievous injuries, later succumbed to his injuries,” said the officer.

He added that all of them were moving from Aranpur police station to Nilaway village in vehicles when they were attacked.

Sahu, 34, hailed from Loisinga in Odisha’s Bolangir district. The slain police personnel were identified as Constable Mangal Ram and Assistant Sub-Inspector Rudra Pratap Singh. The injured police personnel are Vishnu Netam and Rakesh Kaushal.

Doordarshan correspondent Dheeraj, who survived the attack, said: “Cameraman Sahu was in a separate car 50 metres ahead when they were fired at. As shots were fired at me, I fell into a pit and for 45 minutes heard many rounds of bullets being fired and grenades exploding.”

The official said an inquiry has been ordered to find out how the attack took place. He accused the Maoists of attempting to create hurdles in the coming elections.

The Maoists have asked people to boycott the polls. Dantewada is among the areas going to polls in the first phase covering 18 constituencies.

Explaining the sequence of events, Dantewada Superintendent of Police Abhishek Pallav, who broke down while talking to journalists, said: “Naxals took away the camera… and dragged the other two (policemen). My constable fought the Naxals. Otherwise two more media persons could have been harmed. For past 15 days, media persons were coming to remote villages to report problems of locals. Agitated by this, Naxals attacked them.”

Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Police Special Director General D.M. Awasthi denied that the Maoist ambush was an attempt to disrupt the coming polls and said it was to stop the construction of a road between Sameli and Nilaya.

“A team of Central Reserve Police Force’s 111 Battalion had gone to the spot as a road opening party to provide security to the persons involved in road construction between Sameli and Nilaya. Meanwhile a Doordarshan team and a police team reached there.

“The Maoists opened fired at the police personnel and the media crew soon after it reached Nilaya. The Doordarshan cameraman and the two police personnel were caught in the ambush.”

The Election Commission put out a statement received from Awasthi saying the Maoist attack had no relation to the Assembly polls.

On Sahu’s death, DD News tweeted: “The entire DD News family salutes his service and stands by his family in this hour of grief.”

Information and Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said: “These insurgents will not weaken our resolve. We will prevail.”

He said Rs 15 lakh will be given to the cameraman’s family as ex gratia apart from a job to his wife.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi condoled the deaths.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh tweeted: “I pay my tribute to the two jawans and TV journalist… The Maoists are anti-democratic and anti-development and are (indulging in cowardly) attacks.”

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